Projecting the B1G's top tacklers
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Nothing is more underrated on a football field than having a reliable open-field tackler. These five guys do that like it’s their job. Well, because it is.
For leading this category alone, they could become defensive MVP’s of their respective units. For now, let’s just predict who will be the Big Ten’s best tackler in 2015.
5. Sean Davis, Maryland
Many might not realize that Davis actually finished fifth in the conference in tackles last season. That speaks to his ability to cover the entire field. A converted safety, he and William Likely will be one of the Big Ten’s top cornerback duos in all facets. That switch, however, is partially why Davis isn’t higher on this list. A relatively new position in a new defensive front with a new defensive coordinator is a lot to handle. The senior will still be a critical cog in keeping receivers from running wild.
4. Joe Bolden, Michigan
When he’s not planting tent spikes, Bolden is tackling ball-carriers. He does that as well as any returning linebacker in the country. The leader of Michigan’s underrated defensive core was critical last season in not letting the Wolverines’ downfall get even uglier. Bolden averaged 10 tackles in Michigan’s final five games of 2014, including 14 in a back-breaking loss to Maryland. He might be one of the Big Ten’s most animated characters, but Bolden is as steady as it comes to making plays in the open field.
3. Mason Monheim, Illinois
As I wrote earlier, hasn’t this kid graduated yet? It’s almost unfair to call the senior linebacker a “kid.” After all, he looks older than most of his coaches. This is the same guy that led the Illini in tackles as a true freshman and did the same as a sophomore and again as a junior. The captain of the Illinois defense has more career tackles than all but one returning player in the country. He’ll need to be everywhere again in his final go-around if the Illini hope to improve on the nation’s 109th-ranked defense.
2. Michael Caputo, Wisconsin
The fact that a safety could be so high on this list says everything about Caputo’s nose for the football. He makes headlines for his crushing hits, but the senior’s impact is greater than showing up in the highlight reel. Wisconsin’s fourth-ranked pass defense was a credit to Caputo’s ability to wrap up. The captain of the Badger defense — a common trend for those on this list — is on the watch list for every major defensive award. If the Badgers can make it to their third straight Big Ten Championship, Caputo will be leading the way.
1. Joshua Perry, Ohio State
It’s easy to get caught up in the playmaking ability of the Buckeye defense. Joey Bosa’s pass-rushing ability, Darron Lee’s explosiveness and Vonn Bell’s ballhawkingness make the Buckeyes elite. Throw in the potential of underclassmen like Raekwon McMillan and Eli Apple, and it’s no wonder Ohio State fans are giddy. But the man in the middle of all that chaos is Perry, who is the unquestioned leader of the bunch. He has at least five tackles in 20 of his 23 career games. He leads all Big Ten returners with 124 tackles, which was good enough for second in the conference last year. Few are as even-keeled and reliable as Perry. His presence will the the driving force behind another pursuit of perfection.