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Big Ten 2018 Spring Position Preview: East Division Defensive Ends

Some solid groups, some major questions

NCAA Football: Illinois at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

When trying to break down the defensive ends in the B1G in 2018, I immediately thought of the Michigan State Spartans. Not because of this year, but recent history. In 2015, Michigan State was really good on the line. In 2016, they were kinda terrible. By 2017, they were pretty good again. What will they be in 2018? Who really knows? However, that wont stop me from trying to figure the Spartans, and everyone else, out as winter becomes spring.

I decided to break it down in divisions, because I can. Instead of giving out actual ranking numbers, I just gave a grade to each team. This grade is a reflection of what type of impact I think each unit will have.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Grade: D-

To be honest, I have no idea what to think of this unit. I put them last because there are a lot of questions. Generally, in a case like that, you go to history. Well, recent history tells me this probably wont be an effective unit. Will that be the case? I honestly don’t know.

Maryland Terrapins

Grade: D

The bad news is that the Terrapins have to replace their leading sack machine from a year ago. The good news is that he only had 3.5 on the season. The even better news is that Jessie Aniebonam is back, and he had 9 of them in 2016. The million dollar question, however, could be Auburn transfer Byron Cowart, A former top recruit, he could be a difference maker.

Indiana Hoosiers

Grade: D+

I might be a little higher on the Hoosiers than I should, but that is because I really like Allen Stallings. He can make plays. Branden Wilson is a question mark, but at this point in the season, who isn’t?

Penn State Nittany Lions

Grade: C+

I am sure the Nittany Lion faithful are screaming at their computers right now, as I only gave their team a C+. I understand that, as the ceiling is quite high for this unit. However, zero defensive tackles return. Shareef Miller, Torrence Brown, and Ryan Buchholz are all solid, with Brown a potential great player. You could even throw Miller into that conversation. However, with big question marks at DT, the DE job might be a lot tougher this season.

Michigan Wolverines

Grade: B-

Again, because Penn State fans can be quite vocal, they will probably be screaming that Maurice Hurst is gone. While they would be correct, I think Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich are a little better than the Penn State guys.

Michigan State Spartans

Grade: B+

Speaking of DTs, Michigan State has a couple good ones back. Is that good enough to justify a B+ in defensive end rankings? No. Kenny Willekes is, however. Even though I am a Buckeye, I am a huge fan.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Grade: A-

Funny thing happened while I was doing my homework for this article. Over and over again while I was researching the other defensive ends, especially the bottom three, I saw article after article proclaiming the 2018 OSU D line would be better than 2017. I am not fully on that train yet.

However, Nick Bosa is the real deal. Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper are, too. Dre’Mont Jones at tackle will help keep other teams honest. This unit will be disruptive and effective. Better than 2017? I’ll have to wait to see a few games before I proclaim that.