Building the Perfect Big 10 EDGE
We’re back at it again as we build the perfect Big 10 EDGE rusher. With pass rush becoming increasingly important on a year to year basis, there are more and more traits scouts look at in elite EDGE rushers. Once again, only one trait per player can be used. So sorry Iowa and Ohio State fans, you’re only going to be seeing your school’s top guy once, even though both Chase Young and AJ Epenesa are specialists in virtually every facet. So what are these important traits? There are 7: burst, bend, finesse moves, power moves, run defense, mental, and toughness. The Big 10 may be a run heavy conference but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of talented EDGE rushers.
Carter Coughlin, Minnesota
Coughlin, who had 9.5 sacks in 2018 is returning as one of the more prolific pass rushers in the conference. The reason he seems to fly under the radar is because he plays for the Golden Gophers. However, what’s undeniable is the fact that Coughlin gets himself in position to collect the sack because he has an elite first step that makes him look like he’s been shot out of a cannon. Watch him dominate Ohio State if you needed any more proof.
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Gross-Matos has the ability to get low to the ground to beat Tackles off the edge. He may not be a complete player by any stretch of the imagination but, his raw athleticism mixed with his bend will make him intriguing to NFL teams.
Bobby Roundtree, Illinois
Roundtree’s status for the 2019 season is up in the air as he is recovering from spinal surgery however he has some pass rush moves that would make NFL scouts drool. His swim move and his counter swim are his bread and butter. He had 7.5 sacks in 2018.
Joe Gaziano, Northwestern
At 6’4 and 265, the Wildcats’ defensive end routinely bull rushes his matchup several yards into the backfield before annihilating the opposing QB. Sign me up for that all day, every day. He has 16.5 sacks in the last 2 seasons, and he won’t be flying under the radar much longer.
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
If we’re being totally honest, AJ Epenesa would be the choice for pretty much every trait listed but, rules are rules. Epenesa is a rarity in that he is elite at stopping the run as well as rushing the passer. He’s a top 10 lock and will be intriguing to see how he progresses while taking on a heavier workload this fall.
Chase Young, Ohio State
It’s always hard being the guy after ‘the guy” yet Chase Young has the potential to fill in quite well for Nick Bosa. Chase Young has some of the best vision for a defensive ends I have seen in some time. Young is always able to find the path of least resistance to the QB. He can go from out on the edge against a tackle and in one or two steps he’s matched up one on one pushing the Center into the backfield. He’s got elite football intelligence and Buckeyes fans should cherish him while they’ve got him.
Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Lost in all the love for Young and Epenesa is one of the more underrated players in the entire draft, let alone Big 10 pass rushers. Kenny Willekes is easy to find on tape. All you have to do is spot #48 for Sparty wearing the JJ Watt elbow brace. Willekes is a soldier, after breaking his leg in the Redbox Bowl against Oregon, here’s what teammate Joe Bachie had to say about Kenny: “He’ll play through anything… I know he’s going to go kill his treatment, kill his rehab and he’s going to come back next year strong.” Former teammate Khari Willis put it best about his work ethic, “when I went up to him, he said “I’ve got a broken leg. So, what?’ That’s just kind of the tough guy he is.” This guy is a warrior and you should want him on your team.
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