Which Big Ten true freshmen are set to make instant impacts?


I polled the Big Ten experts at SB Nation and asked them which true freshmen will show out in the Big Ten this year.

Ohio State

The smart folks at Land Grant Holy Land expect Urban Meyer to play quite a few freshmen:

Dontre Wilson. Braxton [Miller] singled him out at B1G Media Days as a possible day one impact maker. There's some thoughts he might even pass up sixth year senior Jordan Hall to start at the Pivot/Percy Harvin position. He could also factor in to the return game.

Meyer's said Jalin Marshall, Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, and James Clark will all play and all have to for Ohio State to reach their potential.

Eli Apple looked the real deal in Ohio State's spring game, but unless Bradley Roby is suspended, it's unlikely he gets much above spot snaps at nickel back.

Also, easy to forget these guys, but professional Aussie rules football player-turned-21-year-old-freshman punter Cameron Johnston from Australia is expected to start at the position. Could be a potential field position changer. Dude can boom it.


Maize and Brew is on top of Michigan's freshman situation:

Taco Charlton, DE: Already has college-ready size at 6'6, 270 and has a nasty speed rush on the outside. Flashed potential in the spring game, but will have to improve his technique and run support to see the field on more than just passing downs. However, Michigan will use him to pressure the quarterback.

Shane Morris, QB: Michigan would like to redshirt Shane, but with Russell Bellomy going down in the spring with an ACL injury, there isn't enough depth at quarterback to give Shane a learning year. He has a big arm and had some impressive 7-on-7 performances a year ago, but his rankings dipped because of mono in his senior season and a poor showing at the UA game. He has a lot of work to do on reading defenses, but physically he can make some impressive throws. He will see garbage time to help get him up to speed.

Dymonte Thomas, S/CB: Thomas is still a little thin to be playing major minutes, but he is an athletic playmaker that will be hard to keep off the field. Michigan will look to use him as a nickel corner and in different spots around the secondary.

Michigan State

The Only Colors weighs in for the Spartans

Gerald Holmes and/or R.J. Shelton should get decent opportunities at running back. Kicker Michael Geiger (No. 1 in Rivals) sounds like he's the guy right now.

Other than that, Jon Reschke and Shane Jones probably won't redshirt at linebacker, but I don't know if they'll play too much.


Bucky's 5th Quarter expects five true freshmen to make an impact:

Robert Wheelwright at wide receiver (the WR2 for Wisconsin is wide open). Corey Clement at running back, since the third back on the depth chart will get reps especially around the goal line. Sojurn Shelton, Keelon Brookins, and Jakarrie Washington will see time at cornerback.

Penn State

Quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the No. 1 quarterback in the class of 2013, is squarely in the mix to start for the Nittany Lions, according to Black Shoe Diaries. Tight end Adam Brenneman will also contribute, despite tearing his ACL in 2012. At one point, Breneman was thought of as the top tight end recruit in the country, and after the knee injury, he was still highly regarded by recruiting analysts.


Crimson Quarry expects the major contributors to be on the defensive size of the football:

Darius Latham comes in as a 6'6, four-star DT, but has been getting some time at DE in camps. He's a big kid, but moves freakishly well for a guy his size. Could be capable of creating some big mismatches against a lot of the lower half of the Big Ten lines. If he can't stick at DE he's still a very big body that will be able to anchor a youthful line to try and stop the teams from running all over Indiana.

T.J. Simmons also appears to be getting some noise as a true freshman at linebacker. Indiana's shallow LB corps means that any sort of standout effort by the frosh is going to get him some major minutes in the middle. The coaches seem really high on him and he is a great athlete, but linebacker isn't the easiest transition from high school to college.


The Champaign Room thinks the most talented Illinois freshman might not start for the Illini:

At Illinois the most notable freshman is quarterback Aaron Bailey, who won't start, but coaches have made it pretty clear he's going to see the field in some capacity this season. He might just be the best player on the offensive side of the ball the Illini have on the roster.

On defense there could be some freshmen as well, namely cornerbacks Darius Mosely and Jaylen Dunlap. Mosely in particular has been impressive since enrolling last semester, and could be starting before too long.


