Big Ten Football: Updating Week 8 Performances of Conference's Top Freshmen

Andrew CoppensContributor IOctober 21, 2013

Oct 19, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement (6) is tackled by Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Jaylen Dunlap (28) and linebacker Mike Svetina (34) at Memorial Stadium. Wisconsin wins 56-32 over Illinois. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

Earlier this year we featured a look at who we thought would be the impact freshmen in the Big Ten this season, highlighting five freshmen to watch the most and some other names that could be worth keeping an eye out for. 

Each week throughout the season we give you an update as to how each of the players did that week and how they are fairing on the season. 

In Week 8, our biggest names had interesting weeks. Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin all played crazy high scoring football games and you know that means the freshman we highlighted were likely to get opportunities galore—and that's just what happened. 

Let's take a look at where our freshmen stand after Week 8, shall we? 


Derrick Green, Running Back (Michigan): 6 Carries, 21 Yards (Long of 7 yards)

Season Stats: 32 carries, 105 yards, 2 touchdowns

Oct 12, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Derrick Green (27) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan's offense set all sorts of records, but Green's chances were limited by the play of Fitzgerald Toussaint (151 yards and 4 touchdowns) and quarterback Devin Gardner (81 yards and 3 touchdowns). 

Kind of hard to fault Michigan on a record setting day, and at least Green wasn't completely shut out. 

That said, the former 5-star recruit continues to not see much time or do much in the limited time he is out there. 

On Saturday, you couldn't blame his 21 yards on a bad offensive line either, as the U-of-M's O-Line played easily its best game of the season. 

Don't sleep on Green just because his freshmen numbers aren't eye-popping. He's still got enough to be a very good player in the future—as long as their is talent in front of him as well. 


Sojourn Shelton, Cornerback (Wisconsin): 1 Tackle

Season Stats: 20 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 pass break up's, 6 passes defensed

Sep 28, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Sojourn Shelton (8) tries to tackle Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) during the fourth quarter at Ohio Stadium. Buckeyes beat the Badgers 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-US
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin's secondary got torched on Saturday night in Champaign, giving up 319 yards through the air and all. 

However, don't look at Shelton as part of that, because the Illini threw anywhere but where he was in coverage and for good reason. Currently Shelton is sixth on the team in total tackles and leads the team in interceptions. 

When you have other guys around you that can't cover the deep ball or aren't playing as consistent as you, expect teams to not throw your way. 

Especially when you've shown more playmaking ability than anyone else in the secondary to date. 

Shelton is quickly becoming a star in the Badger defensive backfield, and it's showing in how teams treat him on Saturdays in the fall. 


Christian Hackenberg, Quarterback (Penn State): BYE WEEK 

Season Stats: 58.4 completion rate, 1,627 yards, 11 touchdowns, 6 interceptions 

Oct 12, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) drops back in the pocket during the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Hackenberg had himself a moment in the final minute (plus overtime) in the win over Michigan two weeks ago, but a bye week may have been just what this team and Hackenberg needed. 

It was a chance to refocus and get ready for a brutal stretch run that will really test just good the highly touted recruit is as a freshman. Penn State must still face Ohio State and Wisconsin out of their own division and also must face Nebraska out of the Legends Division. 

Those three games aren't going to be easy by any stretch, but if Hackenberg can lead the Nittany Lions to a victory in any one of those three games, he'll have himself a heck of a freshman season on his hands.


Darius Latham, Defensive Tackle (Indiana): 3 Tackles, 0.5 Tackles for Loss

Season Stats: 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass break up

Latham saw some good time on the field on Saturday in Ann Arbor, but I'm not sure any member of the Hoosiers defense wants to brag about what went down in that one. 

Overall, it was his best statistical performance of the season and that's good news. It appears Latham is winning more and more playing time as the season goes on. 

If you watch the tape of Indiana's games, you can clearly see the light bulb has turned on for him, and he'll be a major part of the IU defense in the very near future. 


