There’s a Big Ten Freshman of the Year somewhere in the Class of 2018, an impact kid — Penn State’s Micah Parsons or Justin Shorter? Ohio State’s Tyreke Johnson or Taron Vincent? — staring us right in the face.
Perhaps a diamond, bursting from the rough, just waiting for his chance to glitter on the big stage.
With National Signing Day upon us, the canvas is as blank as it is wide. As the final signatures come in, Land of 10 is taking an early look at the eight Big Ten recruits among the most likely to have an immediate impact this fall:
National Signing Day 2018: Recruits who’ll make biggest impact in Big Ten in 2018
Will Honas, Nebraska, LB
— JUCO Football Frenzy (@JUCOFFrenzy) December 21, 2017
Hometown: Wichita, Kan.
Height, weight: 6-foot-2, 225
National 247Sports composite ranking: 29 (JUCO)
Position rank: 1 (JUCO)
The skinny: A plugger who excels at one of the elements of the game that failed the Huskers most in 2017: tackling. The Kansan is expected to battle for a starting spot immediately after recording 96 stops with 3 sacks and 2 picks this past fall for Butler County Community College.
Allen Trieu, 247Sports: “Being a JUCO guy, [he’ll] be physically ready to go and has the work ethic and mental side of the game down, as well.”
Cameron Jurgens, Nebraska, TE
— Joe Musso (@MooseOnAir) August 26, 2017
Hometown: Beatrice, Neb.
Height, weight: 6-3, 240
National 247Sports composite ranking: 193
Position rank: 7
The skinny: If it feels as if the powerful Cameron Jurgens has been with the Huskers forever, you’re not far off — he committed to the Big Red back in August 2015 when he was just 15 years old. With the athletic teen having played linebacker, tight end, wideout, tailback, fullback, defensive end and punter in high school, it’ll be fascinating to see how, and where, new coach Scott Frost sees Jurgens fitting in best.
Tom Lemming, the Lemming Report/CBS Sports: “He’s [Nebraska’s] best player [in the class]. He can play tight end, he can play linebacker, he [could] grow into a defensive end.”
Cameron McGrone, Michigan, LB
— Andrew Pogar (@AndrewPogar) August 19, 2017
Height, weight: 6-1, 215
National 247Sports composite ranking: 118
Position rank: 7
The skinny: When he’s healthy, Cameron McGrone’s a heat-seeking missile: As a senior, IndianaPreps’ state Defensive Player of the Year recorded 71 tackles, including 12 for losses, to go along with 2 sacks and 6 hurries. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown isn’t afraid to throw first-year players into the fire if they’ve got the goods, and McGrone’s goods — for his age — are way better than most.
Brandon Huffman, 247Sports: “A perfect fit for Don Brown’s defense, [he] has range, ability to cover and will knock your head off.”
Micah Parsons, Penn State, DE/LB
Penn State signee Micah Parsons going full speed today pic.twitter.com/A4hhLR6K7m
— Hank South (@HankSouth247) January 2, 2018
Hometown: Harrisburg, Pa.
Height, weight: 6-3, 235
National 247Sports composite ranking: 5
Position rank: 2
The skinny: The on-again, off-again, on-again love affair between Micah Parsons, one of the best prep talents in the country, and Nittany Lions coach James Franklin wound up with a happy ending for Penn State fans. The only question left is: Now that you’ve got him, what do you do with him? As a big man with little-man quicks — he averaged 11.4 yards per carry and scored 29 offensive touchdowns as a senior — Parsons could slot in right away as a pass-rushing specialist. Or is he better utilized with his hand off the ground, playing in space? Could he become a bigger version of Peppers? The sky’s the limit. Well, the sky and Franklin’s imagination.
Huffman: “One of the freakiest athletes in this class and can play a myriad of positions.”
Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State, TE
— Ronny Torres (@RonnyTorresSS) December 20, 2017
Hometown: Lindenhurst, N.Y.
Height, weight: 6-6, 238
National 247Sports composite ranking: 37
Position rank: 2
The skinny: The Buckeyes haven’t lacked for good tight end options, but Jeremy Ruckert is special right out of the box: A Sherman tank with soft hands, athletic enough to blow past linebackers and safeties in the open field, and big enough to outjump cornerbacks in the red zone. MaxPreps went so far as to dub him “The Rob Gronkowski of High School Football” last fall — which means, with Marcus Baugh moving on for a shot at the NFL, the rich just might be getting even richer.
Huffman: “The top tight end in the country, [he] has the size, the strength, the speed and the hands to be the next great Ohio State tight end.”
Justin Shorter, Penn State, WR
— Luke Stampini (@LukeStampini) January 2, 2018
Hometown: Monmouth Junction, N.J.
Height, weight: 6-4, 213
National 247Sports composite ranking: 8
Position rank: 1
The skinny: Justin Shorter has been clocked at a 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash, owns a 33-inch vertical leap, and is going to have Trace McSorley throwing to him. No matter how you do the math, there’s a darn good chance it ends up with 6 on the scoreboard.
Trieu: “That’s more of a situation where I think he’s too good to keep off the field than where it’s a glaring need — although DaeSean Hamilton is graduating, and Shorter is a bigger receiver, similar to him.”
Ricky Slade, Penn State, RB/KR/PR
4🌟 QB Adrian Martinez (Nebraska) to 5🌟 RB Ricky Slade (Penn State) for a TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/2b3JNqrzZ8
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) January 5, 2018
Hometown: Woodbridge, Va.
Height, weight: 5-9, 185
National 247Sports composite ranking: 27
Position rank: 1
The skinny: There’s only one Saquon Barkley, but Ricky Slade is another do-everything speedster whom Franklin and Lions offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne can’t wait to start toying around with. As a tailback, receiver and return man last autumn, Slade accounted for 2,700 all-purpose yards and 40 total touchdowns. With Miles Sanders earmarked as Barkley’s heir apparent in the Nittany Lions backfield, the competition for backup snaps figures to be fierce. Slade’s got the kind of wheels that tend to get noticed.
Lemming: “After a great freshman year, he did some good things [at Woodbridge’s C.D. Hylton High].”
Taron Vincent, Ohio State, DT
— HSP Football (@HSP_Football) September 6, 2017
Height, weight: 6-2, 285
National 247Sports composite ranking: 20
Position rank: 1
The skinny: Scouts say he’s an SEC-style defensive lineman with SEC-style explosiveness and an SEC-style motor. In other words, another Buckeyes weapon with serious NFL bona fides. The son of former NFL defensive back Troy Vincent, Taron Vincent recorded 3 sacks and 8 hurries as a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Huffman: “[Has dad’s] athleticism, but much bigger. An ideal inside lineman who can stuff the run but also get to the quarterback.”