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June 11, 2012

Ranking the Big Ten: Safety

As Nebraska moves into its second season in the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today, we look at the safety position in the Big Ten heading into 2012.

1. Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State, 5-10, 195, Jr.
Many people may remember Isaiah Lewis's sophomore season for its most disappointing moment - when he ran gave Wisconsin a first down late in the Big Ten title game by running into the punter and keeping the Badgers' momentum alive. But the rest of Lewis' season was fantastic. He ranked fourth on Michigan State with 74 tackles and was tied for second in the conference with four interceptions, two of which he returned for scores.
2. C.J. Barnett , Ohio State, 6-1, 202, Jr.
After losing much of his freshman season to a knee injury, C.J. Barnett wasted no time in establishing himself as one of the Big Ten's better defenders last season. He led the Buckeyes with 75 tackles, including a career-high 12 against hated rival Michigan. He also picked off two passes and broke up six others. If Ohio State's defense is to live up to its vaunted potential, it will need another strong -and healthy - season from its leader in the secondary.
3. Jordan Kovacs, Michigan, 6-0, 197, Sr.
One of the nation's most well-known former walk-ons, Jordan Kovacs saw his tackle numbers drop last season, but his overall play was at the same high level. He was the Wolverines' second-leading tackler with 75 stops, including a game-high 11 in Michigan's victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. He picked off a pass, forced a pair of fumbles and spent more time in the backfield than any other Big Ten defensive back, registering four sacks and eight tackles for loss.
4. Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern, 5-11, 205, Soph.
After redshirting in 2010, Ibraheim Campbell burst onto the scene last season with one of the conference's best freshman campaigns. He was named a freshman All-American after leading the Wildcats with 100 tackles. Campbell had a way of saving his best performances for Northwestern's biggest games - he had nine tackles and a pair of interceptions against Michigan, then tied his career high with 13 tackles in the Wildcats' upset win over Nebraska a month later.
5. Daimion Stafford, Nebraska, 6-1, 205, Sr.
Daimion Stafford didn't wait long to introduce himself as a feared hitter - his spine-rattling hit on Tennessee at Chattanooga's Chris Awuah forced a fumble and drew rave reviews from the faithful at Memorial Stadium. While Stafford reinforced his reputation as a solid tackler with 80 tackles, he improved his play against the pass as the year wore on, totaling a team-high 10 pass breakups. Unfortunately, a few of those could have been easy picks but bounced off of Stafford's hands. If he can keep a grip on some interceptions this year, his legend will extend beyond what the havoc he can wreak at the line of scrimmage.



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