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June 16, 2011

Ranking the Big Ten: Defensive end

As Nebraska moves into 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 2011.

1. Vince Brown, Northwestern, 6-5, 265, Sr.
Last year as a junior, Vince Browne played well enough to earn second-team All-Big Ten Conference honors. At the rate he's progressing at defensive end since moving from linebacker when he came to Northwestern, he'll be due for some far more impressive accolades when all is said and done this season. Browne is coming off a breakout year where he had 58 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles for the Wildcats, and his coaches expect those numbers to only get better.
2. Nathan Williams, Ohio State, 6-3, 255, Sr.
Nathan Williams made his mark last season as one of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten with his 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Some projected him possibly as high as a late first round pick in last year's NFL Draft had he left following his junior season. Having decided to come back to Ohio State for his senior year, Williams now has a chance to raise that draft stock even more.
3. Cameron Meredith, Nebraska, 6-4, 260, Jr.
It was hard to imagine a much better sophomore season for Cameron Meredith than the one he had last season. With 68 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries, Meredith earned himself second-team All-Big 12 Conference honors and established himself as one of Nebraska's top returners on the defensive side of the ball. Though he sat out of spring practice while recovering from a shoulder injury, Meredith is expected to help lead the way on a defensive line that could be as good as any in the country this season.
4. Broderick Binns, Iowa, 6-2, 261, Sr.
After a big sophomore season where he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and had six sacks, Broderick Binns had a relatively quiet junior year. However, with Adrian Clayborn now in the NFL, Binns will be Iowa's top pass rusher off the edge this season. With two years of starting experience under his belt, he should be more than ready for the challenge.
5. Ryan Van Bergen, Michigan, 6-6, 283, Sr.
Say what you will about how bad Michigan's defense was last season, but things are going to be a lot different under new head coach Brady Hoke, and senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen is going to be leading the way in turning the unit around. Under Hoke, the Wolverines expect to be far more aggressive in their pass rush. Van Bergen managed to rack up 8.5 TFLs and four sacks on 2010's mess of a defense, so expect his production to be higher than ever.

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