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June 1, 2013

Ranking the Big Ten: Linebacker

As Nebraska moves into its third 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 linebacker position in the Big Ten heading into 2013.

1. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State, 6-2, 222, Jr.
Ohio State arguably has the most high-profile defensive player in the Big Ten in junior linebacker Ryan Shazier. The 6-foot-2, 222 pound junior should contend for both All-American and Big Ten player of the year honors on defense. As a sophomore Shazier racked up 115 total tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, 12 pass break-ups and five quarterback sacks. Shazier will be looked at to help bring along the Buckeyes inexperienced defense in 2013.
2. Max Bullough, Michigan State, 6-3, 242, Sr.
Michigan State will have arguably the Big Ten's top defense heading into the 2013 season and the real leader for the Spartans is senior linebacker Max Bullough. Everything defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi does is ran through the 6-foot-3, 242 pound middle linebacker who had 111 tackles and 12 tackles for loss in 2012.
3. Chris Borland, Wisconsin, 5-11, 248, Sr.
Like Bullough, much of what Wisconsin does on defense is ran through senior linebacker Chris Borland. You could argue that Shazier, Bullough and Borland are almost a 1A, 1B and 1C when ranking the Big Ten's top three linebackers. What you have to like about Borland is he has a great defensive line in front of him to hold off blockers, which should allow him to make plenty of plays. As a junior he was second for the Badgers with 104 tackles. It should be interesting to see how he transitions into a new defensive system.
4. Damien Proby, Northwestern, 6-0, 235, Sr.
Northwestern has really never been known for their defense, but if the Wildcats want to contend for the division title they're going to have to improve in this area. Leading the way for Northwestern in 2012 will be linebacker Damien Proby, who had a team-high 112 tackles in 2012. Proby should contend for All-Big Ten honors if the Wildcats have another breakout season.
5. Anthony Hitchens, Iowa, 6-1, 224, Sr.
Iowa's defense didn't have a ton of bright spots in 2012, but the play of linebacker Anthony Hitchens definitely caught people's attention. The 6-foot-1, 224 pound Hitchens led the Hawkeyes with 124 tackles and he'll be joined again by James Morris who had 113 tackles at linebacker for Iowa in 2012.

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