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Big Ten 2016 Spring Position Rankings: Defensive Ends

Calhoun, Bosa, Nassib are all gone, leaving room for new talent to muck up offensive lines.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Even though we have a decent track record of pinpointing Players To Watch during our Spring Position rankings, we have a tendency to give attention to players who are a known commodity. Injuries are impossible to predict, breakout stars breakout of anonymity...So do let us know of any Defensive Ends you think OTE and its readers should watch for this year. Onto my Top Three:

1) Chris Wormley, Michigan

At 300 lbs, Wormley is size-wise a perfect fit for any kind of 4-2-5 defense. He sets a nice edge and picked up 6.5 sacks in 2015. Twitter highlight here-->

Dominant at getting into the backfield during 2015 for a strong Michigan line (sans games against Indiana/OSU). Could have made the NFL-leap, but probably good that he came back, pick up some quicks and get polished. (ed note: This Michigan line will be stacked. Of course everyone is talking about #1 overall recruit DE Rashan Gary, but up and down the Michigan line, you've got athletic, experienced veterans.)

2) Garrett Sickels, Penn State

Apparently this four star recruit was ready for prime time in 2015, picking up TFL's and disrupting offenses. Was he able to cause disruption because of his exceptional linemates? Well yes, but all signs say that Sickels is the real deal. Penn State is loaded up front, but young, and it seems Sickels will be counted on for a leadership role. Good Stuff from Coach Hype-->

"The thing that stands out about Garrett is his motor," coach James Franklin said of the 6-foot-4, 258-pound end. "He goes hard every single play. He's got a really good set of tools. You look at Nassib, he's got some elite, overpowering size and speed and combination things that are really showing up. Sickels is a guy that just does a lot of things well for us."

Zettel, Nassib, Daquan Jones, Jordan Hill..Along with OSU, lately you can always trust that Penn State is going to birth a star linemen.

3) Tyquan Lewis, OSU

Hard to garner any national (or regional) attention with Joey Bosa and the three-ring quarterback circus going on in Columbus...So Lewis quietly picked up All-B1G Honorable Mention with his 8 sacks. You probably haven't heard of him (or fellow starting DE Sam Hubbard) unless you're a Buckeye. Defends the run well, rushes the quarterback...Will probably be a household name at some point. (Also, of course, watch for super recruit Nick Bosa, the #8 ranked recruit in the nation who figures to play right away.)

Other groups you might want to hear about

Michigan State: Andrew K. says, "MSU loses both starters at end in Lawrence Thomas and Shilique Calhoun, both of whom will play on Sundays. Dantonio has recruited well up front, but a couple of unproven somebodies will need to step up from the horde. Demetrius Cooper is probably the inside track guy at Calhoun's rush end spot. On the other side, I have a good feeling about RS Fr Raequan Williams, but don't be surprised if true frosh Josh King is in the mix, too. The good news here is the ends should get plenty of solo matchups because of the attention Malik McDowell and Craig Evans should command inside, so a drop off from what Calhoun and Thomas brought won't kill the overall line play."

Iowa: Stew says, "We're in bit of limbo right now waiting to hear if Drew Ott gets a fifth year. If he does, that would be huge, as when he went down so did Iowa's pass rush. Still, it might be until mid-season until he's fully recovered from both an ACL tear and Tommy John surgery. Otherwise there are two RS SO ends that could become monsters, but it might take a bit more time. Matt Nelson was pretty highly recruited, and is a giant at 6'8". Parker Hesse (Can't Lose) got quite a bit of playing time as a RS FR after Ott went down, and had a few big plays (hey, Nebraska). Still the pass rush really needs to improve for Iowa's defense."

NW: Cory says, "COME BACK DEAN LOWRY WE MISS YOU ALREADY. Seriously, though, that's a massive loss for the 'Cats. The Rockford native was a high-motor, lunchpail, gym-rat guy who was seriously a great find and development for the 'Cats. Even bigger of a loss, if that's possible, are the 9 sacks of Deonte Gibson, who had a huge senior season.

Looking ahead, it's Ifeadi Odenigbo's time to shine for the 'Cats. The RS senior put up 5 TFLs (all sacks) in 2015, but has yet to show he can defend the run or be anything more than a speed end. Opposite him, Xavier Washington put up quiet numbers (a sack and 3.5 TFLs), but again was operating out of a backup role. In sum, I think you'll see a small drop-off in production from 2015 in the Northwestern DEs, but if Odenigbo can add a semblance of a run defense, the 'Cats should retain a Top 5 D-line and get to Noted Top 5 QB Mitch Leidner and his illustrious colleagues in the B1G West."

Maryland: DJ says, "The only bright outlook on the Maryland line is Jesse Aniebonam, who will take over for Yannick Ngakoue who left early for the draft. Aniebonam was highly recruited out of HS as a pure pass rusher who has played rotation minutes behind Ngakoue but many expect that he will breakout this year in a full time role."