Five early enrollees who will make an immediate impact in the B1G
Recruits aren’t wasting much time.
More than 60 signees from the 2017 class took advantage of the early signing period and enrolled early on campuses across the B1G, getting a taste of spring football and acclimating to the college game before the fall season rolls around.
It’s become an opportunity for many to prove they’re worthy of early playing time and can make an immediate difference. With such a large, talented group of early enrollees, it’s hard to imagine several won’t be on the field at some point this season.
But who’s going to benefit the most from an early arrival on campus and make the biggest impact in the conference?
We tried to narrow that down as best as we could before the craze of National Signing Day officially hits:
Jack Camper, Michigan State
247 Sports Composite: 3-star TE, 0.8529
Why he’ll have early success: Camper was mostly recruited as a defensive lineman out of IMG Academy, but now that he’s in East Lansing, Mark Dantonio has moved him to tight end. And considering the Spartans lost Josiah Price and Jamal Lyles and lack depth at the position, it’s likely an indicator that the early-enrollee will see the field relatively quickly.
Even though Michigan State isn’t an ideal destination for players wanting to see the field early in the career, the Spartans need some younger talent to step up in order to recover from a 3-9 season.
Camper’s 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame will be an asset as a blocker and pass-catcher. He did play tight end at IMG, so the familiarity with the position should also be a benefit for the three-star prospect.
Michigan State has typically utilized its tight ends well, and that position has always been a real weapon for Dantonio. Camper might not immediately pass up Matt Sokol as the top tight end, but he’ll likely still have the opportunity to have a significant role in his first year in East Lansing.
Del’Shawn Phillips, Illinois
247 Sports Composite: 3-star LB, 0.8737
Why he’ll have early success: The addition of Phillips to the 2017 class really was an important pickup for Lovie Smith and the Illini.
With Hardy Nickerson gone – the team’s leading tackler last season – Phillips could immediately step in at linebacker. The junior college transfer already seems polished enough to sink his teeth into the B1G. Last year, he totaled 95 tackles as Garden City Community College (Kansas) went on to claim a national championship.
Illinois’ defense struggled last year and is in need of some quality defenders, particularly when it comes to stopping the run. Phillips certainly won’t solve all of the Illini’s problems defensively, but he’s a good instinctual player and is capable of doing a lot of things very well.
Phillips is a hard-hitter and is capable of getting into the backfield quickly. He should be a staple for the Illinois defense from Week 1.
Markquese Bell, Maryland
247 Sports Composite: 4-star ATH, 0.9210
Why he’ll have early success: Bell was recruited as an athlete, but he’s expected to be battling for one of the safety positions in College Park. And because of his versatility, he might be on the field for the Terrapins fairly quickly.
Bell is quick and has good ball skills and could certainly be the type of playmaker Maryland’s defense is in need of, especially with William Likely out of the picture.
He’s still learning the position, but arriving early should allow him plenty of time to get adjusted and acclimated to the position before fall comes around.
With his experience as a receiver, Bell will have some pretty good hands for a defensive player and might be able to help Maryland improve on that measly five-interception total it tallied a year ago.
The skillset is there, it’s just a matter of learning the position for Bell and getting comfortable with Maryland’s defensive scheme.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan
247 Sports Composite: 5-star WR, 0.9922
Why he’ll have early success: It’s no mystery how Peoples-Jones became the top receiving prospect in the 2017 class. With his frame, explosiveness and playmaking ability, the Detroit native would be on the field immediately at just about any program in the country. But in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh is looking to replace Michigan’s top two receivers from last season, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson.
Maybe the best attributes Peoples-Jones brings – and what the Wolverines lack – are his nose for the ball and his ability to adjust quickly. He can outmuscle and outleap defenders for jump balls and possesses that go-up-and-get-it mentality. He’s the type of receiver Wilton Speight can trust to snag a jump ball against almost any defender.
Peoples-Jones also has great breakaway speed, is an excellent route-runner and always finds a way to get open. He might need to bulk up just slightly, but that’s where his early enrollment should come in handy.
Even if Darboh and Chesson were returning it would be hard to keep Peoples-Jones off the field. It shouldn’t take long before the nation’s top receiver from this class becomes one of Speight’s favorite targets.
Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State
247 Sports Composite: 5-star CB, 0.9954
Why he’ll have early success: With several openings in Ohio State’s secondary, the Buckeyes’ top recruit has a chance to make an immediate impact in Columbus.
Okudah is a tight defender that reads the quarterback well and has an innate ability to make plays on the ball. The Texas native also has nice size for a player in the secondary, standing at 6-foot-1. Though he’s been recruited as a cornerback, he would also serve well as a safety for Ohio State.
He’s great at stepping in front of passes and adjusting on the move. Even when it looks like he’s been beaten on a particular play, he seems to recover nicely and finds a way to make a tackle or deflect a pass.
Okudah is exactly the type of athlete that Ohio State’s secondary is accustomed to grooming.
Urban Meyer usually doesn’t leave talent standing on the sidelines and Ohio State’s top recruits usually find playing time pretty quickly. If Okudah proves to be one of the top players in that secondary – and there’s no reason to believe otherwise – he’ll be on the field for the Buckeyes in some capacity.