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Anthony Walker ranked as the No. 5 player in the Big Ten by ESPN

Stanford v Northwestern Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Northwestern middle linebacker Anthony Walker was ranked as the fifth-best player in the Big Ten by ESPN’s Big Ten Blog.

The rising junior linebacker, who was ranked the No. 52 overall player in the nation by ESPN as well, is the highest-rated Wildcat on the Big Ten list. Running back Justin Jackson came in at No. 11 in the conference.

Walker is behind Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Iowa cornerback Desmond King, Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, who took the title as the conference’s best player. The Wildcats will face King, McDowell and Barrett in 2016.

“The Wildcats have been promoting Walker with a series of videos and other items dubbing him ‘The Franchise’,” Brian Bennett wrote. “Walker certainly is the cornerstone of the Northwestern defense, having exploded onto the national scene last year with 122 tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss. A true sideline-to-sideline force, Walker has a chance to go down as the school's best linebacker ever, according to head coach Pat Fitzgerald (who might currently hold that distinction). And he's only now entering his junior season.”

Walker was named to the preseason All-American second team by Sports Illustrated. He made the Associated Press third team last year.