The folks at the Butkus Award expect there to be some pretty good linebacking in the Big Ten this season, which is no surprise considering the award's namesake is a Big Ten product.
The Butkus Award, handed out each season to the country's top linebacker, released its preseason watch list Tuesday. Eight Big Ten players made the list, though two teams stood out from the pack, as Michigan and Ohio State each placed two names on the list.
Wolverines Joe Bolden and James Ross both played in the shadow of fourth-round draft pick Jake Ryan last season, but this year they'll get a chance to dominate the spotlight. Bolden started all 12 games last season and trailed only Ryan with 102 tackles, also picking up a pair of sacks. Ross played in all 12 games, starting seven, and recorded 32 tackles.
The Buckeyes have multiple names on every watch list, it seems, as they boast a loaded roster in defense of their national championship. Raekwon McMillan and Joshua Perry were tabbed as ones to watch Tuesday, with the Butkus Award people surprisingly omitting Sugar Bowl Defensive MVP Darron Lee. But McMillan and Perry played very well last season. Perry was the team leader in tackles with 124, and he added 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. McMillan recorded 54 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception. Lee not being included was kind of a shock considering his 81 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two interceptions during the national championship season.
Interestingly, McMillan won the high school version of the award just two years ago.
Other Big Ten names on the list include Illinois' Mason Monheim, Maryland’s Yannick Ngakoue, Michigan State’s Darien Harris and Minnesota’s De’Vondre Campbell.
Eight Big Ten players have won the award in its history, as have two from pre-Big Ten Era Nebraska and Maryland. Most recently, Ohio State's James Laurinaitis took it home in 2007.