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Big Ten Football: Breaking Down the Bronko Nagurski Award Candidates
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15 Jul 2017 07:19 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Indiana’s Tegray Scales makes tackle against Penn State. (Image Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Charlotte Touchdown Club released their Bronko Nagurski preseason watch list, which included 16 players from eight different Big Ten teams. Here’s the top candidate by school:

Indiana – LB Tegray Scales:

For starters, the last time a defensive back won the award was Derrick Strait in 2003, so that’s a big reason Tegray Scales gets the nod over his teammate. Not to imply the all-purpose linebacker hasn’t earned his consideration. Scales led the B1G in tackles last season, including a whopping 23.5 for loss, seven of which were sacks. A force against the run and the pass.

Other Hoosiers: CB Rashad Fant

Iowa – LB Josey Jewell:

With only two fewer tackles than Scales, Josey Jewell finished second in the conference in stops last season. The Butkus Award finalist returns for his senior year primed to take home some hardware. Like Scales, Jewell impacts both the run and throw games. He’s not an elite pass rusher but knows how to get his hands on the football (9 PBs) in pass coverage.

Preseason Watch Lists: Bednarik | Mackey | Maxwell | Thorpe |

Michigan – DE Rashan Gary:

Arguably the most talented player in the conference regardless of class or position. Just a true sophomore, very big things are expected of Rashan Gary this season in Ann Arbor. He’s big, quick, athletic, and explosive. Expect the one-time No. 1 overall recruit in all of college football to be a disruptive force with his penetration skills, as the Wolverines rebuild their defense around his elite talent.

Other Wolverines: DT Maurice Hurst

Minnesota – DT Steve Richardson:

Interior linemen have received a lot of Nagurski love over the years, but to win the award as a defensive tackle you have to rack up the tackles for loss and/or be the lynchpin of an elite defense. Steve Richardson’s seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss as a junior are something to build on. To avoid constant double teaming, he will need some of his fellow Gophers to step up.

Northwestern – S Godwin Igwebuike:

The last and only safety to win the Nagurski Award in its 24 seasons is Oklahoma’s Roy Williams back in 2001, which probably makes Godwin Igwebuike a longshot to make a run. But even long shots have a chance. He’s going to accumulate tackles—not many can square up and finish as well as this Wildcat—but if he’s going to get love from the voters he’ll have to make more of an impact when the ball is the air.

Ohio State – DE Tyquan Lewis:

What could hurt the chances of Tyquan Lewis and all the Buckeyes for that matter is they could cannibalize one another statistically. Lewis, eight sacks in 2016, might be the top pass rusher in the Big Ten but could end up finishing second or third among OSU defensive ends in the sack department. Of course, if he emerges as the top defender on the nation’s No. 1 team, Lewis could have the perfect platform to win some of these postseason awards.

Other Buckeyes: LB Jerome Baker, DE Nick Bosa, DE Sam Hubbard

Penn State – LB Jason Cabinda:

Linebacker U is looking to make a comeback with MIKE Jason Cabinda expected to lead the way. The key for Cabinda will be health. He missed five games with injuries last year but still managed to finish third on the team with 81 tackles in just nine games. With a healthy Cabinda, PSU’s defense played improved football down the stretch of the season. If he plays a full season, look for the senior to easily crack triple digits in the tackles department. A team leader whose lost weight in the offseason, should translate to fast play in-season.

Other Nittany Lions: S Marcus Allen

Wisconsin – LB Jack Cichy:

Well on his way to having an All-B1G type campaign with 60 tackles in half a season, Jack Cichy missed Wisconsin’s final seven games with a pectoral injury. Nevertheless, his 60 tackles were still good enough for fourth on the Badgers. With a full season, Cichy will probably lead the way from his inside linebacker position and be among the most productive defenders in the conference. An instinctive player, Cichy is one of those linebackers that’s always around the football.

Other Badgers: S D’Cota Dixon, DE Conor Sheehy

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email: danmogollon@gmail.com.

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