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June 3, 2014

Ranking the Big Ten: Defensive tackle

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 tackles in the Big Ten heading into 2014.

1. Michael Bennett, Ohio State, 6-2, 288, Sr.
Ohio State boasts arguably the Big Ten's deepest and most talented defensive line at all four positions coming into the 2014 season, and the clear leader of the unit is senior tackle Michael Bennett. Though the Buckeyes have a few big names returning up front, Bennett has emerged as the voice of not only the d-line, but of the entire OSU defense as a whole. He also backs it up with his play on the field, as he racked up 7.0 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss last season and is considered by many as the top NFL defensive tackle prospect for 2015.
2. Carl Davis, Iowa, 6-5, 315, Sr.
A second-team All-Big Ten selection last season, Iowa's Carl Davis returns for his senior year as one of the most physically dominant and imposing interior defensive linemen in the conference. Having recorded an impressive 42 tackles in 2013, few are better at clogging up the middle of the line better than Davis, which was a big key in the massive numbers put up by the Hawkeyes' three starting linebackers last year. With an inexperienced defense behind him this season, Davis will be as important for Iowa as ever.
3. Warren Herring, Wisconsin, 6-3, 294, Sr.
With Wisconsin planning on fully transitioning to a 3-4 scheme this season, one of the most important pieces for the Badgers' defense will be the man in the middle at nose tackle. That's the role assigned to senior Warren Herring, who was a mainstay at the zero technique all spring and is expected to be the anchor for UW's defense in 2014. His natural pass rushing ability also allows Wisconsin to also potentially move him outside to end in its nickel package on obvious passing situations.
4. Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, 6-3, 320, So.
Nebraska has been waiting for the year that Vincent Valentine would make his big jump and become the force many have expected him to be, and based on his play this spring, 2014 very well could be that season. One of the Huskers' most powerful defensive linemen coming off the line of scrimmage, Valentine looks to finally be catching up mentally with his obvious physical gifts. Assuming that is the case, NU might be set inside for years to come with Valentine anchoring the defense.
5. Darius Hamilton, Rutgers, 6-4, 260, Jr.
There wasn't much for Rutgers to write home about defensively last season, but the play of Darius Hamilton at defensive tackle was one of the few bright spots for the Scarlett Knights. Hamilton led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and was second with 4.5 sacks in 2013, and expectations are even higher this year for a player who was ranked the No. 2 defensive end and the No. 11 overall player in the country coming out high school. Look for him to see snaps both at tackle and end this year to help RU as much as possible.

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