Three of last year's All-Big Ten First Team defensive linemen are back for the 2015 season, and all three landed on the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list.
The 80-name watch list for the award — handed out annually to the nation's top defensive player — was released Tuesday and includes Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun and Penn State's Anthony Zettel among a total of 12 Big Ten players.
Bosa is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after a remarkable 2014 campaign that saw him rank among the country's leaders in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (21). He also forced four fumbles and recovered one.
Calhoun took Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013. Over the past two seasons, he's been one of the Big Ten's best, earning all-conference First Team honors in both season. He totaled 15.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss in his sophomore and junior seasons. He'll be back for his senior year this fall.
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Zettel, now more famous for tackling a tree, was terrific last season, as well. He posted eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss, and he made a remarkable three interceptions as a defensive tackle.
Joining this trio on the Bednarik Award watch list are nine more Big Ten defensive standouts: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel, Minnesota defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Wisconsin defensive back Michael Caputo, Nebraska defensive lineman Maliek Collins, Michigan State linebacker Ed Davis, Rutgers defensive lineman Darius Hamilton, Maryland defensive back William Likely, Minnesota defensive back Eric Murray and Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry.
No Big Ten player has won the award since 2007, when Dan Connor made it three in a row for Penn State linebackers. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh won in 2009, though that was before the Huskers joined the Big Ten. Since 1995, the award has been given to a Big Ten player seven times.