Big Ten Spotlight: Five players that emerged this spring
STING FACTOR: The 10 biggest decommitments of April
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
Spring football is in the books and many players across Power Five conferences took the next step forward or in some cases their first step towards stardom. This week we look at some of those standouts and we begin with the Big Ten.
DAMION DANIELS - Nebraska
The skinny: Daniels took an official visit to Nebraska in September, and later to Colorado and UTSA, but it was the visit to Lincoln that stuck with him. While he then waited until National Signing Day to make his final decision, he made his commitment to the Huskers during a televised press conference. After receiving only minimal playing time as a true freshman, Daniels arrived at spring camp bigger, stronger and eager to prove himself. Along with his brother Darrion, who is now in Lincoln after his graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, the duo should give the Huskers a formidable duo on the interior defensive line in 2019.
Farrell’s take: Daniels was a short and stout defensive tackle who could handle the run and push the pocket and I like the way he has developed. Now teamed with his brother, he could be a tough player to deal with in the Big Ten for opponents. He’s the kind of kid that Scott Frost likes, a hustler with a good motor and who is tireless in his pursuit. The Nebraska defense is starting to come together.
NATHAN HOBBS - Illinois
The skinny: Hobbs initially committed to Western Kentucky during his senior season, but after taking a visit to Illinois, and eventually picking up the offer, he flipped to the Illini in late December. While Hobbs has made 17 starts during his first two seasons with the Illini, inconsistencies plagued his output. If this spring is a sign of things to come, then he has begun to piece everything together. Now a team leader on the defensive unit, Hobbs has showcased the tools that could make him one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten this fall.
Farrell’s take: Hobbs had solid size coming out but lacked strength and speed, which is why he was a two-star. Now he’s added muscle to his frame, he’s gotten faster and has shown some excellent instincts. I also think his leadership ability is a big deal as he came from a big high school and was a leader at that level. If Illinois can produce more and more impact players that were overlooked, this season could be a surprise to many.
DONOVAN JETER - Michigan
The skinny: Jeter initially committed to Notre Dame, but eventually re-opened his recruitment and then committed to Michigan a few days later after an official visit to Ann Arbor. With likely starter Michael Dwumfour out this spring with a foot injury, this was an opportunity for Jeter to showcase his talents to the coaching staff after only seeing spot action in seven games last fall. He responded by impressing the coaching staff and likely earning himself a place in the regular defensive line rotation this season.
Farrell’s take: Jeter was a talented kid out of high school who was tall and skinny for his position but was very athletic and could shoot the gap. In Michigan’s defense he’s a perfect fit and will certainly help ease the loss of Rashan Gary as a havoc-wreaker in the middle. He played with natural leverage despite being so tall and he could pursue the quarterback. He could be the next star in the middle for Michigan.
TYREKE SMITH - Ohio State
The skinny: While Smith was long rumored to be favoring Ohio State, he also took official visits to Penn State, Alabama, USC and Oregon, plus bypassed the early Signing Period, before finally committing to the Buckeyes at the Under Armour All-America Game. He actually notified the Ohio State staff of his decision a couple of weeks before making it public. Everyone in Columbus knows that one of the defensive end spots will be anchored by Chase Young this fall, but there have been some question marks on the opposite side. Smith’s performance this spring may have eased some of the concern, as he excelled throughout and finished up with an impressive showing at the spring game.
Farrell’s take: There is a reason Smith was a five-star out of high school, but I am a bit surprised he’s hitting the ground running at Ohio State because he was so raw. He has the size, speed and explosiveness to be a star at the next level and based on his spring performance he will certainly see time next year at end and could push to be a starter. We loved his athletic upside and he could be the next freak end at Ohio State.
GENO STONE - Iowa
The skinny: Stone’s recruitment never took off, as he didn’t receive his offer from Iowa until late January. After the offer he took an official visit to Iowa City and committed to the Hawkeyes soon after. With the Hawkeyes having to restock their secondary this off-season, Stone will suddenly be counted on as a veteran in the unit. Already coming off of a 2018 season when he totaled 39 tackles and four interceptions, he looked poised and prepared this spring to take his game to a higher level this fall, while also becoming one of the top safeties in the Big Ten.
Farrell’s take: Stone was just a two-star coming out of high school with adequate size but question marks about his ability in coverage and his speed. Iowa was his only big offer and that came after some players fell off the board as we and many deemed him a low-level FBS or high-level FCS player. He’s beginning to step up as a leader for the Iowa defense and the Hawkeyes do a great job developing under recruited players. He could be the next one.