Big Ten Football: 10 impact freshmen to watch in 2016
The countdown to the official kickoff of Big Ten football is at 22 days.
Fans have become accustomed to hearing names like J.T. Barrett, Desmond King and Jabrill Peppers. How about some young, upcoming stars that Big Ten fans should expect to hear a lot about in this upcoming season?
I chatted with several players and coaches, as well as media members at this year’s Big Ten Media Days, asking them about the freshmen that have stood out in practice. I asked about true freshmen just arriving on campus and early enrollees who could be poised to make a big impact this year.
Here is a look at 10 Big Ten freshmen who should make an instant impact in 2016.
DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
The brother of former Buckeye star Joey Bosa, Nick arrives in Columbus with huge shoes to fill. The word out of camp is that he has the same intensity and knack for getting after the quarterback as his older brother has. Look for this true freshman to get on the field early and often for a Buckeye defensive line that lost a ton of talent from last year’s team.
LB Devin Bush, Michigan
He wasn’t the highest-ranked recruit in Jim Harbaugh’s impressive 2016 recruiting class, but he very-well could have the biggest impact. The Wolverines graduated all three starters at linebacker, which means new defensive coordinator Don Brown will be looking for young players with a knack for making plays. Devin Bush brings just that to the table.
WR Donnie Corley, Michigan State
The Spartans are set to work in a slew of new wide receivers this season. Senior R.J. Shelton is the only returning wideout who recorded more than two catches last season. In comes Donnie Corley, a mega recruit who is expected to be an instant impact player from the second he takes the field. At 6-3, 190 pounds, Corley has great size, speed and hands. He could very-well be the next great Spartan wide receiver.
LB Carter Coughlin, Minnesota
The gem of the Gophers’ 2016 class, Coughlin chose to stay in-state and attend Minnesota, despite several other impressive offers. Gifted with exceptional size and strength, fans should expect to see Coughlin in the Gophers’ linebacker mix right away. This kid is a great building block for Tracy Claeys’ Minnesota staff.
DT Rashan Gary, Michigan
The No. 1-ranked recruit in the nation, Gary is expected to come in and make an instant impact in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines’ d-line is already loaded, but with the addition of Gary, this has the chance to not only the best defensive line in the Big Ten, but throughout the entire country.
DB Lamar Jackson, Nebraska
The Blackshirts’ defense is in need of more playmakers. Enter Lamar Jackson, a big, speedy defensive back who has the ability to play both corner and safety. Expect him to see the field as a true freshman and make his presence felt right away.
OL Michael Jordan, Ohio State
Jordan has impressed Urban Meyer from the second he stepped on campus. At 6-7, 310 pounds, Jordan is a physical specimen who coaches and players have raved about. Look for him to start at one of the guard positions when the Buckeyes take the field against Bowling Green in Week 1.
DE Josh King, Michigan State
How do the Spartans plan to replace the likes of Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath in 2016? They will look to incoming freshman standout Josh King to play early and often on this young Spartan defensive line. A four-star recruit out of Illinois, King has the size (6-6, 267 pounds) and skill to come in and play right away for Mark Dantonio’s club.
WR Austin Mack, Ohio State
The Buckeyes lost Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall to the NFL. Enter Austin Mack, a highly-touted freshman wide receiver who Urban Meyer has praised early on, saying he has already worked his way into the receiver rotation. This kid has the chance to be the “next big thing” in Columbus.
RB Miles Sanders, Penn State
What do you do when you already have the top returning back in the Big Ten in Saquon Barkley, and now you bring in the top running back recruit in the nation in Miles Sanders? If you’re James Franklin, it’s a great problem to have. While Barkley will certainly be the starter and the lead back in the Nittany Lions’ offense, look for Sanders to add a new dimension. He has the size and speed to break off a big play every time he touches the ball.