Dienhart: Ranking the Big Ten's top 10 linebackers

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Dienhart: Ranking the Big Ten's top 10 linebackers

Linebackers have to be a special breed of athlete, able to be strong enough to play the run and quick enough to drop in coverage and play in space. The Big Ten is loaded with some promising linebackers who fill the bill.

[ MORE: Top 7 quarterbacks | Top 10 wide receivers | Top 10 running backs | Top 10 offensive linemen | Top 10 defensive linemen | Full unit rankings ]

Here is my ranking of the league’s top 10 linebackers.

1. Anthony Walker, Northwestern, Jr. He announced his arrival as a superstar last year when he led the Big Ten in TFLs and also was third in tackles with 120. Walker may be the best defensive player in school annals. Sorry, Pat Fitzgerald.

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2. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State, Jr. He ranked fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (119) last season, leading the Buckeyes with a freakish blend of speed and strength. McMillan had 4.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks and was an AP first-team All-Big Ten linebacker. Mel Kiper listed McMillan as the 18th-best prospect on his early Big Board.

3. Josey Jewell, Iowa, Jr. A big-time hitter from a black-and-white era, Jewell’s 126 tackles ranked second in the Big Ten last season. He also intercepted four passes and recorded 7.5 tackles for loss. Jewell also was the first sophomore under Kirk Ferentz to be named a captain.

4. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, Jr. Maybe he should top this list, but this will be his first year at linebacker. The versatile Peppers is a safety by trade who can lineup on offense, too. He’s a special talent whose will be the ultimate wild card in the Wolverine defense this fall.

5. Vince Biegel, Wisconsin, Sr. He probably could have turned pro. Instead, Biegel is back to terrorize defenses after notching 14 TFLs last season from an outside linebacking spot. With Joe Schobert gone, Biegel’s star will shine even brighter.

6. Riley Bullough, Michigan State, Sr. The personification of a Spartan, Bullough bleeds Michigan State green. He has a nose for the ball—and he doesn’t mind blooding it or blooding yours if it means getting the job done.

7. Brandon Bell, Penn State, Sr. He makes plays from sideline to sideline, notching 12.5 TFLs last season. Bell will be part of a strong linebacking corps with Nyeem Wartman-White and Jason Cabinda.

8. Josh Banderas, Nebraska, Sr. The anchor of what should be a good set of Husker linebackers, Banderas is entering his third season as a starter. He will start in the middle between Michael Rose-Ivey and rising star Dedrick Young.

9. Jermaine Carter, Maryland, Jr. He will be a stud in the middle who should earn All-Big Ten honors after making 103 tackles last season. Carter is a tackling machine who refuses to be denied as the key cog in the Terp defense.

10. Jack Lynn, Minnesota, Sr. He’s a captain of the defense that has a knack for making plays, notching 11 TFLs last season. He forms a nice duo with Cody Poock on an always underrated Gopher defense.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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