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Big Ten football power rankings: defensive backs

As more teams run wide-open offenses, it takes solid secondaries to counter.

Iowa+strong+safety+Amani+Hooker+dives+into+the+end+zone+after+intercepting+a+pass+on+Ohio+State%27s+first+play+from+scrimmage+during+Iowa%27s+game+against+Ohio+State+at+Kinnick+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+4%2C+2017.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Buckeyes+55+to+24.+%28Nick+Rohlman%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Big Ten football power rankings: defensive backs

Iowa strong safety Amani Hooker dives into the end zone after intercepting a pass on Ohio State's first play from scrimmage during Iowa's game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes 55 to 24. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa strong safety Amani Hooker dives into the end zone after intercepting a pass on Ohio State's first play from scrimmage during Iowa's game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes 55 to 24. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa strong safety Amani Hooker dives into the end zone after intercepting a pass on Ohio State's first play from scrimmage during Iowa's game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes 55 to 24. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa strong safety Amani Hooker dives into the end zone after intercepting a pass on Ohio State's first play from scrimmage during Iowa's game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes 55 to 24. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley and Pete Ruden

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Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Adam Hensley teams up with Sports Editor Pete Ruden to break down the Big Ten’s best DBs heading into the 2018 season.

5. Josiah Scott, Michigan State

Scott led all Big Ten freshmen with 12 pass breakups and 2 interceptions in 2017, leading to third-team All-Big Ten honors and a spot on the ESPN.com Freshman All-American team.

Despite being a first-year player, Scott led the Spartans in passes defended (12) and tied for second on the team in forced fumbles (1).

He closed the season out on a high note, finishing with 7 passes defended in the final five games and picking off a pass in the 40-7 regular-season finale win over Rutgers.

With David Dowell, Khari Willis, and Justin Layne in the secondary with Scott, Michigan State could boast one of the most dynamic defensive backfields in the conference.

4. Amani Hooker, Iowa

Hooker only played in eight of Iowa’s 13 games last season, but when he was on the field, he proved to be the Hawkeyes’ next-best secondary threat behind Josh Jackson.

With Jackson now a member of the Green Bay Packers, the Hawkeyes hope Hooker at safety will be the next interception magnet. After all, he possesses a good eye for catching receiver routes (just as J.T. Barrett of Ohio State).

Hooker had 2 interceptions last season ​— one of which he returned for a touchdown ​— and tallied 2 passes defended and 56 tackles (41 solo).

3. Kiy Hester, Rutgers

After committing to Florida International as a graduate transfer, Hester will be back with the Scarlet Knights for another year. Hester never completed the credits necessary for graduation, according to NJ.com, which a player needs to join a different school.

Hester was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2017 after defending 13 passes and intercepting 3. He also recorded 37 tackles and took two of his picks back for touchdowns, including a 53-yard return in a win over Maryland on Nov. 4.

With fellow defensive back Blessaun Austin returning from a torn ACL, Rutgers could have a solid secondary in 2018.

2. David Dowell, Michigan State

Michigan State’s secondary will be arguably the best in the Big Ten this season, and that starts with Dowell, who led the team with 5 interceptions in 2017. Throw in 4 passes defended and 2 fumble recoveries for good measure.

The safety only saw action in three games in 2016, but that number skyrocketed to 13 in 2017, and with a jump in playing time came success across the board for the Spartans defensively. Michigan State gave up 15 passing touchdowns in 2017, ranking second-best in the conference. The Spartans also held quarterbacks to an average passing efficiency of 113.5 — one of five teams in the Big Ten to keep that mark below 114.0.

1. Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

A Hawkeye laid claim as being the best defensive back in the Big Ten last season; Josh Jackson broke up 26 passes and made 8 interceptions.

This season, a Nittany Lion holds that designation. He picked off 4 passes and deflected 11 last season, as Penn State rolled to an 11-2 record and a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl win over No. 11 Washington to close the season.

With safeties Marcus Maye and Troy Apke gone, as well as cornerbacks Grant Haley and Christian Campbell, Oruwariye will be a leader in the secondary and has a good chance to improve on his second-team All-Big Ten performance.

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