Of the 9 linebackers selected to the All Conference Teams in 2016, only 2 return for the 2017 season, but there are a couple others that will likely step up into stardom, and one coming back from injury. Really think of this as tiers with 2 at the top, a drop to the next 3, and another drop to the others listed.
1A) Josey Jewell, MLB, Iowa Hawkeyes
Is this a little homerism? Maybe, but The Outlaw is legit. He was the only Big Ten linebacker named as a Butkus Award Finalist in 2016 (yes, that includes the almighty Jabrill Peppers). Despite that, he was only 2nd team All B1G from both media and coaches, still that’s the best of any returning linebacker.
1B) Tegray Scales, OLB, Indiana Hoosiers
There’s a reason these are 1A and 1B, both Jewell and Scales are the only returning all conference linebackers, and Scales led the entire conference in tackles and tackles for loss. FOR INDIANA!!!!
3) Jack Cichy, ILB, Wisconsin Badgers
Cichy was hurt most of the 2016 season, otherwise he may be leading this category. He was an absolute monster prior to his injury. Fuck wisconsin, and all that, but the dude can play.
4) Jerome Baker, WLB, Ohio State Buckeyes
Baker took over at the Will spot after Dante Booker got injured, and he never looked back. Remember this name as he will likely be the next in a long line of insufferably good OSU linebackers.
5) T.J. Edwards, ILB, Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin graduated TJ Watts and Vince Biegel and they still have two guys in the top 5? Yup. Fuck them. Also, with those two insanitybackers you know who led the Badgers in tackles in 2015 and 2016? T.J. fuckin’ Edwards. He also threw in 8.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 3 ints. Man, fuck wisconsin.
Others to watch for:
Mike McCray, Michigan Wolverines
Chris Worley, Ohio State Buckeyes
Jermaine Carter, Maryland Terapins
Andrew Dowell, Michigan State Spartans
Jason Cabinda, Penn State Nittany Lions
Tre Watson, Illinois Fighting Illini
Ja’Whaun Bentley, Purdue Boilermakers
Ben Niemann, Iowa Hawkeyes
Marcus Newby, Nebraska Cornhuskers