As Nebraska moves into its second season in the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today, we look at the defensive end position in the Big Ten heading into 2012.
1. William Gholston, DE, Michigan State, 6-7, 275, Jr.
One of the most athletically gifted players in the conference, William Gholston got a reputation for being a dirty player after he was suspended for one game last season after punching a Michigan offensive lineman. The Spartans claim it was an isolated incident and Gholston is a good guy, but no one has to vouch for his play. A former top recruit, Gholston piled up 70 tackles, including 16 for loss, and registered five sacks, numbers that are likely to only improve as he gains experience.
2. John Simon , DE, Ohio State, 6-2, 270, Sr.
A versatile player capable of lining up at end or tackle, John Simon was a nightmare for whatever lineman was across from him last year. The senior piled up seven sacks and had new head coach Urban Meyer gushing about him during spring practice.
3. Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois, 6-6, 240, Sr.
A bit undersized at 240 pounds, Michael Buchanan used his quickness to abuse offensive tackles a year ago. His sack total jumped from two in 2010 to 7.5 last year, the fourth highest total in the Big Ten. However, Buchanan no longer has Whitney Mercilus, who was drafted in the first round by the Houston Texans, playing opposite him. It will be interesting to see if he can keep his numbers up with offenses paying more attention to him.
4. Marcus Rush, DE, Michigan State, 6-2, 250, So.
While Gholston racked up the attention and accolades last year, Marcus Rush quietly put together a very solid freshman campaign. He started every game and had 58 tackles and four sacks. He was named to the Freshman All-American teams by several publications. Rush had arguably his best game at Nebraska last year when he collected 11 tackles, 2.5 for loss.
5. Cameron Meredith, DE, Nebraska, 6-4, 265, Sr.
Cameron Meredith will seldom blow people away with his statistics. He's started 27 straight games and had 58 tackles and five sacks last year. But coach Bo Pelini's system, particularly against mobile quarterbacks, emphasizes containment over gambling on sacks for its defensive ends, and Meredith does the job well. On the rare occasion NU uses a 3-4, Meredith is athletic enough to line up at outside linebacker as well.