Projecting B1G interceptions leaders
Gone to the NFL are the likes of Trae Waynes, Ibraheim Campbell, Doran Grant, Adrian Amos and Cedric Thompson.
This year, a new batch of defensive backs will vie for the Big Ten interceptions lead. Here are the top five candidates to do so.
5. Eric Murray (Minnesota)
Sure, he only has one career interception. But the senior corner is too talented for that number to hold. His skill set is developed as any in the country, and playing alongside Briean Boddy-Calhoun will force Big Ten quarterbacks to pick their poison. The confidence the Gophers have in their defensive backfield will allow for the outside duo to take more chances than most. That could be what leads the Gophers to their first Big Ten Championship game.
4. William Likely (Maryland)
Likely and Ohio State’s Vonn Bell led the conference in interceptions last year. After the catch, there might not be a more dangerous threat than Likely, who racked up a school-record 170 interception yards and took two to the house. As a sophomore, no less, he established himself has one of the best defensive backs in the country. It’s what landed him on every major defensive award watch list. The junior is all over the scouting report, which could mean quarterbacks will attack converted safety Sean Davis instead. That’s about the only argument that can be made against Likely to regain his interceptions title.
3. Nate Gerry (Nebraska)
Remember when Gerry started for the Blackshirts at linebacker as a true freshman? As a sophomore, he fell back into is natural position of safety. The coaching staffs’ confidence in Gerry to play both positions says all you need to know about his nose for the football. The second team All-Big Ten selection led a unit that was fourth best against the pass in the country. That’s a credit to the Huskers’ safety valve. The only thing that might prevent him from leading the Big Ten in picks is an inexperienced linebacking core that offenses figure to attack with underneath routes.
2. Vonn Bell (Ohio State)
Certainly teams are going to have to take some shots downfield against the defending national champs. That should be music to Bell’s ears. As a sophomore, Bell’s ball-hawking ability emerged down the stretch. Four of his Big Ten-leading six interceptions came in the Buckeyes’ last six games. With Tyvis Powell lined up on the opposite side coupled with Eli Apple’s emergence at corner, the Buckeyes won’t lack playmakers in the defensive backfield. Big Ten quarterbacks won’t want to stay in the pocket long against Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington, which means jump balls should be there for Bell’s taking.
1. Briean Boddy-Calhoun (Minnesota)
It won’t be fun to pass against the Gophers this year, and Boddy-Calhoun is a major reason why. Any lingering concerns about his surgically repaired knee were squashed with the junior season he delivered. Five interceptions and a couple forced fumbles showed why Boddy-Calhoun is one of the most game-changing defensive backs in the land. The Coffeyville Community College transfer plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s still saying the Gophers aren’t getting enough respect, despite the fact that he was all over the preseason watch lists. Proper respect or not, Boddy-Calhoun and Murray should be tested with extreme caution in 2015.