Big Ten Football: Updating Week 11 Performances of Conference's Top Freshmen

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Big Ten Football: Updating Week 11 Performances of Conference's Top Freshmen
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the season we highlighted a group of freshmen we thought would make an impact across the Big Ten. This update is a look at how those freshmen are performing and not a collection of all freshmen playing in the Big Ten. 

It has been a few weeks since we last took at look at how the freshmen we spotlighted were doing, but the group has had its moments over the past few weeks. One of our "five freshmen to watch" also ended up having his biggest game of the season in Week 11. 

Who was it and what has been going on with the youngsters on whom we've been keeping an eye? 

Let's take a look at where everyone stands after 11 weeks of action. 

 

Derrick Green, Running Back (Michigan): 8 Carries, 11 Yards (Long of 7 Yards)

Season Stats: 40 carries, 116 yards, 2.9 average, 2 touchdowns

Michigan's run game has been a mess all season long, and Saturday was perhaps the worst of it, rushing for minus-21 yards as a team and just 17 yards by running backs. Green saw his most extensive action since the Minnesota game to open Big Ten play on Saturday, but thanks to a terrible offensive line, judging Green's performance overall is going to be tough. 

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

At least Green had the longest rush of the game, at a whole seven yards. Michigan as a team has had a rough go of it in the run game, having back-to-back games with negative yards rushing, and ranking at 11th in the Big Ten in rushing and 97th nationally. 

Green's future appears to be bright if things in front of him can be figured out sooner than later. 

 

Sojourn Shelton, Cornerback (Wisconsin): 2 Tackles

Season Stats: 26 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 quarterback hit, 3 pass break ups, 6 passes defensed, 0 forced fumbles

Shelton didn't have an eventful day on the stat sheet, but that doesn't mean he had a bad game. Outside of a pass interference call, Shelton actually had a great day as a part of a secondary that held two big wide receivers to next to nothing for three-and-a-half quarters. 

BYU's top target, Cody Hoffman did most of his damage (7 receptions, 113 yards, 2 touchdowns) in the final quarter as the Cougars attempted to make a ridiculous comeback at the end of the game. Hoffman and fellow starting wide receiver Mitch Mathews had just three receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown going into the fourth quarter. 

Teams are showing Shelton a lot of respect these days, as the number of targets going his direction have decreased dramatically since the Ohio State game in late September. Shelton has shown to be the most consistent corner and the Badgers' biggest playmaker in the secondary. 

 

Christian Hackenberg, Quarterback (Penn State): 14-of-25, 163 Yards

Season Stats: 58.2% completion rate, 2,187 yards, 13 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 127 passer efficiency rating

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Hackenberg was out-dueled by Philip Nelson of Minnesota this past weekend. That should about sum it up for you.

For the first time in his career, Hackenberg failed to throw for a touchdown in a game against the Gophers on Saturday. 

Although Hackenberg is second in the Big Ten in passing average, throwing for 243 yards a game, he has let a lot of other things slip and doesn't even rank in the top 10 of Big Ten passers in passer efficiency. 

 

Darius Latham, Defensive Tackle (Indiana): 1 Tackle, 1 Tackle for Loss, 1 Sack, 2 Pass Break Ups

Season Stats: 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 1 sack

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Latham's stat line isn't too crazy at first glance, until you consider the position he plays.

Although a few more tackles would be nice, Latham has started to come on stronger in the past few weeks, and this game may have been his best overall performance. 

He's quickly gaining a reputation as a good defender with his hands and he is also seeing more time on the field because of his recently increasing production.

Although the Indiana defense has struggled overall, Latham appears to be part of the solution and not the problem in Bloomington. His future is bright, but the biggest challenges are coming up against the two best offensive lines in the Big Ten—Wisconsin and Ohio State. 

 

Corey Clement, Running Back (Wisconsin): no stats recorded

Season Stats: 55 carries, 407 yards, 7.4 average yards per carry, 5 touchdowns

Wisconsin had its struggles early on in the run game, and it led to no playing time at the running back slot for Clement. Instead, he watched James White have a career day in the win. 

Clement hasn't seen the field since the Illinois game two games and three weeks ago, but that has less to do with Clement and more to do with the fact that Wisconsin's other two running backs were slugging away for yards. 

Indiana and its 10th ranked rushing defense (217.4) comes to town this weekend, and the young running back's chances of seeing the field are pretty high. 

 

The Other Freshmen We Were Watching at the Start of the Season:

Terrell Newby, Running Back (Nebraska): 1 Carry, minus-3 Yards 

Season Stats: 52 carries, 290 yards, 2 touchdowns

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Newby saw very little action for Nebraska against Michigan this past weekend. The duo of Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross saw more action from the running back spot and Tommy Armstrong Jr., the quarterback, was second on the team in rushing attempts, with 12. 

Although the numbers haven't continued to increase in Big Ten play or anything, it is clear that upon graduation for Abdullah, Newby will be in place to take his spot. 

 

Sam Cotton, Tight End (Nebraska): No Stats

Season Stats: 3 receptions, 22 yards, 1 touchdown

Cotton made one start earlier this year, but he has gone two games without recording a catch after doing just that in each of the first three Big Ten games. He will have a larger impact in the future; they did trust him enough to start this year, after all.

 

Jared Afalava, Linebacker (Nebraska): Did Not Play

Season Stats: 12 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack

There has been a lot of promise shown, but Afalava hasn't been able to stay healthy. He's appeared in just four games and made two starts this season. Once again, he was not in the lineup this week.

 

DeAngelo Yancey, Wide Receiver (Purdue): 2 Receptions, 11 Yards

Season Stats: 17 receptions, 338 yards, 1 touchdown 

The production has tailed off over the last three games, but Yancey is displaying plenty of talent that should make him a name to watch in upcoming seasons. Part of the issue is the fact that Purdue is so young or just not a good fit for John Shoop's offense that production can be limited at times. 

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

 

B.J. Knauf, Wide Receiver (Purdue): 2 Receptions, 16 Yards; 3 Carries, 2 Yards

Season Stats: 12 receptions, 127 yards, 1 touchdown; 14 carries, 92 yards, 1 touchdown

After serving a two-game suspension for his involvement in an alleged theft at a local Kohl's store, Knauf has resumed his normal role as the multi-dimensional wide receiver for the Boilermakers. He's perhaps the fastest player on the Purdue offense, but again, his talent may not produce huge results for another year or two. 

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