At the beginning of the season, we highlighted a group of freshmen we thought would make an impact across the Big Ten. Each week during the season we will update how those freshmen are performing. This is not a week-to-week collection of the best freshmen performances.
The season is coming closer to the end and with it some freshmen are standing out, others are being put on the back burner as things tighten up and others are just coming into their own.
Week 13 represented a great dichotomy for the freshmen of the conference. Some had opportunities and took advantage of them, others saw opportunities slip through their fingers.
So, as we head to the final week of the regular season, where do the freshmen of the Big Ten stand? Let's explore a group that has had a big impact on the 2013 season.
Derrick Green, Running Back (Michigan): 11 Carries, 23 Yards
Season Stats: 70 carries, 218 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3.1 average
Michigan is looking for something, anything in its run game, and over the past few weeks that has meant giving Green a chance to be more of the featured back. He led the Wolverines in carries for the second straight week, but the results have been more of the same. The run game continues to struggle as the offensive line continues to struggle. Green has at least provided a glimmer of hope that he can be a productive back in a downhill running game, once the offensive line fixes itself.
Sojourn Shelton, Cornerback (Wisconsin): 0 Tackles, 1 Pass Breakup
Season Stats: 28 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, 9 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, 1 quarterback hit
Sojourn Shelton on top of Borland's back with sign that says 10 straight pic.twitter.com/on5OWABSZJ— Rob Hernandez (@RobHernandezWSJ) November 23, 2013
Shelton didn't have the biggest stat-sheet game on Saturday against Minnesota, but he also was a physical force against the Gophers' pass game. He made life difficult for the Gophers receivers, and his pass breakup was a comeback on a potential touchdown. Shelton is quickly becoming one of the top cover corners in the Big Ten and could go into next season as the top returning corner with Roby leaving and others graduating.
Christian Hackenberg, Quarterback (Penn State): 16-of-33, 217 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 1 Interception
Season Stats: 58 percent completion rate, 2,616 yards, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Saturday was the second-worst completion percentage of Hackenberg's season and career (48.5 percent), yet he still managed to throw for over 200 yards. He also threw for more than one touchdown for the first time in five games. Hackenberg has had a solid first season, but there is clearly room for improvement going forward.
Darius Latham, Defensive Tackle (Indiana): 3 Tackles, 1 Fumble Recovery
Season Stats: 22 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery
IU DT Darius Latham remains a work in progress, just like the Hoosiers. See: http://t.co/SEtzfJ68UV— Pete DiPrimio (@pdiprimio) November 22, 2013
While the Indiana defense has been shredded, Latham continues to show hope that things can turn around in the future. He had three tackles—not assists, but tackles—from his defensive tackle spot. He's also beginning to make his name known in other areas, adding a fumble recovery to his name this past weekend. Latham is the type of player the Hoosiers can build a defense around, and it is sorely needed in Bloomington.
Corey Clement, Running Back (Wisconsin): No Stats
Season Stats: 66 carries, 515 yards, 7 touchdowns
Wisconsin had its hands full in the run game, going for just 197 yards as a team (which is 100 yards less than its average coming in). That meant Clement didn't see the field in the run game. Clement will only see the field to end the season if the Badgers are up big in the fourth quarter against Penn State this coming week. He's had a very productive first year in Madison as a backup to two potential All-Big Ten running backs.
Who's Been Most Surprising Freshman in the Big Ten?
The Other Freshmen We Were Watching at the Start of the Season:
Joey Bosa, Defensive End (Ohio State): 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack
Season Stats: 26 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 3 quarterback hits, 1 pass breakup, 1 pass defensed, 1 fumble recovery
Bosa continues to show why he is getting more and more playing time with a great game on Saturday against Indiana. Had Bosa been in from the beginning of the season, he may be in deep consideration for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, but he may very well win that award this week alone.