Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Linebacker once again figures to be one of the Big Ten's strongest positions, as the league boasts one of the nation's best tandems (Penn State's Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee) and several other standouts.
Seven Big Ten players appear on the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker. Ohio State's James Laurinaitis was the last Big Ten player to win the award (2007), and six Big Ten players have won since 1994.
Here are this year's candidates:
Iowa's Pat Angerer
Penn State's Navorro Bowman
Iowa's A.J. Edds
Michigan's Obi Ezeh
Michigan State's Greg Jones (Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of the Year)
Penn State's Sean Lee
Illinois' Martez Wilson
I fully expected to see Angerer, Bowman, Jones and Lee make the list. It's nice to see Edds and Ezeh get some recognition as well. Edds quietly had a strong 2008 season, and Ezeh was one of few bright spots for Michigan last fall. Wilson's enormous potential landed him on the preseason watch list for the second straight year. He knows the time has come to produce, and I think he'll come through for the Illini.
If Indiana's Matt Mayberry puts up some big numbers early this fall, he should gain consideration as well.