Iowa City, IA – Spring football is right around the corner for Big Ten schools. Many quality players will be leaving the conference due to graduation or to further their football career as professionals. I will be reviewing the top returning starters at each position in the Big Ten Conference. This will be a series of articles that will be broken down by unit on the field. I’ll start off the series by taking a look at defensive backs.
The defensive back position lost some NFL talent this past season such as Josh Jackson and Denzel Ward. Both players are projected first round draft picks. Here are the players who will do their best at preventing the deep ball next season.
Amani Oruwariye/CB/Penn St. – Oruwariye will be returning this season on a very good Penn St. squad. Saquon Barkley may be heading on to bigger and better things, but Trace McSorley is still there and the Nittany Lions offense should still be flying high.
On defense, last season Oruwariye had 11 total passes defended and four interceptions. His passes defended number was good enough to place him fifth in the conference. Oruwariye will be the leader in the Nittany Lions defensive backfield this coming season.
David Dowell/Safety/MSU – Michigan St. always has a good defense. One of the reasons they were so dominant last season is because of Dowell. He had 5 interceptions which is the most of any returning player in the Big Ten. Tack on nine passes defended and two fumble recoveries and you have yourself one hell of a 2017 campaign. Dowell’s numbers may not be as flashy next season because teams will not throw the ball in his direction, but it’s a great thing for a defense when you have a guy with the ability to take away one side of the field.
Kiy Hester/DB/Rutgers – Hester’s talent and ability has flown way under the radar for one reason and one reason only, he plays for Rutgers. Hester is heading into his senior season after a junior year where he set a career high in interceptions (3), passes defended (13) and touchdowns (2). His ability to play the ball is impressive. He finished fourth in total passes defended last season, just ahead of Oruwariye. Look for him to make an impact for the Scarlet Knights during his senior season.
Darnell Savage Jr./DB/Maryland – Rounding out the defensive backs position is Darnell Savage Jr. from Maryland. Savage plays the ball well. He had three interceptions and 11 passes defended this past season, but his tackling is what really catapults him into the top four on this unit. With a name like Savage you’d expect him to tackle well right? Savage has had 59 tackles in each of the last two seasons. It is always impressive when a secondary player is able to rack up that many tackles.
Here are a few other plays who just missed the cut:
Jordan Fuller/CB – Ohio State – 2 ints, 4 defended
Montre Hartage/CB – Northwestern – 2 ints, 8 defended
Jacob Huff/DB – Minnesota – 3 ints, 7 defended
Josiah Scott/CB – Michigan State – 2 ints, 12 defended
Damon Hayes/DB – Rutgers – 1 int, 9 defended