Game Balls: young stars emerge in Week 1
Well that was entertaining.
Wisconsin beats LSU, the B1G goes 12-2 in the first week of the season, and we discovered new talent we didn’t know some of the B1G rosters were hiding.
It’s hard to know what to expect in the opening week of a season. What newcomers will burst onto the scene, what highly touted recruits will make an impact and which experienced veterans will either excel or disappoint in the first game of the new year.
This year, it was the young guns, freshmen and sophomores who really stepped up and caught our attention in Week 1. Some upperclassmen shined, too – pretty brightly for that matter – but it was the new kids on the block that turned some heads on this weekend.
Without further explanation, here are the game balls we are handing out after Week 1:
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB – The interception on the first possession against Bowling Green didn’t seem to bother Barrett too much. Maybe it even fueled him a bit. The junior set a school record, accounting for seven touchdowns in Saturday’s 77-10 victory, six coming through the air. The last time Barrett was the starting quarterback, he broke the B1G record for touchdowns in a single season. He might be on the way to breaking his own mark this year.
Chris Evans, Michigan RB – If you didn’t know about the freshman running back, you will now. Evans toted the ball eight times in his collegiate debut, gaining 112 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns in Michigan’s pummeling of Hawai’i. All of this in the presence of Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter, who were in attendance at the Big House. He put on quite a show for the two Hall of Famers.
Malik Turner, Illinois WR – For the second-straight year, Illinois needed to have a wide receiver step up to replace the production lost after an injury to Mikey Dudek. Turner made a splash on Saturday. He caught three passes for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was on the receiving end of a 68-yard pass from Wes Lunt to give the Illini a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Welcome to Champaign, Lovie Smith.
Malik Hooker, Ohio State CB – The victor of yesterday’s “most ridiculous catch” contest. Hooker made some remarkable plays defensively for the Buckeyes, intercepting two passes, including a one-handed tip pick while falling to the ground. Not descriptive enough? Just watch the video. He also added four tackles to his impressive day.
Rafael Gaglianone, Wisconsin K – Ice water. That’s what the Wisconsin kicker had running through his veins as he knocked through all three field goals, including a 47-yard game-winner. In one of the biggest games played at one of the most iconic venues, Gaglianone was perfect. His other two kicks came from 48 and 30 yards.
Markell Jones, Purdue RB – Darrell Hazell has repeatedly said that Jones is going to be the workhorse for Purdue’s offense this season. He certainly was against Eastern Kentucky. He gained 145 yards and scored a touchdown in the Boilers win. He displayed a good combination of power and speed that should make him fun to watch this year.
Anthony Nelson, Iowa DE – The Hawkeyes were hoping to replace production at the defensive end positions this year. Really, it’s been the only area of the defense with lingering questions. Some of those were answered by Nelson on Saturday. The redshirt freshman recorded 2.5 sacks against Miami (OH) in Iowa’s win and totaled six tackles all together. That’s a pretty good start for the Iowa defensive front.
Tai’yon Devers, Minnesota DE – I still don’t believe this kid is a true freshman. Devers’ night was cut short due to a targeting penalty on Thursday night, but he raised some eyebrows before that. He recorded a pair of monstrous sack-fumbles that Oregon State quarterback Darell Garretson is still aching from. It was quite a way to burst onto the college football scene.
Curtis Samuel, Ohio State H-B – Yes, another Buckeye is on the list. They scored 77 points, what did you expect? Samuel was Barrett’s favorite target on Saturday, catching nine passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Samuel’s best play came in the first quarter when he turned a moderate pass play into a 79-yard jaunt to the end zone. He could be one of Ohio State’s best offensive weapons this season.
Kendrick Foster, Illinois RB – a 29.5 yards per carry average a pair of touchdowns on four carries? Imagine the numbers he could’ve had if he reached double figures on touches. Sure, it was against a lousy Murray State defense, but it was still an impressive outing.