B1G Splash: Four True Freshmen Who Should Burst Onto the Big Ten Scene in 2018

By Andrew Ellis on June 12, 2018 at 2:15 pm
Purdue signee Rondale Moore had offers from all of the national powers.

Rondale Moore


Urban Meyer's philosophy on true freshmen is widely known: if you're good enough, then  you're going to play. Two years ago it was Michael Jordan starting from day one, and last season it was the emergence of J.K. Dobbins at tailback. 

However, the 2018 season may look a bit different in Columbus as the depth chart will likely make it difficult for the newcomers to see the field on a regular basis. Names like Nicholas-Petit-Frere, Jeremy Ruckert, Josh Proctor, and Tyreke Smith all should see the field in some capacity, but it's tough to imagine a situation like that of Dobbins or Jordan. 

Elsewhere across the Big Ten, there are several true freshmen who are likely to see the field early and often for their respective teams. Many of the potential impact players are names that Buckeyes fans may be familiar with from the recruiting trail, and Ohio State will likely have to deal with them on the field in 2018. 

Last month we took a look at one newcomer on each team who could end up seeing the field. Heading into the summer, the picture is getting a bit more clear as to who could make the biggest splash across the conference.

We've narrowed things down a bit and identified the four non-Buckeyes who are most likely to have major roles early on in their careers.

Adrian Martinez • Quarterback • Nebraska • National Recruiting Rank: No. 139

Scott Frost still hasn't named his starting quarterback and right now most seem to think that true freshman Adrian Martinez could be the guy. The California native was phenomenal in the spring game and has bounced back from a shoulder injury that cost him his senior season. The Buckeyes brought the one-time Tennessee commit in for a late visit but didn't end up offering. 

He's battling redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and a the staff isn't expected to make a decision until the fall. Regardless of who wins the battle, there's a very real chance Martinez is the starting quarterback at some point this season. He may be the most impactful newcomer in the entire conference. 

The Buckeyes host the Cornhuskers on Nov. 3.

Micah Parsons • Linebacker • Penn State • National Recruiting Rank: No. 5

The Micah Parsons saga was well documented leading up to his signing with Penn State. He was pledged to the Nittany Lions early on but then backed off of the commitment and seemed Columbus bound. It was one of the stranger recruitments and it ended when the Buckeyes stopped pursuing the five-star after some self-reported violations. 

Now one of James Franklin's early enrollees, Parsons is expected to be one of the starters at linebacker. His athleticism is off the charts and he was the highest-rated prospect any Big Ten team signed for the 2018 class. Coincidentally, linebacker may be the biggest concern for Ohio State at the moment.

Justin Shorter • Wide Receiver • Penn State • National Recruiting Rank: No. 7 

Five-star signee Justin Shorter is not one of James Franklin's early enrollees, but Penn State lost its top wideout from a season ago and there's certainly an opportunity for Shorter to make some noise in 2018. Upon his arrival he will immediately be the most talented wide receiver on the roster, it will likely just be a matter of how quickly he catches on over the summer. 

Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 213 pounds, he was the country's No. 1 wide receiver prospect for the 2018 class. Trace McSorley does have a few veterans at his disposal, but it would hardly be a surprise if Shorter were to emerge early and often.

The Buckeyes head to Happy Valley on Sept. 29. 

Rondale Moore • Wide Receiver • Purdue • National Recruiting Rank: No. 229

Purdue was a surprise team in 2017 as Brian Brohm led the Boilermakers to a 7-6 campaign that included a bowl victory over Arizona. Despite a lack of talent at wideout, the passing game made do with what it had. Both of its top receivers from last year are no longer a part of the team.

“He can do a lot of things for you. He’s got a lot of dynamic playmaking ability,” Brohm said of Moore. “We’re going to give him every opportunity to play this first year and to do his thing and give him a chance to showcase what he’s all about right from the get-go.” Via

Fortunately for the offense, Purdue's top-rated signee should bring some excitement to the air attack. Rondale Moore was another prospect that had been offered by the Buckeyes, but the one-time Texas commit ultimately sided with Brohm and the Boilers. He's set to arrive this summer and the plan certainly appears for him to play early on.

Ohio State will make the trip to West Lafayette on Oct. 20. 

The Spartans and Wolverines are sure to play freshmen in spots, but it's difficult to imagine them having too much of an impact; especially in East Lansing. Michigan State returns 19 starters and the outlook in the secondary is extremely bright, so it will be tough for its two highest-rated signees – defensive backs Kalon Gervin and Xavier Henderson – to see too much action. 

Wisconsin returns the bulk of its offense, but on defense the Badgers do need a little bit of help at linebacker and defensive back. In the secondary, Donte Burton is an early enrollee worth paying attention to. Linebacker Jack Sanborn was the team's top-rated signee, and at the very least he should help with the depth at the position.

Overall, plenty of the conference's new arrivals have been making a splash of late from the aforementioned Jordan and Dobbins to the emergence of Jonathan Taylor a season ago. It's reasonable to think much of the same will take place in 2018, and the names that top our list are all players the Buckeyes will be forced to deal with in some capacity.

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