How top-ranked 2018 signees from each Big Ten team are faring
As we are deep in the off season, recruiting is on our minds. Here’s a look back at the highest ranked 2018 recruit for each team and how they are panning out. We start with the Big Ten.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
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CLASS OF 2022: Top 100
The skinny: Avery trimmed his list of top programs to Illinois, Oklahoma, Colorado, TCU and USC before committing to the Illini. At Illinois, Avery saw immediate playing time, finishing with 18 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss during his true freshman season. Injuries and a general lack of fitness have cost him since that point. After only playing in five games last fall, the opportunity is there for Avery to make an impact in 2020 with the Illini losing several important defensive lineman to graduation.
Farrell’s take: Avery was a huge commitment for Illinois out of Texas, a rare Rivals250 prospect leaving the state for the Illini. He’s always had promise with his size and agility but needs to be more consistent in his work ethic to break out.
The skinny: Penix was initially committed to Tennessee, but then re-opened his recruitment after the Vols underwent a coaching change. He ended up taking December official visits to Indiana, Florida State and USF before committing to the Hoosiers. After showing his potential in three appearances as a true freshman, Penix Jr. passed for 1,394 yards and 10 touchdowns while completing almost 69 percent of his passes in only six games in 2019 before an injury cut his season short. Now healthy, big things are expected from him this fall.
Farrell’s take: Penix was a talented kid with a live arm and mobility, but lacked great size coming out of high school. He showed great promise last year and is clearly Indiana's best quarterback, which is why Peyton Ramsey transferred this offseason. Penix is dangerous when healthy.
The skinny: Petras initially committed to Oregon State, but flipped to the Hawkeyes after a coaching change in Corvallis. During his first two seasons in Iowa City, Petras has seen very limited playing time. However, after completing 6 of 10 passes for 25 yards during these two seasons, he is now in line to be the starter for the Hawkeyes this fall with the departure of Nathan Stanley.
Farrell’s take: Petras was a very talented prospect coming out of high school and a great get from California with size and arm strength. It’s now his turn in the Iowa offense where smart decisions will be expected and I think he can repeat what Stanley did.
The skinny: Fontaine committed to Maryland in April over offers from Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and others. After having minimal impact on the defensive line during his true freshman season, Fontaine made the move to the offensive line in 2019 after several injuries at the position. He responded by playing in 12 games, with six starts, at right guard. He looks in line to be a starter on the line this fall.
Farrell’s take: Fontaine was an aggressive and talented big body coming out of high school. He had a high ceiling, but was very raw at the time. Fontaine's flip to the offensive line was unexpected a bit but he can have real success there because of his footwork and athleticism.
The skinny: Sims committed to Michigan in early April and never wavered on his pledge. He held upwards of 30 offers at the time of his commitment, including from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma. Despite enrolling early, Sims was never able to get a foothold in Ann Arbor. This led to his decision to transfer closer to home, which led him to sign with Georgia Tech during the spring of 2019. In his first season in Atlanta he totaled 16 tackles and three pass breakups.
Farrell’s take: Sims never panned out, which is surprising because he had so much talent despite being skinny. He was long and he could run but he didn’t become physical enough to crack the lineup. He could be a solid player at Georgia Tech, but not the star many expected.
The skinny: Gervin was initially an early commitment to Notre Dame before he re-opened his recruitment. He then took official visits to Oregon, Oklahoma and Nebraska during his senior season. However, it was in-state Michigan State that made his final two, along with the Ducks, which eventually led to his commitment to the Spartans. After redshirting in 2018, Gervin played in 10 games, earned one start, and totaled eight tackles.
Farrell’s take: Gervin was an elite corner with good speed and adequate size who was expected to contribute early. He’s yet to break out but this could be the season. He’s too good to be this limited.
The skinny: Faalele took official visits to Minnesota and Georgia, and also held offers from programs like LSU, Michigan, Florida State and Ohio State before committing to the Gophers during his official visit in early December. As a true freshman, Faalale started eight games at right tackle. He followed that up by starting 11 games last season, while helping a Gophers’ offense that totaled 5,616 yards, the third most in program history.
