How the B1G’s top 10 recruits from the 2016 class looked as true freshmen

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This is the time of year in which recruiting dominates the college football world. It doesn’t seem that long ago when the top 2016 recruits were making their college decisions.

But now, each one of them has a season in the books. Some redshirted, some just played and others already carved out significant roles.

Here’s a look back at the B1G’s top 10-rated recruits (247sports) and how they performed in their first seasons:

10. David Long, Michigan CB

2016 stats — 4 games at CB/special teams

How he looked — With Jourdan Lewis nursing an injury in the first part of the season, Long got some mop-up work in Michigan blowouts. Perhaps more important was the ringing endorsement the former four-star recruit got from Lewis, who will enter the 2017 NFL draft as one of the top cornerbacks. According to Lewis, Long is advanced beyond what he was as a freshman. Long will battle with the likes of Lavert Hill, Brandon Watson and Benjamin St. Juste.

9. Brandon Peters, Michigan QB

2016 stats — Redshirted

How he looked — Even as a true freshman, Peters wasn’t ruled out of the quarterback competition by Jim Harbaugh until fall camp. Peters obviously didn’t get the job, but Harbaugh liked what he saw out of him. He’s still a bit raw and he won’t be jumping ahead of Wilton Speight or John O’Korn in the pecking order anytime soon. Still, the former Indiana Mr. Football appears to be Michigan’s quarterback of the future.

8. Demario McCall, Ohio State H-back

2016 stats — 5 games; 49 carries/270 yards, 4 catches/84 yards, 4 total TDs

How he looked — The homegrown H-back looks like he could be the next great Buckeye weapon. McCall appeared in garbage time of five games in 2016. He had at least 70 yards from scrimmage in four of them. With Curtis Samuel off to the NFL, McCall will look to become Ohio State’s offensive X-factor in 2017. Everything the guy does is fast.

He even rides dirt bikes for fun:

7. Shane Simmons, Penn State DE

2016 stats — Redshirted

How he looked — According to the coaching staff, the longtime Penn State commit looked really good. Simmons was on scout team in 2016, and there was talk that he could switch to linebacker. But with Evan Schwan gone and Garrett Sickels leaving early, Simmons could be a favorite to start as a redshirt freshman in 2017. At the very least, his role figures to expand greatly in his first active season.

6. Ben Bredeson, Michigan OL

2016 stats — 13 games; started final 8 at left guard

How he looked — The former Under Armour All-American provided an immediate impact for Michigan. Grant Newsome’s injury opened the door for Bredeson to switch to left guard, where he thrived. The All-B1G honorable mention selection improved his pass blocking and became a key part of Michigan’s run game. Bredeson and Mason Cole are the only Michigan offensive linemen starters returning in 2017.

5. Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State DE

2016 stats — 6 games; 6 tackles, 1 sack

How he looked — If you play at Ohio State as a true freshman, you’re doing something right. Ohio State had two defensive ends — we’ll get to the other one later — do just that. Cooper was one of them. The former five-star defensive end played in blowouts and flashed some promising pass-rush ability. With the Buckeyes returning all of their edge rushers, Cooper might not see a major spike in playing time.

Well, unless he keeps making plays like these:

4. Michal Menet, Penn State OL

2016 stats — Redshirted

How he looked — A couple years ago, Penn State would’ve started high school players on the offensive line if they could’ve provided some sort of relief. But even when the Lions were depleted up front in 2016, James Franklin still had enough depth to avoid burning Menet’s redshirt. With the Lions returning all but one starter up front, Menet will actually get a chance for normal development. It wasn’t long ago that was a crazy concept in State College.

3. Miles Sanders, Penn State RB

2016 stats — 13 games; 25 carries/184 yards, 2 catches/24 yards, 2 total TDs, 688 kick return yards

How he looked — With the exception of that fumble to start the Rose Bowl, Sanders lived up to his five-star hype. He came in relishing the opportunity to back up Saquon Barkley — they’re also roommates — though the majority of his work came as Penn State’s starting kick returner. The former No. 1 running back in the 2016 class is deadly in the open field, which will make him a star if/when Barkley leaves early for the NFL.

Until then, he can enjoy flying under the radar with PSU’s bevy of skill players.

2. Nick Bosa, Ohio State DL

2016 stats — 13 games; 29 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, five sacks, 3 quarterback hurries

How he looked — Like a Bosa. Some might’ve scoffed at the notion that the younger Bosa was the better Bosa. The jury is still out on that, but Nick Bosa certainly didn’t push any people off the hype train. On a talented defensive line, Bosa earned a regular role in the rotation and was one of the driving forces behind OSU’s top-five defense. As is the case with Cooper, there are plenty of mouths to feed on that Buckeye defensive line. Having said that, it’d be shocking if the freshman All-American didn’t work his way into the starting lineup in 2017.

1. Rashan Gary, Michigan DL

2016 stats — 13 games; 25 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, seven quarterback hurries

How he looked — The highest-rated B1G recruit ever came into a nice situation. Gary got to play right away, but with Michigan’s loaded defensive line, he was a rotational player. He also got to learn how to play multiple positions from veterans like Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton. Gary didn’t take over a game yet, but with the chance to start in 2017, everything is still in front of him. All signs point to the former No. 1 overall recruit becoming a force the next two years.

REFERENCES

Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

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