Talented young defensive linemen coming out of high school have a lot of options to choose where they may hone their pass rushing and run stopping abilities. Schools representing the SEC often have an upper hand when it comes to recruiting these young men. Until Florida State Seminoles and head coach Jimbo Fischer were able to knock of the Auburn Tigers in the national title game, the SEC has been able to brag up their reign of dominance in the BCS era and use it as a recruiting tool. The majority of the SEC schools are located in a major hotbed of high school football. The SEC schools have a sizable geographical advantage over teams from other conferences in regards to distance from their homes and families. There is also a geographical advantage in the sense that it is simply much warmer and much more hospitable weather in the southern part of the United States than it is in states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio. Why would a big time defensive lineman want to play football where in Nebraska where the wind blows across the plains or in Wisconsin where temperatures often drop below zero?
That question could be answered by simply naming two of the top defensive linemen in the NFL today. Ndamukong Suh (Suh did spend his playing days in the Big 12, the Husker style of play was already Big 10 ready) who once lined up for Head Coach Bo Pelini and his Nebraska Cornhuskers and J.J. Watt who spent his playing days as a Badger at the University of Wisconsin. There are great defensive linemen who come out of the Big 10 nearly every year. Another Husker Jared Crick plays alongside Watt for the Houston Texans. William Gholston decided to forgo his senior season with the Michigan State Spartans and head Coach Mark Dantonio and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year. If only Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi had Gholston’s abilities at their disposal this season who perhaps their absolutely dominant defense would have defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and had an undefeated season giving them a potential opportunity to take on the Seminoles in the National title game.
Ryan Kerrigan, a former Purdue Boilermaker, was on the San Francisco 49ers football team when they made their Super Bowl run in 2013. LaMarr Woodley may be the most decorated current NFL player who used to roam the trenches in the Big Ten. Woodley spent his playing days as a Michigan Wolverine. The former Big 10 defensive player of the year was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round and though he converted to linebacker the former Wolverine Defensive linemen is now a Super Bowl Champion.
The Big 10 has a history of tough play that comes with some regional stereotypes that may be outdated but seem to prove true with many of the men mentioned on this list and several others who could have easily been mentioned. The tough physical rushing that is often a staple in most Big 10 offensive playbooks puts defensive linemen in the league in a position to hone their skills for the next level. The ability to rush the passer is sometimes innate and requires speed and agility. The teams in the Big 10 are more than welcome to embrace players with these skills but once they get them they teach them to absorb blocks and stop the run as well. The Big 10 is a great place for young football players to become NFL ready men.