Farrell’s take: Faalele was a massive prospect out of IMG in Florida who was very raw but his ceiling and upside were off the charts. He’s quickly emerging as one of the best players in the Big Ten.
The skinny: Martinez initially committed to Tennessee, but when the Vols went through a coaching change, Nebraska quickly swooped in. New coach Scott Frost made him an immediate priority, and after an official visit to Lincoln, he flipped to the Huskers. As a true freshman Martinez showed promise with 2,617 passing yards and 629 rushing yards, however he didn’t perform up to expectations last fall with 1,956 yards through the air and 626 on the ground. Improved play is necessary if the Huskers hope to make an impact in the Big Ten this fall.
Farrell’s take: Martinez was a QB I liked a lot coming out of high school and he was very impressive at Under Armour week for his final rankings evaluation. He regressed last year as a signal caller under heavy expectations but his upside is still high.
The skinny: O’Rourke took visits to Northwestern, Illinois and Indiana during the spring, but the final visit to Evanston was enough for him to commit to the Wildcats. During his true freshman season, O’Rourke only saw action in two games, so he was able to keep his redshirt. However, injuries de-railed his 2019 season. With Joe Graziano lost to graduation, the time is now for O’Rourke to produce.
Farrell’s take: O’Rourke is the rare four-star to commit to Northwestern and was a huge in-state keep for the Wildcats. He hasn’t panned out yet, but this could be his breakout year.
The skinny: Petit-Frere committed to Ohio State on National Signing Day. This was not considered a big surprise, even though Florida was considered the front-runner for a good portion of his process. Michigan, Notre Dame and Alabama were also involved. Preparing for his third season in Columbus, this is the time for him to shine. He will have to fight to earn the starting right tackle spot, but the potential and talent is there for Petit-Frere to shine during the remainder of his collegiate career.
Farrell’s take: He was super athletic and very raw, so his five-star ranking was based on potential. We are still waiting for it to show. If he does become a starter, he’ll be very successful.
The skinny: Parsons initially committed to Penn State before backing off the pledge in order to take a closer look at a few other programs. Ohio State became the biggest challenge to Penn State, but the Nittany Lions were able to regain his commitment in late November.
Parsons has met all expectations during his first two seasons in Happy Valley, totaling 191 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. He was a first-team All-American as a sophomore and a freshman All-American in 2018. Another All-American caliber season is expected this fall and there should be no reason for him not to reach that height.
Farrell’s take: Parsons was a no-brainer five-star who played defensive end in high school but projected as an elite linebacker. He’s the best linebacker in the country now and a first-rounder next year.
After redshirting in 2018, Anderson totaled 31 receptions for 343 yards and three touchdowns last fall. He adequately took over for injured Rondale Moore, but with Moore’s return and the emergence of David Bell, he will be fighting for playing time.
Farrell’s take: Anderson was a solid prospect coming out of high school as a high three-star but Moore was in the same class so that was a bit of a miss. He’s going to struggle to put up numbers this season.
The skinny: Sitkowski initially committed to Miami, but then flipped to Rutgers in early November. He began his high school career in New Jersey, so he was always close to the Scarlet Knights’ program. His first two seasons in Piscataway have been far from positive. In 11 games, he has five touchdowns and 20 interceptions. This actually led him to enter the transfer portal, but with the return of coach Greg Schiano, he then decided to return. Can a new coaching staff invigorate his college career?
Farrell’s take: Sitkowski was a four-star when he was playing high school football in New Jersey but regressed when he went to IMG. He has not been good or come close to living up to the fanfare his flip from Miami elicited at the time.
The skinny: Sanborn took unofficial visits to Wisconsin, Duke, Iowa, Iowa State, Ohio State and Northwestern before committing to the Badgers during the spring after his junior season. Using his true freshman season to get his feet wet, Sanborn returned in 2018 and performed at a level that has many in Madison excited. Finishing with 80 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions, he looks in line to become one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten this fall.
Farrell’s take: Sanborn was a very good athlete who was a tackling machine and he’s hit his stride at Wisconsin.