We are continuing our series of the top players at each position for the 2023 Big Ten season. Today, our focus is on the fast, big men upfront: the defensive ends.
The Big Ten has been known for having some of the best defensive ends in the country year after year, and the 2023 season should be no different. Be sure to look out for these five players this season.
5. Jaylen Harrell - Michigan
Harrell might have not had as much playing time the last few seasons, thanks to guys like Aidan Hutchinson and Mike Morris, but Harrell will be looking to step up a bit this season.
When Harrell was on the field last season, it seemed like he was always in the backfield one way or another. He ended the season with 3.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, and was an All-Big Ten honorable selection.
Jaylen Harrell is gonna wreck dudes next year pic.twitter.com/nboD8IVRkd— Trevor Woods (@WoodsFootball) January 18, 2022
4. Deontae Craig - Iowa
Craig of the Iowa Hawkeyes is a force to be reckoned with. In 2022, he had a breakout season by leading the Hawkeyes with 7.5 sacks, along with three forced fumbles. He was a key piece for Iowa being a top defense last season, and is poised to lead a very good defense in 2023.
3. Aaron Lewis - Rutgers
One of the names that might not be as well known as the others is Aaron Lewis. In 2022, he recorded 54 total tackles and 1.5 sacks, which helped him earn Third Team All Big Ten.
The numbers might not be eye-popping, but Lewis was consistently making huge plays for Rutgers throughout the season. With another year of experience under his belt, Lewis is a name you will be hearing a lot in 2023.
2. Joe Evans - Iowa
The fifth-year Evans is one of the most experienced players in the Big Ten and is a huge piece for Iowa. Evans was just behind Craig in sacks with 6.5, to go along with 8.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He earned his way to Second-Team all Big Ten honors last season and is looking to do more damage in 2023.
With his relentless edge rushing style and his ability to get in the backfield, Evans is going to help Iowa have a top-ranked defense once again.
Joe Evans coming back is HUGE— Slater (@SlaterKinnick_) January 4, 2023
Remember when he single-handedly gave Iowa the lead vs Ohio State?
1. J.T. Tuimoloau - Ohio State
Tuimoloau was not just the best defensive end in the Big Ten, he was one of the best in the country. He was highly recruited out of high school and his production in 2023 showed why. Last season, he had 28 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. It seemed like he was around the ball every play. His ability to make the big plays and become a proven leader is what will help Tuimoloau have another huge year for the Buckeyes.