Big Ten Football Early Enrollees You Need to Know More About
Early enrollees are becoming a greater trend in college football, and the Big Ten is perhaps one of the leading conferences in this practice.
For those that enroll early, the chances of playing as a freshman increase dramatically.
Just look at Sojourn Shelton at Wisconsin this past year as examples of what can happen by enrolling early.
Shelton was one of the best freshmen playing defense in the Big Ten this past year and a lot of it had to do with the extra time, not just with the football program, but also in school period.
Of course, this practice isn't ending with the 2014 class, so as we begin to look forward instead of behind, here are a few of the early enrollees you should get to know and keep an eye on throughout the Big Ten.
Drake Harris, WR
Harris comes at just the right time for the Wolverines, because no one of note returns at wide receiver in 2014.
Gone will be Jeremy Gallon and his 89 receptions for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns.
Harris, a 247sports composite 4-star prospect, is going to be needed at wide receiver right away. Don't believe so, then let's do a quick experiment.
Name any wide receiver on the Michigan roster outside of Gallon from this past year.
Most people outside the crazy, hardcore probably can't and with Gallon gone, they need more than just tight end Devin Funchess in the pass game. Harris could fill that role.
He brings height (6'4") and a workable frame (180 lbs) to the game, and with an entire semester to work on that frame and his skills, Harris could be one of the best offensive freshmen players in the Big Ten this next season.
Harris will need to get back up to football speed this spring, having not played a single down of high school football this past season due to a hamstring injury.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but Harris one of just a handful of "can't miss" early enrollees in the Big Ten this year.
Raekwon McMillan, LB
School: Ohio State
We went offense first, but make no doubt about it, there will be a defensive player that will make his name heard in 2014 as a freshman.
That man-child is Raekwon McMillan, and the Buckeyes get him at just the right time thanks to Ryan Shazier heading off to the NFL.
McMillan is an impact player, and just one look at his film verifies why he is rated as the No. 1 inside linebacker (according to the 247sports composite rankings).
Physically, McMillan is there already at 6'2", 242 pounds, and as you'll see, that will be a theme for a lot of the players highlighted.
His speed won't overwhelm, but what he lacks there he makes up for in being one of the most instinctual players in the 2014 class regardless of position.
Ohio State needs to get back to producing great linebacking units, and McMillan is a heck of a building block toward that goal.
Watching his growth in the spring will tell us just how close he is to being a starter from the very beginning.
Mason Cole, OL
As much as Drake Harris could have an impact, there isn't a spot on the offense with a greater need than the offensive line.
Saying the O-Line play wasn't good is an understatement, and having more bodies in camp can only be a good thing.
Cole comes in with a need to put on some more weight to his 6'4" and 280-pound frame, but he is one to keep an eye on because he may well be the most athletic lineman the Wolverines have.
The 4-star (according to 247sports) offensive lineman can play tackle or guard, and he played defensive line as well in high school.
What will help him is that versatility coming in to the offensive line group in Ann Arbor. Don't be surprised if he is pushing for starting time and is at least a member of the two-deep by the end of fall camp.
His development in the playbook and weight room will be what to watch for the most this spring with Cole.
D.J. Gillins, QB
What is a school that returns its full-time starting quarterback from 2013 doing on this list?
Well, Joel Stave was good but not good enough to win games on his own in 2013, and Gary Andersen has made it no secret that he wants a running option at quarterback.
That isn't Stave to say the least.
Andersen has also made it known that he wasn't happy with the production at quarterback, and it appears as though it will be an open competition this spring.
So enter perhaps the most dynamic player the Badgers will have at QB this spring—early enrollee D.J. Gillins.
He comes to the Badgers as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country (according to the 247sports composite rankings) and could bring a much-needed upgrade in the athleticism department.
The question for him is just how quickly can he pick up the playbook and just how polished is he as a passer.
Adding a running threat to Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement at running back could make the Badgers one dangerous offensive team.
Gillins may have an uphill battle to win the job, but his future is very intriguing to watch. Keep his name in your mental Rolodex, 'cause you'll need it in the not too distant future.
Kamren Lott, DB
Yes, it's going to take a while to get used to including Rutgers in anything Big Ten, yet here we are.
