Next up in our series highlighting the best players Iowa will face at each position group in 2017 is the defensive linemen. The good news for the Hawkeyes is that there seems to be a surprising lack of depth at the position as far as their opponents go. That said, one team is absolutely loaded on its defensive front.
5. Michael Hill, Ohio State
The 305-pound monster out of South Carolina is the unsung hero on defense for the Buckeyes. He doesn’t have stats that pop off the page, but he more than does his job as a space-eater, allowing the ends and linebackers to roam free and make plays. He’s almost a surefire, decade-long starter in the NFL. For now, he’ll be taking up space in the Big Ten and testing the Hawkeye line late in the season.
4. Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
Jones has the size, strength and athleticism to play both inside and outside on the defensive line. He burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2016, logging 51 tackles in 12 games. His performance a season ago have some projecting him as an early-round NFL Draft pick in 2018. His versatility is going to cause every team he faces — including Iowa — some problems once again this season.
3. Steven Richardson, Minnesota
Richardson is the total package as defensive lineman. He is a run-stopper, tackling machine and an exceptional pass-rusher (seven sacks in 2016). He’s probably the best player on Minnesota’s roster and definitely in the conversation in terms of best defensive players in the Big Ten West. If he’s feeling it, he can take over and change the look and feel of a game, much like former Gopher and current Atlanta Falcon Ra’Shede Hagemen was known to do during his time in the Twin Cities.
2. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
The 6-5, 265-pound junior could be the best defensive end in the country and a serious contender to be the top overall pick in the next NFL Draft. He picked up right where Joey Bosa left off in terms of pure physicality and violence. Like Hill, his stats don’t jump off the page, but much of that has to do with opponents avoiding him. He still managed four sacks a season ago and was instrumental in Ohio State’s efforts to rush the opposing passers and throw off the timing of opposing aerial attacks.
1. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
Lewis has led the Buckeyes in sacks each of the last two seasons. Keep in mind, when he did it in 2015, he shared a defensive huddle with Joey Bosa. He was named as the Big Ten’s Defensive Lineman of the year in 2016 for his efforts. He is a pure pass-rusher in the mold of Von Miller, seemingly never running out of energy in his efforts to constant put opposing passers on the ground.
Don’t Sleep On:
Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Yeah, there’s more. More Buckeyes and another Bosa. He logged five sacks as a freshman and is shaping up to be every bit the talent his brother was.
Freedom Akinmoladun, Nebraska
An athletic freak, his production has been somewhat limited by his role as a guy with his hand in the dirt on the line. Nebraska’s conversation to Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense is going to give Akinmoladun an opportunity to chase after opposing quarterbacks and running backs from a two-point stance — something that’s closer to his athletic wheelhouse.
So basically, that Ohio State game will feature what we think is the best offensive line in the Big Ten (Iowa) against what might be the best defensive line in college football. That should be fun. Maybe.