football Edit

Six true freshmen to watch in the Big Ten

The college football season is right around the corner and there will be plenty of true freshmen who will make an immediate impact. Here is a look at six players in the Big Ten we are excited to watch this season.

MORE BIG TEN COVERAGE: The highest-ranked signee for each Big Ten program

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State

Zach Charbonnet
Zach Charbonnet (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: In the summer before his senior season, Charbonnet committed to Michigan over USC, Florida, Notre Dame and others. The four-star running back did not seriously look at any other programs following his pledge to the Wolverines.

Overview: Michigan was hit by some losses in the backfield and while the Wolverines have some solid options, there is an opportunity for Charbonnet to see the field early. He is physically impressive, known as a machine in the weight room, and he could be perfect for what Michigan wants to do on offense. He can handle a big workload and with no returning starters in the backfield, the former four-star could take a leading role through preseason camp.

Farrell’s take: Charbonnet was one of the running backs last year we looked hard and long at when it comes to a five-star ranking. He's that talented. He’s a great fit in the Michigan offense, especially the new one, and he could hit the ground running.


Zach Harrison
Zach Harrison (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: There was a long, elaborate recruiting battle for Harrison that took a couple years, and the five-star defensive end picked Ohio State over Michigan and Penn State during the Early Signing Period.

Overview: Ohio State was not great against the run last season and the Buckeyes suffered some major departures in Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones but there is plenty of talent returning and now Harrison will have his shot to make an early impact. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, the five-star has tremendous upside and is one of the most athletic players regardless of position in the 2019 recruiting class. He could see the field early for the Buckeyes because players like him don’t show up too often.

Farrell’s take: Harrison was one of the more raw five-stars in the 2019 class, and we ranked him that highly because of his ceiling and long-term potential. However, he is already ahead of schedule and could make a major impact in the Ohio State defense right away. Harrison certainly has the skills and raw athleticism to learn on the job.


George Karlaftis
George Karlaftis (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: Karlaftis committed to Purdue in the fall of his junior season but Michigan and many others continued to pursue the four-star defensive end. After all was said and done, though, the West Lafayette, Ind., standout stuck with the Boilermakers.

Overview: Purdue returns a whole lot to its defense but Karlaftis is so talented that keeping him off the field might make no sense at all. Ranked as the second-best player in the state of Indiana rankings behind Purdue receiver David Bell, who should also see significant action as a freshman, Karlaftis can create problems as an edge rusher and someone who should constantly apply pressure to the offense.

Farrell’s take: Karlaftis was big and physical enough out of high school to make an early impact and he’s technically sound and smart, so I can’t see him spending a bunch of time watching and learning. I expect him to be in the rotation early.


Graham Mertz
Graham Mertz (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and others tried to flip Mertz, but he tweeted in the summer before his senior season that he was officially shutting down his recruitment and sticking with the Badgers.

Overview: Jack Coan might have an edge in the preseason to take over the Badgers' starting quarterback job, but Mertz is so talented and so special that he’s going to make a run at that starting position as well. Maybe Coan gets the nod against South Florida in the opener but Mertz, who was under five-star consideration, could offer so much more to the Badgers’ offense and if there is any stumble early on from Coan then Mertz could step in right away - if not just win the job in preseason camp.

Farrell’s take: I’m not a big believer in Coan unless he’s improved a ton and I really like Mertz and his maturity. He’s an unflappable kid who plays beyond his years and is the best quarterback signee Wisconsin has had in a long time. There’s no way he doesn’t impact.


Wan'Dale Robinson
Wan'Dale Robinson (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: An early commit to Kentucky, Robinson flipped his pledge to Nebraska in December of his senior season. The Huskers felt good about landing Robinson prior to his Kentucky pledge and even after he picked the Wildcats, Nebraska never stopped recruiting him and eventually landed his commitment.

Overview: Whether right or wrong, Robinson has been compared to Purdue’s Rondale Moore in that he’s an undersized receiver but a huge matchup problem for linebackers and defensive backs in the Big Ten. Robinson should have a chance early on to line up in the slot and make plays and to provide another spark to the Huskers’ offense. Many believe he’s a perfect fit for what coach Scott Frost wants to do on offense.

Farrell’s take: Robinson will be used many ways in Frost's offense and should touch the ball often. The Rondale Moore-level expectations are a little much, but he’s a great fit and will give opponents fits in the Big Ten. Watch for him to get better and better as the season wears on and he gets more comfortable.


Garrett Wilson
Garrett Wilson (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: Ohio State beat Texas and others for Wilson, who played at Austin (Texas) Lake Travis but who lived in the Columbus area until he was 12-years-old. Wilson committed to the Buckeyes in the spring before his senior season.

Overview: The Buckeyes lost some significant firepower at receiver, but this is Ohio State, so there are still a number of returning players at that position who could make an impact. The opportunity, though, is there for Wilson to make an early impact at receiver especially with the losses of Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon to really show his worth in the offense. Ohio State will be looking for playmakers at receiver and Wilson is one of the best at making big things happen.

Farrell’s take: Wilson was a guy who was very close to a fifth star and based on early returns, he’ll make an immediate impact for the Buckeyes based on his skill set. He’s a good route runner, adjusts to the ball well and can make some spectacular catches. Wilson has a chance to be a star in college.