Come July 1, 2014, Rutgers and Maryland will be part of the Big Ten officially. With that, it's time we include a look ahead with the Scarlet Knights as part of the group.
One of the biggest problems with Rutgers last season was the inability to stop anyone with a pulse in the passing game.
Part of the issue was a lack of depth, with wide receiver Ruhann Peele having to make a transition to cornerback just to fill out a depth chart.
So, Kamren Lott comes in as an early enrollee this month and in prime position to see immediate playing time.
It helps that he has a college ready body for the position, at 5'9" and 180 pounds, and it helps that he hits like a safety and has the speed of a cornerback.
Lott is a name that should easily make the two-deep for the Scarlet Knights, but this spring will be about finding the position that best fits his skill set.
Put Lott's name in your head because chances are high you'll be hearing about him this fall.
Jaden Gault, OL
The Badgers and offensive lineman are pretty much synonymous with each other at this point, so it shouldn't be surprising to see one of them on this list.
However, Gault could be one of the best ever coming out of high school to play for Wisconsin.
He just got done starting at tackle in the U.S. Army-All American Bowl and is ranked as the No. 94 overall prospect in the country (according to the 247sports composite rankings).
Like any freshman coming in, he's got some physical and technique things to work on, but he is going to be a very special player for the Badgers in the not-too-distant future.
The only issue for Gault and his ability to see the field this year is he is stuck behind two very good tackles in Tyler Marz and Rob Havenstein.
However, don't be surprised to see him push for playing time this season.
Johnnie Dixon, WR
School: Ohio State
Devin Smith and Evan Spencer may be entrenched as starters at wide receiver entering their senior seasons in 2014, but that doesn't mean someone else can't contribute in that group.
It's not as if Smith or Spencer jump off the page as game-changing wide receivers to begin with.
OSU brings in 4-star Johnnie Dixon early, and the 5'10, 187-pound receiver may find himself with a role early on thanks to a lack of production from anyone else besides Smith and Spencer.
He may even fit in well at the hybrid roll with Dontre Wilson as well.
Dixon could be one of the most athletic and intriguing prospects Ohio State brings in on offense in this class, ranking No. 55 in the 247sports composite rankings and as the No. 5 wide receiver in the 2014 class.
Getting to campus early will only help increase his chances of seeing the field early on.
If Dixon can be a player to help this passing game stretch the field or make more plays in space, an already dangerous Ohio State offense could be just that much more dangerous.
Dominique Booth, WR
Booth is the newest member of the Hoosiers 2014 class and was a previous commit to Tennessee. However, he committed to Kevin Wilson and Indiana on ESPN.com this Tuesday and will enroll early at the Bloomington campus.
There are three receivers in the 2014 class for Indiana, but Booth stands out above the crowd and is perhaps the best overall player Wilson has in this class.
He'll be needed, with the news of Cody Latimer leaving the Hoosiers for the NFL Draft. In fact, Booth's skill set reminds a lot of people of Latimer in his time in Bloomington.
At 6'0" and 205 pounds, he's got a college-ready body, and in Wilson's pass first offense, Booth could be a great fit.
Watching his film from this past season, it is clear he possesses everything a Hoosier wide receiver needs. Not only is he athletic, but also he's physical and isn't afraid to block on the outside.
Now it's about adjusting to the college life. Look for him to be in the mix for the word go at wide receiver.
Parrker Westphal, CB
This is how far the Wildcats have come in recruiting, folks.
Westphal, a 4-star (according to the 247sports composite rankings) recruit, may be the best thing that could happen to this class.
This is a rare get for the Wildcats, as Westphal is a top-15 cornerback in the country coming out of high school.
Those type of athletes, no matter how good classes have been before, are game changers for any program.
He will have an uphill battle for playing time, given that every member of Northwestern's season-ending two deep is back.
But, Northwestern's defense can always use more playmakers, and Westphal is just that. He comes in at 6'1" and 190 pounds, which is plenty big enough to make an immediate impact.
More importantly, he adds a physicality that doesn't exist much in the secondary.
Look for him to make a run at starting opposite of budding star Nick VanHoose.
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