Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, April 28, 2016
Earlier today, I posted my All-Spring Football Team for the offensive side of the ball. Now I'll get into the defensive players who stood out to me and made my All-Spring Football defensive Team after the past few weeks of spring games and practices.
As I mentioned then, all available spring football games are on BTN2Go, in case you want to look back. Here are the links to watch: Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin.
Let's get to my defensive team. Keep this post handy and let's see how it plays out next fall, too.
L Demetrius Cooper, Michigan State, Jr. He was a disruptive force off the edge in each of the three spring scrimmages (produced at least one tackle for loss in each of the scrimmages). Cooper also had a nine-yard sack in the Green-White Game.
L Kevin Givens, Penn State, RFr. He has transformed himself during the offseason, putting on 29 pounds since fall camp. He had a 410-pound bench press and 600-pound squat on max out day after winter workouts. A tackle, Givens had a team-high six tackles with 2.0 sacks (-17 yards) and 3.5 tackles for loss (-20 yards) for the Blue team in the spring game.
L Dawuane Smoot, Illinois, Sr. He will be the leader of the line and probably one of the best in the conference- if not the country – off the edge. The coaches think he has the potential to be a first-round pick.
LB Riley Bullough, Michigan State, Sr. He had a great spring and is poised to have a monster final year. He tied for the team lead with six tackles in the Green-White Game. Like his brother Max, Riley is a great student of the game, but he's more athletic.
LB Jonathan Celestin, Minnesota, Jr. He has played his first two years but could be poised for a breakout season, as the Gophers have to replace starting LB De'Vondre Campbell. Nicknamed ?Thumper? for the way he hits, Celestin had six tackles in the spring game and returned an interception 31 yards.
LB Chris Worley, Ohio State, Jr. He is hailed by some as star in waiting, as Worley has stepped up to elite status at Ohio State. He is fast, athletic and tenacious.
LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin, Jr. He will be the starter at OLB opposite Vince Biegel, replacing Big Ten Linebacker of the Year Joe Schobert. Injuries slowed him early in his career, but he's stayed healthy and played in all 13 games last year in a variety of spots in Dave Aranda's different hybrid packages. He's now taken ownership of the OLB spot and had the look of a playmaker off the edge all spring.
DB Nate Gerry, Nebraska, Sr. A scrappy player who rarely is out of position, Gerry is like a quarterback in the secondary. He also is a terrific athlete who had a good spring at safety for a defensive backfield that needs to improve.
DB Channing Stribling, Michigan, Sr. The corner got rave reviews from Jim Harbaugh as arguably the best defensive player of the spring. Considering he was a part-time starter last year, that was a big statement for Harbaugh to make.
DB Malik Hooker, Ohio State, So. This guy is gonna be an all-conference performer at safety. Hooker is excellent at preparation and is a student of the game. He had two interceptions in spring game, showing a nose for the ball.
DB Da?Wan Hunte, Purdue, Jr. The staff feels like he has breakthrough potential at one corner spot and is one of the most improved players on the team. Hunte is quick and a smart player with instincts.
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