- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now that spring practice is officially in the books, we're taking a look at each Big Ten team and identifying a player who announced himself as a potential key performer this fall.
We're talking about guys who maybe haven't had big roles yet but displayed enough during the 15 spring practices -- and not just some fluky, spring-game performance against backups -- to factor heavily into their team's plans.
This series begins with one of the first teams to wrap up spring practice, the Michigan Wolverines.
Spring breakout player: WR Freddy Canteen
Canteen enrolled at Michigan in January without a lot of hype. ESPN ranked him as a three-star prospect and the No. 168 receiver in the Class of 2014. Two other receivers in the Wolverines' class, Drake Harris and Maurice Ways, were ranked ahead of him.
But Canteen made his presence known early and was one of the most buzzed-about players during Michigan's spring session. Though he just turned 18 on March 12, the Elkton, Md., prospect quickly became one of the best receivers on the field for a team in need of some after the graduation of Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo. Canteen worked often with the starting unit and started in the spring game, when he hauled in a 44-yard catch.
"Once you watched him compete in winter conditioning and the things coaches are involved with and just his everyday approach to the game, you knew he had the work ethic and maybe the maturity to be beyond some other guys," head coach Brady Hoke told ESPN.com in late March. "What he’s done out here, I don’t know if I expected it. But we have a lot of confidence in him."
Canteen lined up in the slot a lot this spring, but at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, he's capable of playing on the outside, as he did in the spring game. His speed and playmaking ability are badly needed on this offense.
“I always felt like I could compete because of my skill level,” he told reporters in early April. “The first practice, I came out and did well. I already had confidence, but I guess you could say it was a little boost.”
After his surprisingly good spring performance, the freshman appears to be ready to give the Wolverines' passing game a boost this fall.