Top Returning Big Ten Linebackers For 2017

    The Big Ten will be flush in all-star-caliber linebackers in 2017, but who will rise to the top of a deep and talented group of veteran defenders?

    March 13, 2017

    The Big Ten will be flush in all-star-caliber linebackers in 2017, but who will rise to the top of a deep and talented group of veteran defenders?


    Jabrill Peppers. T.J. Watt. Raekwon McMillan. Gone, gone and so long for now. The league lost a swath of other gifted linebackers to the NFL and graduation as well. But the Big Ten doesn’t figure to skip a beat at the position in 2017, thanks to the returns of a number of proven veterans from the East and the West Division. Iowa’s Josey Jewell and Indiana’s Tegray Scales are the most decorated returning linebackers, while Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy and Penn State’s Jason Cabinda are eager to rebound from 2016 seasons that were shortened by injuries.

    Top Returning Big Ten Linebackers

    5. Jason Cabinda, Penn State

    The Nittany Lions are thrilled by the return of Cabinda, the senior leader of the defense. He’s a rock in the middle of the D, physical, inspiration and rarely far from the ball. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Cabinda missed five games with an arm injury, yet still returned last year to make 81 tackles as a non-nonsense run defender. And while he was named Third Team All-Big Ten, he could have risen higher had it not been for the month of inactivity.

    4. Jerome Baker, Ohio State

    Baker was scheduled to caddy on the outside and contribute on special teams. But then starter Dante Booker went down with an injury, creating an opening that would not be squandered. In classic next-man-in fashion, Baker excelled at weakside in the first significant action of his young career. Roaming the field with all of the range and explosiveness of a safety, the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder was second on the team with 83 tackles, while adding 9.5 stops for loss, 3.5 sacks and a pick-six. After a full season in the lineup, he’ll be even more disruptive in 2017.

    3. Jack Cichy, Wisconsin

    Cichy is the quintessence of a Badger—underrated coming out of high school and still playing with a little chip on his shoulder. He injured that shoulder last October, cutting short a promising season that included 60 stops and seven tackles for loss in only seven games. Cichy is an athletic 6-foot-2, 233-pounder who’s able to make his presence felt from sideline-to-sideline. However, it’s the energy, desire and spirit he brings to the field and the locker room that have the greatest impact on the salty Wisconsin D.

    2. Tegray Scales, Indiana

    Scales operates like a crimson and cream guided missile from his spot on the second level of the Indiana D. And he’s determined this season to create more of a national following. The 6-foot, 230-pound Cincinnati native has far exceeded expectations in Bloomington, even picking up some All-American nods in 2016. Scales is both fast and instinctive, central themes in a breakout campaign marked by 126 tackles, an FBS-best 23.5 stops for behind the line and a Hoosier-high seven sacks.

    1. Josey Jewell, Iowa

    For one final season, Jewell will be the heart-and-soul of the Iowa D. He’s been one of the bedrock performers in Iowa City since his first season, building with each passing year of experience. Plus, he’s a captain and a team leader, the Hawkeye others look to for guidance and inspiration. Jewell has led Iowa in tackles in each of the past two seasons, reaching 124 stops and nine pass breakups to earn Second Team All-Big Ten in 2016. He’s also underrated in coverage, picking off four passes as a junior.

    MORE: Top Returning Linebackers In College Football For 2017

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