The Hawkeyes are hoping a true freshman can be a difference maker at running back, according to Black Heart Gold Pants:

Iowa desperately needs help at wide receiver, to the point that the staff spent six 2013 scholarships on them. Only JUCO transfer Damond Powell looks ready to play right away, however, so I'll go to that other site of constant Iowa need: Running back.

LeShun Daniels, who decommitted from Boston College and signed with Iowa last winter, ran for 73 yards on 13 carries in an open scrimmage Saturday. He has the right frame for an Iowa back: 6'0, 215 lbs. as listed (and closer to 220-225 in reality), with a forward-leaning running style and low center of gravity. Iowa has gotten through August without a catastrophic running back injury, and Mark Weisman -- who didn't play much Saturday to protect him from the dreaded AIRBHG -- will still be the starter. But with change-of-pace backs like Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri splitting time at wide receiver, there will be room for a workhorse backup. Daniels could be that guy.


The Daily Gopher expects Minnesota to play true freshmen at the skill positions:

Jerry Kill has not been shy about playing true freshmen in this first two seasons in Minnesota. WRs, QBs, RB and plenty of defensive players contributed as true freshmen, some starting. Here are four names (in order of possible impact) worth mentioning.

Berkley Edwards is a running back out of Michigan. He is the brother of Braylon and he has legit speed. The kid broke off a 70-yard TD run in the fall scrimmage, getting people very excited around here. He was expected to be in the RB rotation from day one, but news this afternoon of a high ankle sprain may have dinged his freshman impact. He hasn't been ruled out for game one, and should be a factor when we get into Big Ten play. He has the type of talent that could see him emerge as the Gopher's primary back by mid-season.

Wide receiver is a major question mark for the Gophers. One kid quit just before fall camp to focus on track, another was suspended indefinitely this week and one of our starters will be a D2 transfer/walk-on.

With that said, there is opportunity, and two true freshmen have been battling for opportunity to make an impact. Eric Carter, a WR out of Florida, was getting rave reviews at the start of fall camp. This is a position of need and Carter should have opportunities. Not particularly explosive (nor all that highly ranked) but he has been catching everything and making plays. Drew Wolitarsky is the other. He set California high school records for receptions and yards. Big kid who is a possession receiver. Gets open, makes the catch, not going to break off huge plays but might be a red-zone target.

Defensively the only kid who may play is Hendrick Ekpe, three-star DE out of Texas. He has been here since January and has put on enough weight that he could make an impact this year. Probably in the DE rotation early in the year, maybe starting later. Projected impact is hard to say.


Northwestern doesn't expect to play many true freshmen, according to Sippin' on Purple.


Hammer and Rails has a few freshmen in mind:

Dan Monteroso, WR, has been impressive to the coaches so far. Keyante Green or Dalyn Dawkins at RB. They have only Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom as trusted commodities in front of them at running back. Danny Etling, QB, is fighting senior Rob Henry hard for the starting job.

Notre Dame

One Foot Down provided a large breakdown of the freshmen for the Irish (and yes, we know they're not in the Big Ten):

Very likely

RB Greg Bryant: He should be in the mix from day one. I think he's getting starter carries by the end of the season.

RB Tarean Folston: Could play in the slot and make an impact on special teams as a returner. Will also be in the mix at running back but maybe not quite as quickly as Bryant.

OLB Jaylon Smith: The staff has to get him on the field early. Most think he'll immediately be a third-down specialist and on the two-deep rather quickly. The safe bet to have the most wow moments among the freshmen.

S Max Redfield: Not as big as we thought so might not be starting at safety right away, but could be in the two-deep seeing reps right away and/or playing at nickel corner from the first game. Also can be used as a returner and the door hasn't closed on him playing receiver yet.


QB Malik Zaire: He probably won't play outside of garbage time, but you never know. If Rees goes down long-term Zaire could definitely start games.

WR James Onwualu: Impressed in the spring. Could be a two-deep player at some point.

WR Corey Robinson: Same as Onwualu.

OL Steve Elmer: Coaches love him, but he's probably not starting. He has Freshman All-American talent if he plays enough though.

DE Isaac Rochell: Thought to be a redshirt, but apparently he's been blowing people away since he got on campus. Could play a lot if he's physically ready.

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