10 B1G defensive names to know for 2021
It’s clear by now, college football defense ain’t what it used to be.
Big Ten offenses, once known for their death-by-1,000-traps-and-powers schemes, have been scoring in the neighborhood of 30 points per game for over a decade. The run-pass option, rules limiting collisions and insanely high-level quarterback development, among other factors, would seem to have stacked the deck against defenders.
Just don’t tell that to any of the dudes on this list.
To be a successful stopper in today’s B1G, you need to cause havoc. There’s a reason most teams even have a set of metrics for this — sacks, turnovers, pressures, pass breakups, forced fumbles etc. Havoc plays swing momentum. When well-timed, they can mean the difference between 3 points or 7 — or even none.
It’s the age of chaos when it comes to defense. And while the following 10 players from around the B1G might not be national household names from that side of the ball, they could be by this time next year.
Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State
The hype train for Harrison has already begun, as multiple outlets have named him a potential breakout start in 2021. Count us guilty, too, after the Ohio native had 5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks despite starting just 2 games as a true freshman.
Olakunle Fatukasi, LB, Rutgers
Be honest. Have you heard of Fatukasi? If you have, you get a gold star. Perhaps a product of playing in Piscataway as opposed to Ann Arbor or College Station, Fatukasi will return for another season after leading the B1G in tackles and ranking 2nd in tackles for loss last season.
Ellis Brooks, LB, Penn State
The Nittany Lions are stacked at linebacker next season, and Brooks might be the most talented of the bunch. His 60 stops led the team and ranked 10th in the B1G in 2020.
Roderick Perry, DT, Illinois
The big man from the heart of ACC country in Raleigh, N.C., returns for an extra season after tallying 2.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks before an injury cut his 2020 campaign short. He’ll be a force under first-year coach Bret Bielema.
Dane Belton, LB, Iowa
Belton earned all-conference honorable mention last season playing Iowa’s “Cash” position, essentially a nickelback who’s supposed to be equally adroit in run support and pass coverage. Belton is.
Myles Farmer, DB, Nebraska
Farmer saw limited action as a freshman last season but was huge when called upon due to injuries. His 2 interceptions and reliability in pass coverage are signs of good things to come in Lincoln.
Peter McIntyre, LB, Northwestern
Of the Wildcats’ Terrifying Trio of linebackers, only Chris Bergin returns in 2021. Who will step up alongside him? Enter McIntyre, a senior who performed well in limited action last season and fits the mold of a Pat Fitzgerald ‘backer — pay your dues, bide your time then make waves.
Marvin Grant, DB, Purdue
“Lock-down defense” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Purdue football. But Grant’s freshman exploits — starting with a pair of forced fumbles — could signify a big jump during his senior year.
Cam Jones, LB, Indiana
Another all-B1G honorable mention who could be one of the conference’s top defenders by the end of 2021. Jones played a huge role in Indiana’s surprising 6-2 season, finishing with 35 tackles, 24 solo, with 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, a team-high 4 quarterback hurries and 3 pass breakups.
Michael Barrett, LB, Michigan
The junior became a full-time starter for the first time and acquitted himself well, racking up 44 tackles (25 solo) in 2020. He’ll be counted on as a defensive leader this season.