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NCAA Football Big 10 Football

Top 5 Impact Big Ten Freshman

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Big Ten Football

Big Ten Football
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten featured many impact true freshman in 2012 including 10 that made BTN.com’s All-Big Ten Freshman team: Illinois linebacker Mason Monheim, Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs, Michigan linebackers Joe Bolden and James Ross III, tight end Devin Funchess and kick returner Dennis Norfleet, Michigan State wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, Nebraska linebacker David Santos and Ohio State defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.

Teams don’t usually like to play incoming freshman, instead preferring to use a redshirt so players can spend a year in their weight training programs and get acclimated to the college game and lifestyle. Every year there is attrition from graduating seniors, early entrants to the NFL draft, transfers or dismissals which force freshman onto the field due to need. There are also instances where a true freshman is college ready and talented enough to earn playing time in some capacity. This year will be no different as teams will need to fill holes and also have some talented incoming recruits.

The 2013 recruiting cycle was a down year for the Big Ten as only Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State signed classes ranked in the top 25 according to recruiting service 247sports.com. Rankings don’t always tell the whole story, however, as there are always hidden gems that surface after flying under the radar in high school. Lower profile teams generally rely on these types of prospects for success and many become solid contributors. Here is a look at the top five incoming freshman.

Mitchell Weiss is a Big Ten Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mitchell_JWeiss, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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Gerald Holmes RB - Michigan State

Michigan State Spartans
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Holmes is the lowest ranked player on this list as the 42nd running back prospect in the country and makes this list mostly out of necessity. Michigan State has been desperately searching for a running back, having already moved reserve middle linebacker Riley Bullough over to the offensive side of the ball this spring. At 6-foot-1, 210-pounds, Holmes will enter fall practice as the biggest running back on the roster other than Bullough, and with no clear-cut starter in front of him should see plenty of carries this season.

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Danny Etling QB - Purdue

Danny Etling QB - Purdue
Matthew Emmons - USA TODAY Sports

Etling is a four star quarterback that enrolled early and participated in spring practice. Reports are that Etling has already overtaken the starting job from senior Rob Henry who isn’t a pure quarterback and has played multiple positions in his career. First year Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell will likely go with Etling in order to implement his style of offense immediately.

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Dontre Wilson - Ohio State

dontre wilson
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson is a speedster out of Texas and offers a skill set that is similar to Percy Harvin, who head coach Urban Meyer used to perfection when the two were at Florida. Meyer will use Wilson as an offensive weapon at Ohio State, lining him up all over the place. The sixth ranked all-purpose back, Wilson brings game-breaking ability to an already explosive offensive, and with opposing teams focusing most of their attention on Braxton Miller, he should find plenty of room to operate and make plays.

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Dymonte Thomas DB - Michigan

dymonte thomas
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas is a borderline five-star safety prospect who enrolled early at Michigan. He was very impressive during the spring and has already wrestled the starting nickelback position away from senior Courtney Avery, a very impressive feat. At 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, he has a college ready body and with summer and fall camp to learn the playbook and get used to the college lifestyle. At nickelback, Thomas will frequently blitz and be expected to make plays in the backfield.

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Christian Hackenberg QB - Penn State

christian hackenberg
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hackenberg is the highest rated prospect on this list coming in as the second quarterback and 13th overall player according to 247sports.com’s composite rankings. Penn State is looking for a quarterback with the graduation of Matt McGloin. The Nittany Lions don’t have any quarterbacks on their roster with much game experience and none are as talented as Hackenberg. He didn’t enroll early so he’ll need to pick up the playbook quickly during fall camp, but being that he’s the highest ranked quarterback in second year head coach Bill O’Brien’s first full recruiting class should give him an advantage. O’Brien is also known as quarterback guru, so that should aid in Hackenbergs’ ability to pick things up quickly and start from game one.