Illinois' Whitney Mercilus practically came out of nowhere to win the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end in 2011.
Can the Big Ten make it two in a row?
Five Big Ten defensive ends appear on the preseason watch list for the Hendricks Award, which goes to an elite defensive lineman who primarily plays the end position.
Here's the Big Ten contingent:
Michael Buchanan, Illinois, senior
Cameron Meredith, Nebraska, senior
John Simon, Ohio State, senior
William Gholston, Michigan State, junior
Craig Roh, Michigan, senior
Both Simon and Gholston look like leading candidates for the Hendricks Award. Simon earned third-team All-America honors in 2011, while Gholston might be the league's most physically gifted defensive lineman. He comes off of a big performance in Michigan State's Outback Bowl victory. Simon earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches last season, while both Gholston and Buchanan were consensus second-team All-Big Ten selections.
There aren't any obvious snubs, although several defensive ends could have made the watch list, including Penn State's Sean Stanley, Northwestern's Tyler Scott, Purdue's Ryan Russell and Michigan State's Marcus Rush. Three possible candidates return from injuries in Penn State's Pete Massaro, Wisconsin's David Gilbert and Ohio State's Nathan Williams.
The Hendricks Award issues a midseason watch list in November, and the winner is announced Dec. 5.