Corey Clement, Running Back (Wisconsin): 7 Carries, 54 Yards, 1 Touchdown 

Season Stats: 55 carries, 407 yards, 5 touchdowns

All seven of Clement's carries came in the fourth quarter and he still managed to get 54 yards on the night in Champaign. 

He joined Melvin Gordon and James White as running backs with touchdowns in the win, and he continues to show that the Badgers are a three-headed monster at the position. 

In fact, Clement had the second longest run by a Badger back on Saturday, going on a 24 yard scamper after bouncing a play outside that could've been just a ho-hum four or five yard gain late in the contest.

Overall Clement is one of the biggest standout freshmen in the conference, and as long as Wisconsin keeps pounding opponents (UW's average win is by 35.4 points) into submission, he'll get his chances. He isn't averaging 7.4 yards a carry by accident.


The Other Freshmen We Were Watching: 

Terrell Newby, Running Back (Nebraska): BYE

Season Stats: 50 carries, 290 yards (5.8 average), 2 touchdowns; 3 receptions, 1 yard

Newby has shown that he can be a competent option for the Huskers in the future and a nice change up back in the here and now. It will be interesting to see what his role will be like going forward as Big Ten play toughens up for the Huskers. 


Sam Cotton, Tight End (Nebraska): BYE

Season Stats: 2 receptions, 19 yards 

It hasn't been a super impressive year for Cotton, but he has recorded stats in the two Big Ten games Nebraska has played to date. That has to be good news for his future and his present. 


B.J. Knauf, Wide Receiver (Purdue): Suspended

Season Stats: 9 receptions, 95 yards, 1 touchdown; 11 carries, 90 yards, 1 touchdown 

Knauf could've been a difference maker for the Boilermakers this past weekend, but instead he was in West Lafayette, while his teammates were in East Lansing. Knauf was serving the second of a two-game suspension for a shoplifting incident at a local Kohl's earlier in October.

He is a dynamic player with the ball in his hand and a valuable member of the kick and punt return units as well as a receiver. 


DeAngelo Yancey, Wide Receiver (Purdue): 1 Reception, 32 Yards

Season Stats: 15 receptions, 327 yards, 1 touchdown

Yancey didn't have the best of games against Michigan State, but he isn't the first, nor the last, to say that. However, he dropped a few passes on key possessions for Purdue, and it wasn't the redshirt freshman's best day. 


Jared Afalava, Linebacker (Nebraska): BYE 

Season Stats: 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack 

Oct 5, 2013; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers defender Jared Afalava (33) tackles Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelaase (2) during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Afalava has only appeared in three games thanks to an injury earlier this season. As he's ramped it up in the past three games, he has shown to be a solid contributor and a great help to making this Huskers defense better in the here and now. 


Dontre Wilson, Running Back (Ohio State): 3 Carries, 16 Yards; 1 Reception, 9 Yards 

Season Stats: 18 carries, 158 yards; 12 receptions, 114 yards (1 total touchdown)

Wilson's role has diminished more and more as the Big Ten season has gone on, and part of that is the fact that Wilson has failed to pick up pass blocking well enough to stay on the field in Big Ten play.

In fact, Wilson was referred to as a "novelty" by Urban Meyer before the Iowa game this past week. He's only had five carries and two catches in three games (recording no stats against Northwestern), and that's not a good sign.


Joey Bosa, Defensive End (Ohio State): 2 tackles, 2 Quarterback hits

Season Stats: 18 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 quarterback hits, 1 fumble recovery

Unlike the previous Buckeye we highlighted, Bosa has continued to gain in his playing time as the season has gone on.

He's taken his opportunities and run with them. Don't be surprised if he is one of the best defensive lineman in the Big Ten in the next season or two. As is the case with a lot of defensive lineman, the stats don't tell the whole story, but you notice Bosa in the game, and that's a great compliment to his ability. 


Vonn Bell, Safety (Ohio State): No stats; Did play

Season Stats: 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss 

Bell hasn't seen much action as of late, despite the season-ending injury to Christian Bryant just a few weeks ago. It appears that Bell will only see time in emergency situations and on special teams for the here and now, but he will see the field a ton starting next season when the folks in front of him graduate. 


*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.