Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor, August 12, 2015
You have to keep an eye on this guy. Expect big things out of this guy. It's only a matter of time for this guy.
The first installment in our four-part Big Ten football preview series asks a beat writer from every school for his/her team's potential breakout player.
See who your school's beat writer selected below:
Jihad Ward, DE. He showed flashes last season, but he has another year of Big Ten football experience. The addition of Mike Phair as coach/coordinator will help a lot. So will the overall improvement of the defense.
Tegray Scales, LB. Played in every game as a freshman, emerging as a guided missile in IU's up-and-coming defense.
C.J. Beathard, QB. I know it seems as if you?ve been hearing about him since the ?90s, but Beathard is still a really new player (feels like a phenomenon, like the embodiment of hope) for the Hawkeyes. Early reviews say he has a great arm, great release and the kind of athleticism that can extend plays.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE. You could argue that he already broke out in a reserve role as a sophomore in 2014, but look for him to mature in Maryland's new 4-3 scheme and cement his place among the Big Ten's best pass rushers this season.
Jabrill Peppers, S. He was expected to hold this honor as a true freshman before injuries derailed his season. That talent and competitiveness is tough to restrain.
Montae Nicholson, S. Nicholson broke into the starting lineup for a handful of games as a true freshman and now he should be in line for a big sophomore year. He has a nasty combination of speed and size, even with the potential to be a two-way player.
Rodney Smith, RB. The Gophers need a replacement for David Cobb, and this redshirt freshman has the vision, instincts, shiftiness, and overall polish to become a go-to back.
Cethan Carter, TE. The 6-4, 240 athletic Carter is more H-Back than blocking tight end. He had only six catches in an injury plagued year but the TE wasn't a priority in the last offense, either. That's all changed now and Tommy Armstrong will be encouraged to find Carter, who should provide match-up problems for defenses.
Godwin Igwebuike, S. Igwebuike saw some time last year when Ibraheim Campbell went down with injury and he made the most of it, collecting three interceptions against Wisconsin in an upset win. In his last seven games of the regular season, he recorded at least five tackles in six of them; he should slide into Campbell's position smoothly.
Curtis Samuel, RB/WR. He was the primary backup to Ezekiel Elliott at running back as a true freshman last season, and will still see some reps at RB. However, he's been moved to the H-back position — which is a hybrid RB/WR in the Buckeyes' offense — and will likely split snaps with Braxton Miller there. The OSU coaches rave about Samuel's explosiveness and he showcased flashes of it last year.
Carl Nassib, DE. It's possible that Penn State's defensive line with two new starting defensive ends will be even better than it was a year ago. Nassib, a senior and former walk-on who earned a scholarship early in his career, is poised to be a disruptive force. At 6-foot-7, 272 pounds Nassib has big-time potential and Penn State has no shortage of standouts on the defense.
D.J. Knox, RB. Different type of running backs this season compared to Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert last year. Experienced offensive line to run behind.
Kiy Hester, S. Last season?s breakout player Kemoko Turay could take another step toward real stardom as an every-down defensive end, but for a true breakout look at the redshirt freshman safety. Rutgers has struggled in pass defense for two years running, but the physical Miami transfer?s willingness to ?bring the nasty out? could lead to a change in identity at least.
T.J. Edwards, ILB: Edwards is a redshirt freshman who impressed during spring ball and will need to step up at one of Wisconsin's thinnest positions.