September 1st – Southern Mississippi
DE/LB Jamie Collins
Husker fans won’t have to wait long to see some NFL talent on the opposing side of the ball. In the first game of the season, NU’s offensive line will be tested by USM’s standout defensive end/linebacker hybrid Jamie Collins. Standing at 6-foot 4-inches, 245-pounds, Collins was evaluated by some experts as a mid-to-late third-rounder in the 2012 Draft. However, in early January, Collins made the decision to return to Hattiesburg for his senior season. And what’s more impressive is Collins’ journey to the defensive line. He played linebacker his freshman year and both positions his sophomore year.
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa
Does the name sound familiar? Well, it ought to. Let’s rewind to the 2009 season when Ndamukong Suh was singlehandedly shredding apart Big 12 defenses. Some of HuskerNation was certain the 5-star prospect Owamagbe Odighizuwa would be the next Pelini-protégé, yet “Owa” chose to take his talents to Los Angeles instead.
After a strong spring, Owa will line up at DE for his junior season but is unlikely to be the standout on a deep Bruin defensive line. UCLA has eight men fighting out for starting positions, including North Carolina transfer Brandon Willis. Willis should make an immediate impact at the DT position.
DT Ryan Carrethers
En route to a perfect 8-0 conference record, Arkansas State was easily one of the nation’s surprise teams. Returning defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers will be depended upon to lead the defensive front and will look to improve on his 29 tackles last year.
September 22nd – Idaho State
DE/DT Jake Rouser
The Bengals only have two upperclassmen listed on the D-line roster. Junior Jake Rouser played and started all 11 games for the Bengals last season. He recorded 51 tackles on the season and led the team in tackles for loss. He also added had two forced fumbles. Austin Schnizler played in eight games for the Bengals last season and finished the season with 24 tackles.
DT Beau Allen
When you lose talented players like Louis Nzegwu and Patrick Butrym, “experience” isn’t the first word that comes to mind. In Wisconsin’s case, however, there’s plenty of talent and experience will fill those holes.
Leading the way for the Badger defensive line is Beau Allen, who was Scout.com’s No. 26 DT in the 2009 class. As a redshirt freshman, Allen played in 13 games while recording 15 tackles. Last year, as a sophomore, Allen had three tackles for loss and one sack. The Huskers are especially familiar with Allen’s name. When the Nebraska traveled to Camp Randall in last year’s Big Ten opener, he recorded a career-high five tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
DE John Simon
The word on the street is that Ohio’s Cardinal Mooney High School develops some exceptional talent. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, a Cardinal Mooney-alumn, is well aware of this. Pelini is also aware that the Husker offensive line will have its hands full with Ohio State’s strong, powerful defensive end. At 6-feet-2, 270 pounds, Simon left Cardinal Mooney with a 450 pound max bench and a max squat of 700 pounds.
The U.S. Army All-American saw significant time as a true freshman and solidified a starting spot on the defensive line as a sophomore. Last year, he was a third-team Associated Press All-American and was named first-team All-Big Ten Conference by the league's coaches after recording 53-tackles, including 16 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks. Simon has been named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list for the second consecutive year.
DE Tyler Scott
Northwestern hasn’t shown much of a pass rush the past few years. 2012 could be a different story. While the Wildcats will be without DT Jack DiNardo, they do return DE Tyler Scott who looks poised to have a breakout season. Last year, he recorded 31 tackles, one interception, and one sack. There were also reports of some younger players stepping forward in spring practice, including freshman end Deonte Gibson and sophomore Chance Carter.
and Ondre Pipkins
Craig Roh is the only player returning to a weak Wolverine defensive line. Roh started his Michigan career as an outside linebacker but made the transition to defensive end during his sophomore campaign. He will be looked to lead a group of highly inexperienced players—Jibreel Black, Will Campbell and Brennan Beyer.
Four-star recruit Ondre Pipkins will also be looked upon to make an impact as a true freshman. At 6-feet 3 -inches, 320 pounds, Pipkins displayed why he should be considered for a starting role in the Army All-American game.
DE William Gholston
The Spartans could potentially display one of the most potent defenses in the nation this fall. Replacing All-American, second-round draft pick Jerel Worthy won’t be easy, but the task does seem less daunting when you factor in a high-caliber player like William Gholston.
Last year, as a sophomore, Gholston put his name on the radar, but not always in a good way. Some may remember him as the player who tried to rip off Dennard Robinson’s head after the whistle. Others will remember him for his 83 career tackles, 70 of which were recorded last year alone. Gholston is expected to be one of the nation's top pass rushers in 2012.
One thing is for certain when Nebraska visits Spartan stadium on Nov. 3: the Spartans will have more than enough incentive to avenge their embarrassing performance last year in Lincoln. Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead had 35 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
DT Jordan Hill
The loss of second-round draft pick Devon Still will be painfully evident for the Nittany Lions defensive line this fall. While the first-team All-Big Ten tackle put up stellar numbers in 2011, it was the double teams he drew from opposing offensive linemen which opened up holes for DT Jordan Hill. The absence of Still will put more pressure on Hill, who put up 59 tackles last year, including 8.0 for a loss and 3.5 sacks. The big question is how will he adapt to being the main target of double teams? Husker fans should find this situation similar to the Ndamukong Suh/Jared Crick situation which occurred after Suh’s graduation.
DE Michael Amaefula
The Gophers have been nothing short of atrocious on defense the past couple years, particularly in the pass rush. Minnesota lost both starting DT’s last year and is looking to recruit a speedier defensive end, which is where Michael Amaefula comes into play. The sophomore had 17 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, as a freshman and could provide a much needed boost for a struggling defensive line. He recorded four tackles, including two sacks, in the spring game.
Player: Steve Bigach
The word “inexperience” doesn’t do Iowa’s D-line situation justice. The Hawkeye spring depth chart had two redshirt freshmen and four true freshmen filling six of the eight spots on the D-line. Steve Bigach, who finally saw significant playing time last fall, will be thrust into the spotlight of this young D-line. Freshmen Darian Cooper, Dean Tsopanides, and Riley McMinn all redshirted last fall and are the likely starters listed with Bigach.
That certainly isn’t a good look for a D-line that let up 160 yards and one touchdown to NU running back Rex Burkhead last fall (not to mention an NU record 38-carries). If the young Hawkeye D-line manages to hold Burkhead, they should be the ones receiving the Heroes Trophy.
J.C. Reid has interned for Big Red Report magazine and BigRedReport.com since December of 2011. He is currently a junior at UNL, studying Journalism.
- Josh Harvey -