Five Freshmen Who Will Make an Impact in Big Ten Football in 2013
As we enter the 2013 college football season, depth charts across the Big Ten are once again filled with upperclassmen galore.
However, that doesn't mean there isn't room for some youth either. In fact, one could argue that this years' crop of freshmen could have as big of an impact on the season as any in recent memory. There are at least fifteen freshmen that dot opening day depth charts across the conference, so narrowing down the list wasn't easy.
As we inch closer to the games on the field, let us explore the five freshmen that are most likely to have a major impact on how the Big Ten plays out this season.
Derrick Green, RB (Michigan)
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Michigan may have Fitzgerald Toussaint back, but don't be surprised if Derrick Green becomes the star of the Maize 'N Blue backfield before the season is over.
Green is a beast of a man, coming into fall camp at 6'1", 240 pounds.
Those are numbers most veteran running backs wish they had next to their name, let alone an incoming freshman. He also comes to the Wolverines with a lot of national hype and attention to his name.
Green's impact is going to be big just by the very nature of his position to begin with, but he also has the pedigree to back it up. Expect him to get close to 100 carries this season, and don't be surprised if he ends up being more important to Michigan's success than Toussaint by the end of the season.
Could Green be the next great Michigan running back? Only time will tell, but early indications are he could be well on his way.
Sojourn Shelton, CB (Wisconsin)
The Badgers came into 2013 knowing they would face a serious lack of experience or depth in their secondary. However, coaches seem to be more confident in the secondary now that fall camp is over, and a lot of that has to do with how well Shelton has played.
He isn't the biggest of corners, coming in at all of 5'9" and 172 pounds, but he plays with technique and a ton of confidence as well.
Shelton got a leg up on landing a prominent role by being just one of two freshmen to enroll at Wisconsin in January and he impressed from the very get go.
While speaking with Shelton at Wisconsin's media day before fall camp, he told me that his goal was to have seven or eight interceptions this season. With him being listed as one of the three corners (Wisconsin plans on using a lot of nickel defense in 2013) to start on the opening week depth chart, that goal could be more than obtainable. At the very least, he'll have every opportunity granted to him to fulfill it.
Christian Hackenberg, QB (Penn State)
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When you are the No. 1 rated or No. 2 rated pro-style quarterback in your class, it's safe to say a lot of attention is coming your way. Add in the fact that you will be playing at Penn State, and the attention is magnified tenfold.
Despite that attention, Hackenberg hasn't been handed anything in his short time with the program.
In fact, he is embroiled in a heated battle for the starting spot with Juco transfer Tyler Ferguson as we speak, and he may not even see the field in 2013 should he lose out and Ferguson proves to be a strong starter.
Entering week one the Penn State depth chart reads Tyler Ferguson or Christian Hackenberg.
However, Hackenberg has clearly displayed the attributes head coach Bill O'Brien expects from a quarterback, otherwise he wouldn't have delayed telling the world who his starter will be.
Even if Ferguson is the starter for Week 1, expect to see Hackenberg worked in early, and by season's end it shouldn't surprise anyone if he is the preferred starter.
Darius Latham, DT (Indiana)
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Indiana's defense is going to be very young in 2013 and that's especially the case up front.
Enter the opportunity for 4-star incoming freshman Darius Latham. He was recently named as part of the three-deep for Indiana's season opener, and with the Hoosiers looking to replace the very productive duo of Larry Black and Adam Replogle, there will be plenty of playing time to be had by one and all in the mix.
The 6'5", 296-pound freshman was also a standout on the basketball court, and the Hoosiers coaching staff sure could use a shot of athleticism up front after seeing the entire team record just 27 sacks and 86 tackles for loss last year.
Latham will have to work his way up the depth chart, but he is one of the few freshmen that could make a big impact on the defensive side of the ball in the Big Ten this season.
Corey Clement, RB (Wisconsin)
I know you are probably thinking, "Isn't Wisconsin's backfield loaded already?" And you're right.
The Badgers return James White, the guy with the second most career yards in FBS football behind USC's Silas Redd, and the guy who took all of nine carries to gain over 200 yards in the Big Ten Championship game in Melvin Gordon.
Those are some impressive feats, so it would stand to reason that an incoming freshman may not see much of the field. However, new head coach Gary Andersen made it abundantly clear this offseason that Wisconsin needed to find a reliable third back in the rotation.
As spring played out, those around the program were expecting both senior Jeff Lewis and redshirt freshman Vonte Jackson to be in the mix. However, needs at safety pushed Jeff Lewis out of the rotation and a third knee injury sidelined Jackson for the season yet again.
Enter, true freshman Corey Cement, a 4-star prospect out of New Jersey. He became one of the first players in camp to "earn his motion W" this fall and by all accounts has solidified a spot in the rotation at running back.
Wisconsin may have the deepest and most talented group of backs in the conference, maybe even the country, and Clement's gifts have only helped to add to that thought. Expect him to get some decent carries spelling White and Gordon, and expect his name to be near household status by season's end.
He's likely the next star running back at Wisconsin.
Other Names to Watch
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There are a lot of true and redshirt freshmen that could have a major impact on their respective teams.
Here is a list of some of the other freshmen you should watch out for this season:
Gerald Holmes, RB (Michigan State)
Terrell Newby, RB (Nebraska)
Sam Cotton, TE (Nebraska)
B.J. Knauf, WR (Purdue)
DeAngelo Yancey, WR (Purdue)
Jared Afalva, LB (Nebraska)
Alonzo Moore, WR (Nebraska)
Dontre Wilson, H-Back (Ohio State)
Joey Bosa, DE (Ohio State)
Vonn Bell, S (Ohio State)