The Big Ten Top Twenty Countdown: Top 5

 

5. Malik McDowell, DL - Michigan State

It's well documented that McDowell will be playing "everywhere" on the Spartans' Defensive Line this Fall.  While he did excel on the inside for the past two seasons, the D-line lost three huge contributors (Calhoun, Thomas, Heath).  At 6-6, 280 lbs McDowell is not your prototypical inside tackle, however not many players that size can explode off the ball and stay low as well as he does either.  Look for the Spartan to improve on his 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks from his Sophomore campaign.  The 38-0 thrashing, at the hands of the Crimson Tide in the playoffs does not sit well with Mr. McDowell.

 

4. Raekwon McMillan, LB - Ohio State

I'm not sure if he was named after the Wu Tang member, but Raekwon McMillan makes tackles like "The Chef" lays down tracks- HARD AND OFTEN.  Coming off of a 2015 season that saw him make 119 tackles, good enough for fourth in the Big Ten, McMillan hopes to live up to his Pre-Season All-American hype.  

 

3. J.T. Barrett

This former starter, turned backup and then starter again will be the X-Factor on the offensive side of the ball. With Ezekiel Elliott leaving for the NFL, all eyes are on Barrett as a proven leader. Look for Barrett and the Buckeyes to pass first in order to open up the run for their young stable of backs. 

 

2. Anthony Walker, Jr., LB - Northwestern

A 2015 First Team All-American, Walker Jr. looks to claim the title of “Best Linebacker” in the history of the Northwestern program.  Coming into his (RS) Junior year with 28.5 career tackles for loss and leading the Big Ten with 19.5 in 2015 alone, he looks to shatter records in 2016 - many of which his head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, set.  Walker, Jr. will likely be the lone bright spot on an average team, but look for his pay day to come in the draft next April.

 

1. Desmond King, CB - Iowa

Just by lacing up his shoes on September 3rd in Iowa City King will make history by being the first winner of the Jim Thorpe Award to not leave early for the NFL.  The 2015 consensus All-American postponed his millionaire status to return to Iowa for his senior season.  His eight interceptions last season were good enough for second in the FBS.  King, along with 14 other returning starters will look to lead the Hawkeyes back to the Big Ten Championship in hopes of finishing the deed in 2016.