Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, June 18, 2015

The linebacking corps in the Big Ten East are measured by Ohio State?s unit, which teems with athletic ability and talent. Is young Buckeye Darron Lee the top linebacker in the Big Ten? Maybe.

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Here is a look at each linebacking corps in the East.

1. Ohio State. Linebacker coach Luke Fickell's unit bubbles with athletic ability and depth unlike any in the Urban Meyer era. Joshua Perry is a three-year starter who led the Buckeyes in tackles last season with 124; only Penn State?s Mike Hull had more stops in the Big Ten. Darron Lee is coming off a breakout season. He arrived on campus as a quarterback; now, he?s one of the Big Ten?s best players and a possible early entrant into the NFL draft. Curtis Grant is gone, but have no fear: Raekwon McMillan is a more-than-adequate replacement. He arrived in Columbus with a fat scrapbook and could be poised for a breakout. Chris Worley and Camren Williams bolster depth.

2. Michigan State. The Spartans ranked No. 1 in the nation vs. the run last year (88.5 ypg). And the linebackers coached by Mike Tressel played a big role in that. Darien Harris is a returning starter at the ?Star? spot. Riley Bullough is an anchor in the middle, the latest Bullough in a long and illustrious line in East Lansing. Ed Davis is a bellwether and the star of the bunch who excels vs. the run. Depth also is strong with the likes of Jalyn Powell, Jon Reschke and Chris Frey.

3. Penn State. How do the Nittany Lions replace Mike Hull from a defense that ranked No. 2 in the nation last year (278.7 ypg)? They can try, but it will be difficult for LB coach Brent Pry. He was the 2014 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and the league?s top tackler. Brandon Bell is back to start again on the strong side along with Nyeem Wartman-White, who moves from the outside to the inside. Jason Cabinda and Troy Reeder are battling to start on the weak side. The depth is solid with players like Gary Wooten and Ben Kline.

4. Michigan. Leading tackler Jake Ryan is gone, but potential looms for linebacker coach D.J. Durkin. Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan and James Ross form a nice trio. Morgan missed 11 games last season; Ross has made 18 career starts; Bolden made 102 stops in 2014 and is the star of the unit. Depth is unproven with the likes of Mike McCray, Ben Gedeon and Royce Jenkins-Stone.

5. Indiana. This probably is the best collection of linebackers since Kevin Wilson arrived, giving IU the potential for a decent front seven. The foursome of Zack Shaw, T.J. Simmons, Tegary Sclaes and Clyde Newton can run. Scales has star potential, and Marcus Oliver could be special along with Greg Gooch for a group that needs to improve a defense that ranked 93rd overall in the nation in 2014.

6. Rutgers. There is work to do for a unit that lacks depth. And the loss of T.J. Taylor to a season-ending knee injury is another blow. Steve Longa should be a difference maker on the weakside. He can run and hit, leading the Scarlet Knights with 102 stops in 2014. Isaiah Johnson is a JC transfer who needs to help now. Kaiwan Lewis is a grad transfer from South Carolina who also must impact. Physical and tough Quentin Gause is set on the strong side.

7. Maryland. This group must adapt to a new 4-3 scheme. Adding to the angst is the fact all three projected starters are new: Abner Logan, Jermaine Carter, Jr., and Jalen Brooks. Logan looks like a special player whose speed makes him one to watch. Carter is a leader who took a step forward in the spring. Brock Dean, Avery Thompson and Cavon Walker also are in the mix.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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