Thursday, December 8, 2011
Reviewing B1G's 2011 ESPNU 150 players
By Brian Bennett
Today ESPN.com's recruiting experts take a look back on the 2011 ESPNU 150 class -- our list of the top prospects in the country -- and see how they fare in their rookie seasons.
It's way too early to make judgments about these players' careers. But in some instances, we can already see the promise being delivered. In others, we wait for a major impact.
Here's a look at the players from the ESPNU 150 list who signed with Big Ten schools in February and how their first season on campus turned out:
It appears Aaron Green will have to fight for playing time in his sophomore year.
No. 11: Aaron Green, RB, Nebraska: "With an experienced group of tailbacks above him on the depth chart, Green was the fifth-leading rusher for the Cornhuskers. He rushed 24 times in 2011 for a 4.4-yard per carry average and two touchdowns. He'll have to continue fighting for playing time because carries in Lincoln should be hard to come by in the foreseeable future." Green will have to sit behind Rex Burkhead another year and has classmates Ameer Abdullah and Braylon Heard at the same position. Wouldn't be surprised to see one of them change positions.
No. 30: Steve Miller, DE, Ohio State: "Miller played in two games this season, finishing with one tackle. The defensive end came into Ohio State as one of the Buckeyes' most-heralded recruits but sat behind a few upperclassmen. With a year to get bigger and stronger, look for Miller to have an impact season as a sophomore a year from now." Guess we'll have to wait for the Columbus version of the Steve Miller Band.
No. 46: Curtis Grant, ILB, Ohio State: "Grant played in eight games as a freshman. He made just two tackles but made several big plays on special teams. He recovered a fumble against Wisconsin off a blocked punt that helped the Buckeyes upset the Big Ten champs. He's expected to compete for a starting job at inside linebacker next fall." Grant showed flashes, but it was another freshman linebacker who really impressed for OSU. More on that in a bit ...
No. 50: Jamal Turner, ATH, Nebraska: "Turner graduated high school early and was able to enroll at Nebraska in January and participated in spring practice. After being recruited as an athlete, Turner played receiver for the Huskers and had a solid freshman season. He caught 15 balls for 243 yards while averaging a little more than 16 yards a reception." Turner had some nice moments but also disappeared in the middle of the season as his coaches didn't think he was practicing hard enough.
No. 54: Angelo Mangiro, OG, Penn State: "Mangiro did not play for Penn State this season, but he will have a chance to make an impact next season as a redshirt freshman, as the Nittany Lions will lose both their starting guards."
No. 80: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: "A true freshman, Miller has taken the reins as the starting quarterback and will lead the Buckeyes in the Gator Bowl against Florida on Jan. 2. Miller has thrown for 997 yards and 11 touchdowns, and rushed for 695 yards and seven scores." There were 79 better prospects than Miller last year?
No. 81: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: "Shazier has been a major contributor on an improving Ohio State defense. He recorded 48 tackles and a team-high three sacks. Shazier isn't a regular returner on special teams, but he has returned a punt 25 yards." Here's the linebacker I referenced earlier. Shazier really came on strong late while filling in for Andrew Sweat and showed grit while battling through a knee injury against Michigan.
No. 106: Evan Spencer, WR, Ohio State: "Spencer played in 11 games, caught three passes for 78 yards and had one touchdown reception. He started one game, against Illinois." Classmate Devin Smith (12 catches, 247 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner against Wisconsin) was much better.
No. 108: Christian Jones, WR, Northwestern: "Jones played in all 12 games, catching 16 passes for 195 yards and averaging 13.9 yards per catch, which ranked second on the team. He earned his first career start against Iowa."
No. 109: Charles Jackson, CB, Nebraska: "Jackson's high school coach, Drew Svoboda, said Jackson never made it to Lincoln because the NCAA questioned some classes he retook over this past summer. He's working on passing the test in an effort to get qualified. He's also staying in shape at home in Klein, Texas. 'The bottom line is they said he didn't qualify,' Svoboda said. 'His clock has not yet started, and he's working towards meeting those standards and gaining his eligibility. He's still optimistic that he will be there [Nebraska] for spring ball. That's his plan.' Nebraska could use some depth at CB with the loss of Alfonzo Dennard.
No 115: Bubba Starling, QB, Nebraska: "On Aug. 14, Starling signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Kansas City Royals; he had been the No. 5 pick in June's Major League Baseball draft. The Nebraska commit was an all-state selection in football, baseball and basketball."
No. 127: Michael Bennett, OG, Ohio State: "Bennett played all 12 games at defensive line this season and was tied for third on the team in tackles for loss (5) and sacks (3). He had 16 tackles." Bennett looked impressive at times and should help continue the defensive line tradition in Columbus. And with a great last name like that ...
No 132: Bill Belton, ATH, Penn State: "Belton played in seven games this year with 27 rushing yards on seven carries. He also attempted a pass (incomplete) and had a 15-yard kick return." Played a huge role in the Wildcat formations that led the Lions to a win at Ohio State. Will be interesting to see how he's used next season and beyond.
No. 138: Jon Davis, ATH, Illinois: "Davis played all 12 regular-season games and was third on the team in receptions (21) and fourth in yards (187). Davis also caught a touchdown pass." And touchdowns were hard to come by the final six games for Illinois.
No. 150: Lawrence Thomas, ILB, Michigan State: "Thomas injured his shoulder early in summer camp and was forced to take a redshirt." All three starting linebackers return for Michigan State next year, so Thomas will have to earn his way into the lineup.