Yesterday, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart and BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina hit email to debate the 2012 Big Ten reception leader, the eighth in our series of Big Ten statistical predictions. Next up: Interceptions. Who will lead the Big Ten in 2012? See Tom and Brent’s email thread in this post and vote for your leader, too.
2011 leader: Brian Peters, 5
Returning leaders: Shelton Johnson, 4; Isaiah Lewis, 4; Eight players tied with 3.
Brent: Always a challenging category to predict, interceptions, for the most part, depend on how often opposing quarterbacks attack a defender. In other words, shutdown corners aren’t going to get too many opportunities to take it the other way. Purdue’s Ricardo Allen is a prototypical shutdown guy, and the exciting junior doesn’t need many chances to make the opponent pay. That’s why Allen, he of three career pick-6’s, is my 2012 INT leader.
Tom: As you said, trying to pick a leader in interceptions is difficult. There usually is little correlation between skill/talent level and interception leaders. Still, the really good players always are around the ball, giving them a chance to make a pick. Knowing that, I’m going with Michigan State junior safety Isaiah Lewis. He showed his ball-hawking skills last season with four interceptions. And he only figures to improve. In fact, I think he may emerge as the top safety in the Big Ten.
Brent: Can’t go wrong picking a Spartan to lead the Big Ten in interceptions this season. Actually, there’s probably three or four Michigan State guys who could find their name atop the list. Give us a dark horse in this race.
Tom: How about Penn State’s Steph Morris? The diminutive senior cornerback could be primed for a big finish playing in a more aggressive scheme that will include frequent use of man coverage under new coordinator Ted Roof. Morris also will benefit from a line that could be very good and generate pressure, hurrying quarterbacks into hasty throws that Morris could intercept.
Brent: My dark horse: Michigan’s Blake Countess. Sure, he didn’t pick off a pass during his sterling freshman campaign, but he only started six games, all coming late in the season. What does that mean? That he didn’t have as many opportunities, of course, plus he missed going up against inferior nonconference foes. The interceptions will come; it’s only a matter of time.
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