Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor, July 29, 2014
Big Ten media days are a chance for reporters to get together and ask some out-of-the-ordinary questions to players and coaches around the conference. One of the questions I asked Monday and Tuesday: Who is one freshman that is standing out at each school?
I asked one veteran player from every Big Ten team, and here are the answers I got.
Jon Davis, TE, Illinois. On offense, I'd say Mikey Dudek. I'd look for him to be in a lot of different positions, special teams as well. He looks like he could help us right away. And then on defense, Jihad Ward looks like he's been playing already for three years. I'm looking forward to seeing him in pads.
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana. Offensively, I've been real impressed with Jordan Fuchs. He has some very good athletic ability at the tight end spot. Also, Dominique Booth, he is very intelligent for a freshman coming in. He's learning very fast. He makes some great catches, so I'm excited to see what he can do.
Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa. I don't see them too much. It's hard to tell. After camp I could tell you a little more after I see them actually play football. During the recruiting trail, I have heard about some of the guys who are coming in. You never really know how a guy is going to pan out or how long it is going to take a guy to actually fit into college football.
C.J. Brown, QB, Maryland. I'm really excited about Derwin Gray. He's an offensive guard, who really could be a tackle. He's a big dude coming in who was an early enrollee. Any time you have a big freshman in front of you, you're excited and you want to see what they can do.
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan. I would say Freddy Canteen, but I don't even look at him as an incoming freshman anymore. He's like a sophomore now. He came in the spring and did a lot of good things for us. As you guys know, Jabrill Peppers is as advertised. As far as being a competitor, and wanting to get better and being a good athlete, he's up there with the best I've ever seen.
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State. We have a lot of young guys who are ready to step up. Malik McDowell and Enoch Smith, to name a few. These are guys who want to step up, want to play, and want to contribute to the team. Malik (McDowell) is a specimen. He's a big guy, but you can see that he can still put on weight. He's one of those muscular guys who can play defensive tackle or defensive end. He's strong enough that he can go on the inside, but he is agile enough that he can play defensive end. I would say that he has a lot better chance to make an impact as a freshman than I did when I came in.
David Cobb, RB, Minnesota. All of those guys have stood out to me. Their world is changing. It's a total 360 from high school. I'd say Melvin Holland Jr. from Virginia. He has great hands and a lot of potential. He's done a great job at learning routes and getting off the press.
Corey Cooper, S, Nebraska. I would probably say Josh Kalu. He's a guy who impressed me all summer. I think he has a chance to be a really good player, so we will see in the fall.
Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern. I have gotten a lot of exposure to Clayton Thorson, who is a quarterback coming in. He's a big guy, athletic guy who can move. I'm excited to see where he ends up in a couple of years. Obviously there is a learning curve at quarterback, but I think he's going to be a good player in a couple of years.
Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State. I'd say the freshman who has stood out the most to me is Curtis Samuel. On one play, he got absolutely cracked by a defender, then he got right up, bounced back, and went and hit him even harder on the next play. That's impressive to see, especially from a freshman.
Mike Hull, LB, Penn State. Mike Gesicki is the guy who jumps out to me right away. He has great ball skills. I don't know if I have seen anyone who has ball skills quite like that, and believe me, we have some really good tight ends. Also, the linebackers I work with on a daily basis, (Jason) Cabinda and (Troy) Reeder. They are really hard workers, and they both came to play and compete right away. They have Division I linebacker bodies already, so they don't have to put on weight or lose weight.
Raheem Mostert, RB, Purdue. There's a couple I've been impressed with while we were doing seven-on-seven. I've noticed D.J. Knox, the running back from Georgia. Of course, we took him under our wings, but he's really stepped up and has learned the offense this summer. Another guy is Gregory Phillips, a wide receiver, from Georgia as well. They both really took the offense seriously and they are both making big strides and trying to get playing time. Another one, on defense, is Cedric (Dale), he's been really good. Also, Ja'Whaun Bentley, who has been putting up some numbers in the weight room that are very impressive. He's looks like he has a college body already. We're excited to get those guys playing and hopefully get some playing time under their belt so they can get some experience.
Darius Hamilton, DE, Rutgers. We have a defensive lineman in Jimmy Hogan who I think is a really tough kid. He's a mentally tough kid. I think that's the most important part because I don't think you see that a lot with too many athletes at a young age. Another one would be Kam Lott. He's somebody who has been on our roster for a while because he was with us in the spring. I still count him as a freshman, although I know a lot of people don't count him as a freshman because he came in early, but he's a tough kid. He might be all of 5-7 or 5-8, but he's a tough kid and somebody who I wholeheartedly believe in this year and I know he's going to make an impact for us.
Rob Havenstein, OT, Wisconsin. Someone that came in early, Michaell Deiter. He's an offensive guard from Ohio. He's going to be a special player coming up, maybe even this year. He's just that type of player. I'm really excited to see what he can do. He's worked hard on improving himself in the spring, and I think that has helped him out tremendously.