Five B1G signees I can't wait to see in 2017
It’s one thing to play as a true freshman. That’s an impressive accomplishment, but in this era, college football is getting younger and younger.
Now, it’s about who can become a playmaker as a true freshman.
Think it can’t be done? Saquon Barkley accomplished that feat two years ago, and Nick Bosa did that last year.
The question now is which incoming freshmen possess the skills to do that in 2017?
These are the guys I not only expect to play immediately, but the guys I expect to entertain in their first college seasons:
-Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan WR
The star of Michigan’s 2017 class, Peoples-Jones has a chance not only to play, but to star immediately at Michigan. The Cass Tech (Mich.) recruit was the No. 1 wideout in the country for a reason. He’s got size, speed and the ability to win a jump ball.
And as he showed at Cass Tech, he can make plays with the game on the line:
Peoples-Jones is already enrolled, and he’s as smart as they come (he had a 3.9 GPA in high school and he’s a pre-med major). He’ll handle the transition better than most five-star recruits.
Michigan has an immediate need at receiver after losing the likes of Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, not to mention the always-reliable Jake Butt. Michigan returns one receiver who caught double-digit passes or finished with more than 100 receiving yards last year.
But Michigan does return a veteran quarterback in Wilton Speight. Something tells me — OK, everything tells me — that Peoples-Jones will be one of his new best friends.
-Lamont Wade, Penn State CB
Usually, a 5-9 cornerback isn’t a candidate to play right away, especially for a program that could start the season in the top five. Wade is different. Arguably the biggest signee of the James Franklin era, the Clairton (Pa) star has the tools to become a playmaker from the jump.
Wade thrived against elite competition at the Rivals five-star challenge and at the Under Armour All-America Game. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in speed and aggressiveness.
Also an early enrollee, the Penn State coaching staff has big plans for Wade as a true freshman. Penn State cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said that the plan is for Wade to play for all three units. Mastering the defense will be the first priority, but once he gets that down, he’ll be a factor in the return game and he could even get offensive touches in 2017.
The future is big and bright for Wade.
-Tyjon Lindsey, Nebraska WR
Nebraska’s biggest signee of the 2017 class was Lindsey, who surprisingly flipped from Ohio State weeks before signing day. Lindsey, a borderline five-star recruit, could definitely start as a true freshman. He played his high school ball at powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Nev.), where he faced some of the best programs in the country.
Mike Riley already compared the 5-9 wideout to James Rodgers, who set the Oregon State career record for all-purpose yards. Riley said the plan for Rodgers was to redshirt as a freshman, but that he showed too much in fall camp for him to sit. That’s what he thinks Lindsey can do.
Lindsey won’t, however, have the benefit of spring ball. He’ll enroll this summer, and have to make an immediate impression to get significant looks early. But Nebraska lost major production at receiver and lacks experience outside of Stanley Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El.
With that in mind — and a first-year starter at quarterback — Nebraska will need guys who can make plays in space. It shouldn’t be long before Lindsey is making guys miss.
-Shaun Wade, Ohio State CB
You’ve heard a lot about the Ohio State’s bevy of talented incoming defensive backs. Jeffery Okudah, Isaiah Pryor, Amir Riep, Kendall Sheffield, Marcus Williamson and Wade could all have a chance to make an immediate impact after OSU lost three defensive backs early to the NFL.
But Wade is a guy who just makes plays all over the field. He has a knack for the ball, not only as a cover corner, but he can also deliver the big hit. He has the size (6-1) to cover on the outside, and spring ball should help him add some more muscle to be able to play press coverage.
Wade was the USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year at Trinity Christian Academy, where he faced some of the top programs in the country. The transition shouldn’t be a drastic one, and as long as he stays healthy, he’s a candidate to make big-time plays for OSU’s new-look secondary in 2017.
He’s long. He’s fast. He knows this game inside & out.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) January 30, 2017
-A.J. Epenesa, Iowa DE
Epenesa might be the recruit I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2017. When he committed to Iowa in the middle of his junior year, we got the full story of just how big of a freak athlete he was. The five-star recruit was a true three-sport star. He had the longest discus throw in the nation as a junior — that was second in Illinois history — and he’s been throwing down dunks since eighth grade.
Epenesa didn’t attend an IMG Academy or a Bishop Gorman, but he starred at Rivals camps and at the U.S. Army All-America Bowl practices. He has the size and the speed to play right away, which would be a rare achievement for a true freshman lineman at Iowa.
Kirk Ferentz already compared his talent to Pro Football Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. Iowa might have a few of solid edge-rushers between Nathan Bazata and the Nelson boys, but Epenesa is going to play and play well as a true freshman. Don’t be surprised if he blocks a kick or two on special teams, either.
It’s only a matter of time before Epenesa makes his mark in Iowa City.