Dienhart: My All-Big Ten Defense since 2000

The 2000s saw plenty of great players in the Big Ten. One, in fact, won the Heisman: Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith (2006), who arguably is the top player from the 2000s. Yesterday, I looked at the best of the best offensive players in the Big Ten since the calendar flipped to 2000. Next up: Defense.

Before I get to the list, I have a couple rules:  1. A player had to play at least two seasons to be considered; 2. Nebraska players prior to 2011 are not eligible.

[ RELATED: See Dienhart’s All-Big Ten Offense since 2000 ]


L: Brandon Graham, Michigan (2006-09). He paced the Big Ten with 20 TFLs in 2008 and led the country with 26 in 2009, developing into one of the nation’s top disrupters.

L: Shaun Phillips, Purdue (2000-03). He became one of the Boilermakers’ top ends ever, notching 60.5 TFLs with a school-record 33.5 sacks in his career. He helped the 2003 defense rank No. 1 in the Big Ten.

L: Will Smith, Ohio State (2000-03). An All-American in 2003, Smith was a force off the edge with 22 career sacks and 44.5 TFLs.

L: Vernon Gholston, Ohio State (2004-07). Yes, he was a colossal bust in the NFL. But Gholston was a beast in Columbus, collecting 30.5 TFLs and 21.5 sacks.

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08). The three-time All-American paced the team in tackles for three seasons and helped push the Buckeyes to the BCS title game in 2006 and 2007.

LB: Greg Jones, Michigan State (2007-10). The tackling machine left East Lansing with 465 stops and was just the second player to pace the Spartans in tackles for three seasons.

LB: Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06). He won the Butkus Award in 2005 and the Bednarik Award in 2005 and ’06 en route to leaving school as the school’s all-time leading tackler. Enough said.

DB: Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (2005-08). A premier cover man, Jenkins won the 2008 Thorpe Award and finished his career with 11 picks and 196 stops.

DB: Bob Sanders, Iowa (2000-03). The quintessential dynamo, Sanders tallied 348 career tackles and paced the country in forced fumbles (six) in 2003. He was a linebacker masquerading as a safety.

DB: Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin (2001-04). The former walk-on notched 21 interceptions, which tied Jamar Fletcher for the most in school history. He also tallied 281 career tackles. A classic overachiever.

DB: Marlin Jackson, Michigan (2001-04). A first-team All-American in 2004, Jackson finished with 195 career tackles, 13 tackles for loss and nine interceptions. And his 34 passes defensed ranked second in school annals.

P: Travis Dorsch, Purdue (1998-2001). The Ray Guy Award winner as a senior, Dorsch set myriad records; among them, career scoring (355 points), career field goals (69), and career punting average (48.4). He became the first Big Ten player to be named as a first-team all-conference selection as a punter and a kicker.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (15 Comments)
misdreavus79 on 7/17/2013 @ 10:51am EDT Said:

Laurinitis over: Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, Dan Connor?

Will Edwards on 7/17/2013 @ 2:05pm EDT Said:

3x consensus All-American. No question Laurinaitis belongs on this list. I’d argue that AJ Hawk should be on here over Greg Jones.

Steven Pierce (@stp147) on 7/17/2013 @ 4:17pm EDT Said:

Not a single Penn State D Lineman? Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin (yes he was an NFL bust)

These guys were all animals on the line and were all 1st rounders.

Bill on 7/17/2013 @ 5:02pm EDT Said:

No seriously, when are you posting the real list?

Jeff on 7/17/2013 @ 6:15pm EDT Said:

Seriously? This list is a joke. You might as well call it the “I love Ohio State” list.

Kyle on 7/17/2013 @ 11:10pm EDT Said:

Where is LaVonte David?

Collin Dotson on 7/17/2013 @ 11:12pm EDT Said:

AJ Hawk not on the list?! Really??? He had better numbers than the “Little Animal”, and also was a part of OSU national title team, even though he wasn’t a starter

Joseph on 7/18/2013 @ 6:14am EDT Said:

@Jeff- Ohio State was the best team in the BigTen for the majority of the 2000s. How is it surprising that most of the players he listed were from Ohio State?

Adam on 7/18/2013 @ 9:31am EDT Said:

Where Is Mike Doss on this list?

Mitch on 7/18/2013 @ 10:55am EDT Said:

Dan Connor is a legitimate candidate – Sean Lee? Navorro Bowman? C’mon man put down the Linebacker U glue you been sniffin’

JC on 7/18/2013 @ 2:18pm EDT Said:

Umm.. honestly I would take Wilhelm over AJ and James.

J D on 7/18/2013 @ 2:21pm EDT Said:

When Posluszny won the Butkus, even he stated that A J Hawk was the better player. Hawk was a better linebacker than Laurinatis also. Hawk probably lost the Butkus because of unfounded suspicions that he was engaged in untoward money transactions–an incident that occurred about 3 weeks before the Butkus voting. It turned out that he just liked to use cash, and had lost or misplaced a substantial amount of cash. ($1,000 or $2,000)

Bamabuck on 7/18/2013 @ 4:13pm EDT Said:

Where’s Donte Whitner and A.J Hawk?

PMC123 on 7/18/2013 @ 11:08pm EDT Said:

While Lee and Bowman didn’t get the press of other great LB’ers of the last decade (while in school), they are more productive NFL’ers than any who actually made this “team”.

Bowman is a 2-time All-Pro and Lee is considered a rising star by many (if he can stay healthy).

That said, Hawk should be on that list, he was a GREAT college player.

Why are there no DT’s on the team but room was made for Will Smith?

Darrell on 7/20/2013 @ 11:00am EDT Said:

Chad Greenway