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Insider

Big Ten's 2014 impact freshmen

9/25/2013

Who’s the next Johnny Manziel? For that matter, who has an opportunity to start for a Big Ten team? Is there a Heisman Trophy candidate in the mix in this year’s Big Ten recruiting class?

Recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren tackle those questions in this week’s version of The List:

Current 2014 QB prospect that could start immediately:

Tom VanHaaren: Most schools either have a returning starter, or younger quarterbacks who will likely be ahead of the 2014 prospects so there likely isn’t anyone.

If I had to pick a few that could see playing time I would say Northwestern commit Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North), potentially Chris Durkin (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) if Michigan State can’t figure out the offense and maybe Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate) if there is an injury to Devin Gardner.

Brad Bournival: The problem with most of the Big Ten QB signees is that there’s already a big name QB in front of them. Iowa could make a case here with Jay Scheel (La Porte City, Iowa/Union), but the fact it has three signal-callers returning kind of ends that talk. Like VanHaaren, I’m going with Durkin at Michigan State. The Spartans are hardly set at the position and Durkin comes in with the athleticism and arm strength needed to succeed at the next level. If he can shore up his reads, Durkin could be the guy in East Lansing.

Program changing 2014 recruiting class:

VanHaaren: Michigan is filling a lot of holes with its 2014 class and there is a good chance it continues to add to it. The Wolverines have landed nine ESPN 300 commitments and could still add more. The biggest piece, though, is five-star defensive back Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) who is Michigan’s highest-rated prospect since the inception of ESPN’s rankings.

Bournival: Ohio State loses four offensive linemen and is light at linebacker and wide receiver. This class has three linemen already as well as three 'backers, and the Buckeyes are the favorite to land the top-rated 'backer in ESPN 300 standout Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County). Where the Buckeyes shine is at the wide receiver/athlete position as six standouts with 4.5 40-yard dash speed or better make up the class.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential:

VanHaaren: The only Big Ten commit I would feel somewhat comfortable in this category is probably Peppers. Even for him that’s going to be a stretch, but he is the only commit who I think could fall in this category.

Bournival: Like VanHaaren said, this is a tough one as the top-ranked players are Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), McMillan, Peppers and Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) coming in. That said, defense isn’t that sexy to Heisman voters. If Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville) picks a Big Ten team and IF he plays offense, he might be the best bet. But that’s a lot of ifs.

Current 2014 prospect who may sit initially, but become a star:

VanHaaren: I think there are quite a few in this category, but the main guy I will go with here is Ohio State’s Webb. Webb might initially start out behind a few other defensive backs on the roster, but he will eventually rise to the top.

Bournival: With Christian Hackenberg already starting as a true freshman at Penn State, the opportunity to learn and then thrive is there for ESPN 300 signal caller Michael O’Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy). The quarterback unit is young across the board, but if the Nittany Lions can redshirt O’Connor, he could rise to the top at Penn State.

Current committed recruit who is in a good position for development:

VanHaaren: Michigan State has made a name for itself by developing underrated prospects, especially on the defensive side. Looking at the Spartans' defensive commits, it really looks like this could be a class full of potential contributors in the future. Along the defensive line and secondary, this class could be a big one for Michigan State’s defense in the future.

Bournival: Wisconsin is known for sending offensive linemen to the next level. ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jaden Gault (Monona, Wisc./Monona) knows that and said so in his commitment story. With a year of learning and a senior-laden first-string line next season, Gault can develop and move right in.

2014 position group with chance for instant impact:

VanHaaren: Illinois loses four wide receivers after this season, so it was imperative for the coaching staff to land a good crop of receivers in this class. The Illini currently have four receivers committed, including two junior college prospects, and the coaching staff could still take one more.

Bournival: Ohio State loses four of its five offensive linemen after the season to graduation. There are only 13 offensive linemen under scholarship as this story comes out. Don’t be surprised if there are freshmen on the two-deep chart as early as next season.

Most versatile 2014 recruit who could play either side of the ball:

VanHaaren: Hands down Peppers. He already plays both sides in high school and many think he could excel as a running back or defensive back in college. He could even be an impact player on special teams. He is slated for corner at Michigan but could make an impact anywhere on the field.

Bournival: It has to be Webb. In talking to his coaches when he committed, they said what makes him such a good cornerback is the fact he’s a fantastic wide receiver. When a high school coach from an established program as Cass Tech feels so strongly about that, this answer is easy.

The next Marcus Mariota (underrated):

VanHaaren: Minnesota running back Jeff Jones (Washburn, Minn./Washburn) is only a three-star, but he might be one to watch. He is a talented back who had 16 touchdowns through three games this season. He is starting to hear from a few other Big Ten schools, so his recruitment might get interesting. Wherever he lands, he has the potential to be a star.

Bournival: It’s very hard to ignore Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus), especially after his strong showing at The Opening. With 4.36 40-yard dash speed and the versatility to play in the backfield and at the slot, the 5-foot-11, 186-pound Samuel could step into The Horseshoe and be a contributor much like Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) has done this year for Ohio State.