Ranking the Big Ten: Defensive Tackle
After a 2020 season that allowed players to transfer with instant eligibility, sit out a season, and return for another, it's hard to keep track of who all will be playing this season in the Big Ten Conference. More importantly, who will be putting on the most impressive performances?
We continue our annual Ranking the Big Ten series today with the defensive tackles. This group includes an All-American, a determined veteran, a JUCO transfer, and five total athletes excited for a full schedule to do some damage.
1. Haskell Garrett, Ohio State
Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett is the best defensive tackle in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. The 2020 first-team All-American by PFF led the Big Ten defensive linemen in total defense grade (88.1) and pass-rush grade (88.9).
Garrett's defense grade was the fourth-best in the Power Five in 2020, and his pass-rush was the third-best. He had 18 quarterback pressures, 12 tackles, 14 stops, and one interception. He is one of four Big Ten defensive tackles with an interception in 2020.
The 2020 first-team All-Big Ten selection started seven games in 2020 but has played 42 games for the Buckeyes since his freshman season in 2017.
In his eight games in 2020, Haskell ranked amongst the best defensive tackles in the country. Imagine what he can do with 12-14 games in 2021.
2. Ben Stille, Nebraska
Most consider Nebraska Super Senior Ben Stille a defensive end, but 393 of his 467 snaps last season came lined up on the interior at tackle or nose.
Stille had 22 quarterback pressures in 2020, the most pressures of any interior defensive lineman in the Big Ten. The Campbell Trophy Semifinalist is back for his last and sixth season with the Huskers and is looking to reak havoc.
Stille's defensive grade was 79, the fourth-highest in the Big Ten, and he ranked second in the pass-rush grade. His pass-rush grade jumped from 69.1 in 2019 to 81.5 in 2020.
The 2020 All-Big Ten honorable mention recorded 23 tackles, 20 stops, and three tackles for loss. Stille ranked No. 3 in tackles made by Big Ten defensive tackles in 2020.
Stille heavily influenced the outcome of several Nebraska games, including a game-winning quarterback hit against Penn State. He will continue to be one of the defensive leaders for the Huskers in 2021.
3. Mosiah Nasili-Kite, Maryland
During his first season in the Big Ten, Maryland defensive tackle Mosiah Nasili-Kite proved that he would be on this list for many years to come. Nasili-Kite transferred to Maryland after one season at Independence CC.
The 2021 Athlon Sports Preseason All-Big Ten selection had four sacks in 2020, the most sacks of the returning Big Ten defensive tackles. Nasili-Kite had 10 total quarterback pressures, 14 tackles, and 16 stops in his five starts.
Last season as a sophomore, Nasili-Kite earned a 72.1 pass-rush grade, the fifth-highest in the conference. His defense grade was ranked No. 9 with a 73, and his run defense grade was 73.5, the eighth-highest in 2020. Not bad for his first season.
Nasili-Kite had an impressive first season in Division I football and will continue to make a name for himself on this stage.
4. PJ Mustipher, Penn State
Penn State defensive tackle PJ Mustipher had the second-most tackles of any Big Ten defensive tackle in 2020 and is looking to stay atop that statistic entering his senior season.
Mustipher started all eight of the Nittany Lion's games in 2020. In these 436 snaps, he recorded nine quarterback pressures, 24 tackles, and 20 stops. During the 436 snaps he played in 2019, Mustipher had almost the same stat line give one pressure, one tackle, and one forced fumble. Talk about consistency.
His PFF grades were not as consistent. His efforts in the 2020 season earned him a top-ten finish in his tackle grade (76.7) and the fourth-highest coverage grade of 65.1. Mustipher's defense grade dropped from 74.9 in 2019 to 65 in 2020, and his run defense grade went from 78 to 65.3.
The difference between Mustipher's 2019 and 2020 seasons was how many games he played. He started all eight games in 2020) and appeared in 13 in 2019. With the starting role and a full 12-game schedule, Mustipher will be able to prove himself further.
5. Jacob Slade, Michigan State
Michigan State defensive tackle Jacob Slade improved his PFF grades from 2019 to the 2020 season. If he keeps on this path, Slade will do some damage in the Big Ten.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound athlete saw his defense grade go from 64.9 in 2019 to 71.3 in 2020 and run defense grade jump from 62.3 to 69.8. Slade's tackle and pass-rush grades improved by five points.
He ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten with his coverage score (62.2) and No. 10 with his tackle score (59.5). During his first seven starts, Slade had 13 quarterback pressures, seven tackles, and five stops.
Slade had 594 snaps of experience on his resume, and if his record is a sign, he will continue to improve in the 2021 season and be the best player on Michigan State's defense.