Top Returning Big Ten Defensive Ends For 2017

    The premier Big Ten defensive end in 2017 is likely to play for Ohio State, but which Buckeye will set himself apart from his teammates? And can a precocious Michigan Wolverine sophomore break through the scarlet and gray wall and rise to the top?

    March 9, 2017

    The premier Big Ten defensive end in 2017 is likely to play for Ohio State, but which Buckeye will set himself apart from his teammates? And can a precocious Michigan Wolverine sophomore break through the scarlet and gray wall and rise to the top?


    Ohio State has some rebuilding to do in the secondary in 2017, though an embarrassment of riches at defensive end should dramatically help the defensive backs in the fall. The Buckeyes’ rotation off the edge might be as dominant as any in college football this season, with Tyquan Lewis, Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes giving the D both quantity and quality. It would be a surprise if anyone other than a Buckeye was the Big Ten’s best defensive end this year, though Michigan’s Rashan Gary is one to watch, assuming he lines up on the outside for Jim Harbaugh.

    Top Returning Big Ten Defensive Ends

    5. Jesse Aniebonam, Maryland

    In College Park, Aniebonam plays BUCK, a position that combines the attributes of a defensive end and an outside linebacker. It’s a hybrid spot designed for players with a multidimensional skill set. Players like Aniebonam, for instance. The 6-3, 260-pounder jumps off film with his intensity and his outstanding closing speed. Despite starting only six games as a junior, he racked up 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks to lead all returning Big Ten players.

    4. Rashan Gary, Michigan

    The Wolverines’ mega-recruit from a year ago served an apprenticeship as a true freshman, showing glimpses of his enormous potential as a member of a deep rotation. However, now that Chris Wormley, Taco Charlton and Ryan Glasgow have graduated, Michigan is counting on Gary to begin performing like a five-star player. The 6-5, 287-pounder is a rare talent, with the athleticism to play outside and the size and strength to slide into the interior. All signs point to Gary becoming a breakout star in Year 2.

    3. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

    On most other teams, Hubbard might be a household name as he enters his third season. As a member of a very deep Buckeye D-line, he can sometimes get lost in the crowd. Hubbard moves with the quickness and change-of-direction of most linebackers, despite being a solid 6-5 and 266 pounds. The former lacrosse star won’t necessarily be a statistical monster in 2017, because of the competition he faces on his own team. But Hubbard possesses undeniable disruptive ability, especially in the eyes of NFL scouts.

    2. Nick Bosa, Ohio State

    Yeah, it’s unfair to compare Nick to older brother Joey, who now stars for the San Diego Chargers. However, the similarities between the two well-sized pass rushers are undeniable. In just his first year out of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High School, Bosa was ready to contribute at a high level. He’s physically mature at 6-4 and 265 pounds, and his fundamentals and technique belie his age. Bosa had five sacks in 2016, a number he’s liable to double now that he’s even stronger and a valuable year older.

    1. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State

    Lewis isn’t always the flashiest of the Buckeye defensive linemen. But he’s the most experienced and the most reliable, with one more season to be the program’s leader up front. Lewis is a 6-4, 266-pound catalyst for the Ohio State front wall, earning First Team All-Big Ten as a junior after notching 10.5 stops behind the line, eight sacks and three forced fumbles. He strikes with force and never stops churning his powerful legs in pursuit of the quarterback, a real handful for opposing blockers.

    MORE: Top Returning Defensive Ends In College Football For 2017

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