I apologize for the delay, but it's finally time to examine the Big Ten's top candidates to reach 100 tackles or more in the 2011 season. We've already looked at the league's top touchdown scorers (15 or more), 1,000-yard rushing candidates, sack-masters, 3,000-yard passers and top interceptors.
The Big Ten had six players record 100 or more tackles in 2010: Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton (117), Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs (116), Penn State linebacker Chris Colasanti (112), Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson (112), Northwestern safety Brian Peters (107) and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones (106). Seven Big Ten defenders reached the 100-tackle mark in 2010, led by Jones (154) and Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer (146).
Nebraska star linebacker Lavonte David actually is the Big Ten's leading returning tackler after recording 154 stops in 2010.
Let's be clear that tackles don't mean everything, and there have been some mediocre defenders who end up high on the tackles charts. I've also noticed that some of the Big Ten's historically elite defenses, like Ohio State, rarely have players approach 100 tackles. This can be attributed in part to good team defense and also to being on the field for fewer plays. So if a player from your favorite team doesn't appear below, it might not be a bad thing.
Still, 100 tackles is a milestone and several Big Ten players should approach it.
Here are the top candidates:
1. Nebraska LB Lavonte David: He set a team single-season record for tackles in 2010 and should be able to surpass 100 stops for the second consecutive year. David recorded 10 tackles or more in eight contests in 2010 and had 15 stops or more three times. It'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to Big Ten offenses, but he's too good not to be around the ball.
2. Northwestern S Brian Peters: I'm not sure Northwestern wants to have a safety eclipse 100 tackles again, but Peters once again could be the team's go-to tackler as it loses two multiyear starters at linebacker. He recorded 10 tackles or more in six games last fall.
3. Penn State LB Michael Mauti: Sure, he only had 67 tackles last fall, but Mauti is poised for a breakout season if he can stay healthy. Mauti has a chance to put up Posluszny/Connor tackle numbers as he continues to mature. Penn State will be a more linebacker-driven defense this fall, and several players -- Mauti, Nathan Stupar, Gerald Hodges -- could challenge for 100 tackles.
4. Iowa S/CB Micah Hyde: Hyde had 82 tackles from the cornerback spot in 2010 and should see that number increase if he plays more safety this fall. Although an Iowa linebacker like James Morris certainly could climb up the tackles chart this fall, Hyde seems to have a knack for being around the football.
5. Purdue S Logan Link: After leading the team with 91 tackles in 2010, Link is poised for another productive season. Purdue has some question marks in the seven front seven, and it will rely on Link and other defensive backs to move down and make plays against the run.
6. Indiana LB Jeff Thomas: Thomas finished last season with 82 tackles, five shy of team leader Tyler Replogle. As Replogle departs, Thomas will move into a more featured role at linebacker and should definitely be in the mix for 100 tackles or more. Indiana's defense also could spend a lot of time on the field this fall, giving Thomas plenty of tackle opportunities.
Also keep an eye on the following players:
Michigan LB Kenny Demens and S Jordan Kovacs
Iowa LB James Morris
One of Michigan State's LBs (Chris Norman, Max Bullough, TyQuan Hammock)
Illinois LB Ian Thomas
Minnesota LBs Gary Tinsley or Mike Rallis