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Entering college as the No. 1 player at his position, and No. 3 overall prospect in the class of 2010 Rivals100, there were lofty expectations surrounding Hillsdale (Ill.) Proviso West wide receiver Kyle Prater two years ago.
At 6-foot-5 and over 200 pounds, Prater was frequently compared to previously highly ranked receivers such as Julio Jones and Rueben Randle. Prater's one-reception tenure at USC and subsequent transfer to Northwestern has lessened the shine on his "can't miss" label.
Prater leads the pack of Big Ten players who need to shine entering the upcoming football season not only for the success of their team but also to justify the early hype each player received coming out of high school.
Louis Vaccher, who has covered the Northwestern program for the last seven years for WildcatReport.com , said expectations for Prater may need to be tempered a little.
"There are two sets of expectations, the realistic and the unrealistic," he said. "Prater will tell you that he's just working to learn the offense and earn a starting job. However, there are still many fans out there who will expect Prater to step onto the field and dominate from Day One.
"They look at him, at 6-foot-5, and think he should be the second coming of Calvin Johnson."
Northwestern boasts arguably the deepest receiving corps in the conference, meaning Prater's role and impact may be limited.
Vaccher believes that Prater could be a solid offensive weapon and that his presence could be a major boost for a program that has struggled to score touchdowns when inside the 10-yard line.
"He's a very big, physical outside receiver with leaping ability and great body control," he said. "I think he can be a real weapon for Northwestern in the red zone. He may not be the 'Megatron' many envision, but I think fans will be happy if he can be an impact player inside the 20."
So, a player that would have been viewed as program-changing commit for Northwestern during the recruiting process is now just trying to find his spot on the roster.
"He has already attracted a lot of attention from the Chicago media, and he will probably draw some eyeballs to Northwestern that weren't there before," Vaccher said. "But I don't think that we will one day refer to this as the Kyle Prater Era."
Prater still has three years of eligibility remaining to prove his doubters wrong. The potential Prater Era begins Sept. 1 against Syracuse.
Below is a look at the other former top prospects who need to step up in the Big Ten. (Click player's name for a look at his prospect profile coming out of high school):
Player: Justin GreenClick ILLINOISHere to view this Link., cornerback. Ranked No. 82 overall in the Rivals100 Class of 2009.
Buzz: Green chose Illinois over offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Miami but has been little more than an adequate part-time player for Illinois, totaling just 53 solo tackles and zero interceptions the last two years. This year, he has bulked up and has shown much more confidence in camp. Green is in line to start and could star for the Illini defense.
Player: Ted BolserClick INDIANAHere to view this Link., tight end. No. 41-ranked tight end in Class of 2009.
Buzz: Indiana has not been well-stocked with elite talent, but Bolser was nationally ranked at his position and has been a moderate disappointment during his time in Bloomington. He caught 27 passes and scored five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman but dipped down to 14 receptions and 165 yards last season with 108 of those yards coming in two games. With pass-happy coach Kevin Wilson looking to throw for nearly 300 yards per contest, more intermediate passes could find their way to Bolser.
Player: Keenan DavisClick IOWAHere to view this Link., wide receiver. Ranked No. 138 overall in the Rivals250 Class of 2009.
Buzz: Davis has been far from a bust in his time in Iowa -- he has steadily improved each season on campus -- but it is his time to shine now that Marvin McNutt is in the NFL. Davis was the No. 2 player in the state of Iowa entering college, and as a senior he has a chance to really improve on his 50-catch, 713-yard 2011 season.
Player: William CampbellClick MICHIGANHere to view this Link., defensive tackle. Ranked No. 26 overall in the Rivals100 Class of 2009.
Buzz: The former five-star prospects and top-ranked player in the state of Michigan has been on the field for the Maize and Blue only in a very limited capacity in his three varsity seasons, and he has not come close to living up to his hype. This season, as a senior, Campbell will get his chance to shine. He will be needed early in a tough test against Alabama and its punishing rushing attack.
Player: Andrew MaxwellClick MICHIGAN STATEHere to view this Link., quarterback. Ranked No. 142 overall in the Rivals 250 Class of 2009.
Buzz: It would be unfair to label Maxwell as a bust because he was sitting behind two-time All-Big Ten quarterback Kirk Cousins. Reviews out of camp this offseason are that coaches love Maxwell and expect big things from him this season. With Maxwell being a former four-star prospect at a glamorous position, he will certainly have the spotlight on him.
Player: Michael CarterClick MINNESOTAHere to view this Link., cornerback. Ranked No. 140 overall in the Rivals 250 Class of 2009.
Buzz: The Golden Gophers faithful could probably fill entire sheet of disappointing defensive players -- Spencer Reeves and Brendan Beal have yet to make an impact of any kind -- but Carter has been most frustrating. The nephew of Gopher great Tyrone Carter has had trouble finding playing time, but this year he has rededicated himself on and off the field and looks ready to rewrite his disappointing chapter at Minnesota.
Player: Nick AshClick NEBRASKAHere to view this Link., offensive line. No. 28-ranked offensive guard in Class of 2009.
Buzz: Nebraska, like many other Big Ten schools, does not have many high profile failures on the roster; so Ash wins (or loses) almost by default because of his lack of production. Wide receiver Steven Osborne was given some consideration here but almost every player who has entered the program -- and is still with the team -- has performed well. Ash may not have a chance to prove he was deserving of his ranking as he has struggled to crack the two-deep.
Player: Curtis GrantClick OHIO STATEHere to view this Link., linebacker. Ranked No. 2 overall in the Rivals100 Class of 2011.
Buzz: It is tough to tab Grant here after just one season, but the former five-star prospect drew comparisons to Ray Lewis during the recruiting process. Still, he struggled so much as a freshman that he later admitted that he considered giving up football. Grant is in the mix to be a starter for the Buckeyes, and there is not a lot of depth behind him, so he has an opportunity to shine.
Player: Eric ShriveClick PENN STATEHere to view this Link., offensive tackle. Ranked No. 88 overall in the Rivals100 Class of 2009.
Buzz: Despite standing nearly 6-foot-7 and weighing in at over 300 pounds, Shrive has been plagued by questions regarding his toughness during his time on campus. He is currently battling for time on the offensive line but looks to be stuck behind former two-star John Urschel. With roster attrition a constant concern and the propensity for injury on the offensive line, Shrive can still make good on his potential.
Player: Robert MarveClick PURDUEHere to view this Link., quarterback. No. 8-ranked quarterback in Rivals250 Class of 2007.
Buzz: Marve was Florida's Mr. Football as a recruit and was a huge land for Miami at the time. He transferred to Purdue as a sophomore and was expected to be a program changer. Now, having been granted a sixth year of eligibility due to injury, it is time for Marve to show that he is the NFL-level prospect as he has often been touted.
Player: Curt PhillipsClick WISCONSINHere to view this Link., quarterback. No. 7-ranked dual-threat quarterback in Class of 2008.
Buzz: Phillips had a ton of hype upon his arrival in Madison, but three ACL surgeries have slowed his development. While he will apply for a sixth year of eligibility, this season is crucial for him. Phillips battled Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien for the Badgers' starting job, but O'Brien was recently named the team's No. 1 signal caller for its Sept. 1 opener against Northern Iowa.
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