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B1G Man on Campus: Tegray Scales is the Big Ten’s best linebacker. Period.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Florida International Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to honoring the best and brightest in college football, you would be forgiven if your attention never strayed to Bloomington, Indiana for more than a moment. It is likely that, if your attention did head down that way, you were seeking further highlights from whoever the Hoosiers happened to be playing that day, rather than anyone wearing Cream and Crimson. In particular, if an Indiana defender was making it onto the highlight reel, it was probably as part of another’s great offensive play, rather than on their own merits.

That excuse is no longer good enough. If you aren’t turning your eyes towards Bloomington now, you’re being blinded by unfounded hype. Think I’m crazy? Well then, it’s time for a little “blind” resume test.

Player A was a two year starter on defense for a prestigious Big Ten university, and over those two years recorded 117 tackles, of which 18.5 were for a loss, one interception, and one forced fumble. For his efforts in 2016, he was awarded first team all-conference and defensive player of the year, as well as first team All-American. Player A also finished 5th in Heisman voting.

Player B is a three year starter on defense for a slightly less prestigious Big Ten University, has recorded 222 tackles (123 in 2016 alone) with 33.5 going for a loss, six interceptions, and one forced fumble. For his efforts on 2016, he was awarded second team all conference by the coaches and third team by the media, as well as second team All-American. Player B didn’t even crack the top 10 of Heisman voting, and likely did not garner many if any votes at all.

Player A is Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. Player B is Indiana’s Tegray Scales. Guess which one is coming back to play Big Ten football this year.

The pressure on Scales to perform at or above the level he did last year will be fairly strong, given that his main partner at linebacker Marcus Oliver has departed for the NFL. That should leave offenses more able to key on stopping Scales from getting to the ball, but with Indiana’s defense as a whole taking a step forward last year, it might be difficult to focus on keeping him out of the backfield without giving up ground to any other Hoosier defender.

And here’s the other thing: Tegray Scales is the first Indiana linebacker to get All-America recognition of any kind since 1987. 23.5 of those 33.5 TFLs I mentioned above are from 2016 alone, which led the nation. He found the end zone on his only pick last year, and you can bet he wants to get back again. He’s one of the highest rated recruits in Indiana football history, and he may not have even found his ceiling yet. He’s coming back for one more shot to do something no Hoosier has done since before he was born: to win a bowl game.

And if you didn’t happen to be visiting a website dedicated to Big Ten football, you might not even know his name, much less any of what I told you just now. Why? Because he plays for Indiana, and that alone means no one is watching. The best and brightest of the Big Ten’s linebacking corps, and no one is watching.

No one is watching, but they’d better watch out. Because, eyes on him or not, Tegray Scales is coming for them.

B1G 2017: Indiana Week

Monday I Season Preview

Tuesday I Big Man on Campus (You Are Here)

Wednesday I Visiting Bloomington

Thursday I Content TBD

Friday I Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate