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Predicting the 2018 All-Big Ten defensive team

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Everything but the Big Ten championship game and bowl berths have been decided in the conference. So, as championship week continues to roll, we’ll have the Big Ten coaches and media announce their picks for All-Big Ten teams and the like. 

It certainly can be a contentious time, given everyone has a rooting interest in certain teams or players making the list. So, how do we expect things to shake out?

Up first is a look at the awards and All-Big Ten selections on the defensive side of the ball…you know, since those awards will be coming first on Tuesday night at 6pm ET on BTN. 

Keep in mind, these are how I see the awards falling, not how I would pick (look for that in another post). Let’s get to the picking.

Player of the Year:

Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State

Few players were as dominant as Jones was through most of the season. Even with Nick Bosa gone, Jones became a devastating force up front for a Buckeyes defense that had its share of trouble. Jones wasn’t part of the problem though and his numbers suggest a win in this category. By mid-season he was also the highest graded player by Pro Football Focus on the defensive side of the ball in the Big Ten

Defensive Line:

DL of the Year: Dre’Mont Jones

All-Big Ten 1st team:

Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
Chase Winovich, Michigan
Rashan Gary, Michigan
A.J. Epensa, Iowa

This is by far the most difficult group to figure out because there were so many standout players this season. There are arguments for the likes of Kenny Willekes (Michigan State) and Robert Windsor (Penn State) just to name a few. But, given the combination of name recognition and actual production this is the group that I believe will be in the 1st team when it is announced.

Linebacker

IOWA CITY, IA – SEPTEMBER 22: Wisconsin Badgers inside linebacker T.J. Edwards( 53) tackles Iowa Hawkeyes running back Ivory Kelly-Martin (21) during a Big Ten Conference college football game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Iowa Hawkeyes on September 22, 2018, at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA. Wisconsin won, 28-17. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LB of the Year: T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin

Once again the linebacker position was loaded throughout the Big Ten and you could make a case for anyone that lands on either of the three All-Big Ten teams as a viable option for the first team. That said, Edwards came off of an All-American season last year and didn’t disappoint in his final season in Madison. In fact, in some respects his numbers were even better. His tackles jumped from 81 last season to 104 this year and his numbers elsewhere were nearly equal to last year. 

All-Big Ten 1st team: 

Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Devin Bush, Michigan

I hate that there are only three spots, but this is likely where we are for the time being. With that said, it is hard to ignore just how vital and productive the inside linebacker duo of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly were for the Badgers (combined for nearly 200 tackles, 205. tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 2 INTs). Then there is the versatile play of Devin Bush, who came up with 79 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 5 sacks and 6 pass break ups on the season, with everyone game planning away from him. 

Names like Blake Cashman and Carter Coughlin at Minnesota, Blake Gallagher and Paddy Fisher at Northwestern or Andrew Dowell at Michigan State could easily be on this list when it comes out as well.

Defensive Back 

STATE COLLEGE, PA – SEPTEMBER 01: Amani Oruwariye #21 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in action on September 1, 2018 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

DB of the Year: Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

Change was the name of the game for many teams in the Big Ten when it came to the defensive backfield. No one stepped up as well as Amani Oruwariye did though, as he increased his tackle total thanks to an increase in teams throwing at him. He nabbed three interceptions (just 2 off the conference lead) and was 3rd in the league in passes defensed as well. 

All-Big Ten 1st team:

Amani Hooker, Iowa
Darnell Savage, Maryland
Amani Oruwariye, Penn State
Justin Layne, Michigan State

Of all the position groups, this might be the most cut and dry group. I could see Northwestern’s Montre Hartage or Rutgers Saquan Hampton getting in the mix considering the former is on a team that made the Big Ten title game and the later leads the Big Ten in interceptions. 

But, overall these are the four names that stand out the most in terms of overall production in 2018. 

We’ll see just how many I get right or wrong when the teams and awards drop on Tuesday at 6pm ET on BTN. 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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