Wednesday, May 14, 2014
New LB leaders emerge around Big Ten
By Adam Rittenberg
The NFL draft might not have reflected it, but the Big Ten lost several decorated defensive leaders this year. Spring practice marked a torch-passing around the league, particularly at the linebacker position, as players moved from supporting roles to the spotlight.
Career profile: 28 games, three starts, 81 tackles, two fumbles recovered, one forced fumble, two passes defended
What they're saying: "He is a quiet leader, really a lot like Chris Borland. Not a bunch of rah-rah, but demands respect. He's done a nice job there." -- coach Gary Andersen
The skinny: Wisconsin loses almost its entire starting defensive front seven, including Borland, the 2013 Big Ten defensive player of the year and a starter for three-plus seasons. Landisch won't fill Borland's production and explosiveness by himself, but he's a solid player who should be able to guide younger players. "I'm trying to step up," Landisch said. "We need leaders on defense, we need an identity on defense."
Penn State LB Mike Hull says he hopes to emulate the leadership of Michael Mauti.
Career profile: 35 games, 154 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries
What they're saying: "Mike is very mature. He's football smart. I think he feels like it's his time. There's not a player I trust more than him." -- defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
The skinny: Hull has plenty of experience, but after understudying Michael Mauti and Glenn Carson, he steps to center stage this fall. He's a bit undersized but exceptionally strong, and while he's not the most vocal player, he understands the need to lead. "I try to be my own person, but I definitely take things from what Mauti did and what Glenn did," Hull said. "Mauti was such a great leader, demanded so much out of the guys. I want to be like the leader he was."
Career profile: 29 games, one start, 24 tackles, one fumble recovery
What they're saying: "James Morris really helped him out, showing how you need to lead. He takes command of the huddle when he's out there. We really like the progress that he's made. He's really got to be the quarterback of the defense." -- defensive coordinator Phil Parker
Career profile: 33 games, 115 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three interceptions, six pass breakups
What they're saying: "He's always given us leadership, but playing [middle linebacker] now, he's more positioned to do that because he's making more calls and he's communicating with all the groups. The players respect him." -- defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz
The skinny: Ellis started at outside linebacker last year but shifts to the middle after the loss of Damien Proby. He's a bit undersized for the middle spot but has good speed and intelligence. Ellis recorded two pick-sixes last year and moves well laterally. He also welcomes the increased leadership. "Last year, we were getting hurt up the middle, so that's where I'm supposed to fit," Ellis said. "It's a new position and obviously there's a bit of a learning curve I have to get over, but I played a bit of it last year.