Defensive end doesn't project to be the Big Ten's strongest position in 2011.
The league had four defensive ends -- Wisconsin's J.J. Watt, Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State's Cam Heyward -- selected in the first round of April's NFL draft. That's a lot of star power lost in one night.
Despite the exodus, the Big Ten has several promising defensive ends who could become big names by the end of the season. Six of them were selected for the Ted Hendricks Award preseason watch list. The Hendricks Award recognizes the nation's top defensive end.
The Big Ten nominees are:
Broderick Binns, Iowa, senior
Vince Browne, Northwestern, senior
Jacks Crawford, Penn State, senior
Cameron Meredith, Nebraska, junior
Ryan Van Bergen, Michigan, senior
Nathan Williams, Ohio State, senior
Only two of these players -- Browne and Meredith -- earned first or second-team all-conference honors in 2010. That doesn't mean several players won't emerge as candidates for the Hendricks Award.
Binns and Crawford look to bounce back from disappointing seasons in 2010. Van Bergen is excited about Michigan's return to the 4-3 defense, a scheme where he thinks he can thrive. Ohio State will look to Williams as a leader for a defense that loses seven starters. Another Ohio State defensive lineman, junior John Simon, could appear on this list later as he likely will play more at defensive end.