As Nebraska prepares for another run through 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 top defensive ends in the Big Ten heading into 2014.
1. Randy Gregory, Nebraska, 6-6, 245, Jr.
Junior college transfer Randy Gregory took the Big Ten by storm in 2013, leading the league with 10.5 sacks, to go along with 19 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hurries and 66 total tackles. Gregory has a combination of speed, size and athletic ability that make him a match-up nightmare. He has NFL scouts drooling over his potential at the next level and most project him as a high first rounder with a big season in 2014. Nebraska more than hit a home run by signing him a year ago. He's potentially another version of linebacker Lavonte David who they can build the defense around in 2014.
2. Shilique Calhoun , Michigan State, 6-4, 260, Jr.
Right with Gregory at the top of several NFL draft boards is Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun. A year ago Calhoun had 8.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 43 total tackles to help lead the Spartans nationally No. 1 ranked defense. MSU is expected to have another top ranked unit on defense and Calhoun's play up front will be a big reason why.
3. Noah Spence, Ohio State, 6-3, 252, Jr.
Ohio State returns an outstanding group of defensive linemen in 2014, and one of the players up front who will lead the Buckeyes this season is defensive end Noah Spence. The former five-star recruit had 8 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss a year ago, to go along with 52 total tackles. Look for Spence to have another big season in 2014.
4. Frank Clark, Michigan, 6-2, 270, Sr.
If Michigan is going to have a big year in 2014, they are going to need another strong performance from their defense, particularly defensive end Frank Clark. The 6-foot-2, 270 pound Clark is not necessarily a speed rusher, but he's put up 21.5 tackles for loss the last two years and he has the ability to take on two blockers. Last season Clark had 42 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 4.5 quarterback sacks.
5. Theiren Cockran, Minnesota, 6-6, 240, Jr.
Last year everybody talked about the play of Ra'Shede Hageman on defense for Minnesota, but defensive end Theiren Cockran was equally as impressive. The 6-foot-6, 240 pound Cockran led the Gophers with 7.5 quarterback sacks and was second to Hageman with 10 tackles for loss. With Hageman no longer next to him, Cockran is going to need to shoulder even a bigger load this year to help the Gophers control the line of scrimmage.