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2011 Apr 06

KNOW YOUR BIG TEN: Top 40 Recruits, Nos. 10-1

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By HuskerLocker

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We scoured the recruiting lists and picked 40 players in the Big Ten who we think will make the biggest impact over the next 4-5 years.
 
One factor we considered – which skews in favor of quarterbacks – is the potential impact of a player. Impact is magnified by the importance of the position. And the QB is the most important player on the field.  

Nos. 10-1

No. 10 Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah: He finishes higher on the list than Aaron Green because of his ability to pound the ball through the tackles and his pass receiving skills. At 5-foot-9, 177 pounds, Abdullah seems small but he's built, especially in the legs. He flew under the radar until last summer, when he became an unqualified star at a variety of camps. As a senior in Alabama, he was spectacular, rushing for 1,795 yards, and catching 26 passes for 561 yards. Tack on four return touchdowns, and it's easy to see why USC and Auburn put on late pressure to grab Abdullah. He stuck with the Huskers, however.

No. 9 Ohio State defensive end Chase Farris: A dominant player in high school because of his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame, Farris also displays the savvy and smart play of a college upperclassman. He's developed moves, knows how to anchor the edge against the run, and fights off blockers with solid technique. Farris isn't exactly the fastest defensive end, but he makes for it by reading the quarterback and taking good pursuit angles. He's not as flashy as some of Buckeyes' other defensive end recruits, but he's more dependable.

No. 8 Nebraska defensive tackle Todd Peat, Jr.: The upside on this kid could be higher than any defensive tackle in the 2011 recruiting class, and he's headed to a program that knows how to develop great defensive tackles. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder has freakish athleticism. He appeared to get bored, frankly, in high school, and it showed in some inconsistent performances. He throws offensive linemen and ball carriers like rag dolls, spinning them to the earth with violence and ease. His frame is such that he can redistribute some of his weight to make him more effective against the run. Peat's high school film bears an uncanny resemblance to Ndamukong Suh, another inconsistent, occasionally-bored player in high school.

No. 7 Nebraska cornerback Charles Jackson: He plays the position like he loves to live on the edge. He challenges every receiver. Trusts his instincts won't fail him when he makes a break on the ball. Tackles well. Although a bit undersized at 5-11, 180, Jackson's vertical leap and catch-up speed make up for it. It's rare that high school cornerbacks come to college ready to play out of the chute. But Jackson can – and he just might.

No. 6 Michigan running back Justice Hayes: An electric runner who could evoke memories of Desmond Howard as a kick and punt returner, the 5-10, 175-pound Hayes plays like a pinball, bouncing and jumping and darting around problems. He can be tough to find in traffic, and tough to grab when you do. He's not exactly a blazer, but he breaks a ton of tackles and has the kind of vision that allows him to see a few defenders ahead of the move he's making. Hayes can play at wide receiver as running back, and Michigan should have a role for him next year. He'd be a lethal combination on the zone read with Denard Robinson, that's for sure.

No. 5 Penn State defensive end Anthony Zettel: Unquestionably PSU's top recruit of the 2011 class, Zettel reminds us of a Jared Crick-type player at end. Really quick off the ball. Physically superior to most kids in his class. Relentless. Tough. Hot motor. His 6-4, 250-pound could actually allow him to slide inside, gain 40 pounds and become a defensive tackle. He can shoot gaps and bust double teams. He's the best Big Ten defensive line prospect on the board, in our opinion.

No. 4 Iowa running back Mikail McCall: Highly underrated back whose 5-11, 210-pound frame is packed with surprising breakaway speed, McCall is perfectly suited for the Hawkeyes' system. He spent his high school career running the stretch zone and inside counter plays Iowa specializes in. Runs with forward lean and considerable, impressive momentum. Knows how to jump cut back against the grain. Pulls away from defensive backs in the secondary. The knock is his 40-yard dash time, but his on-field speed in videos tells a different story. He's a real keeper.

No. 3 Michigan State linebacker Lawrence Thomas: They don't make them like Thomas every day, a giant linebacker at 6-4, 230 whose stock dropped during senior All-Star games when he didn't make much of an impact in drills. Thomas needs a little polish, sure. But he's the lottery winner in the athletic gene pool, with 4.6 speed, strength and ferocious hitting skills. He could play defensive end, outside linebacker or right in the middle. In a sheer skillset, he reminds of a Brian Urlacher type, although not quite as fast as Urlacher.

No. 2 Ohio State linebacker Curtis Grant: A natural, instinctive linebacker with terrific size, the 6-3, 220-pound Grant plays the Mike the way it should be. He has good recognition skills. He plays downhill and takes on blockers in the running game. He's a smart blitzer, timing up snap counts for the best possible pass rush. He doesn't overextend himself on playaction. He has a good motor and a better brain for the game. Grant's drawn comparisons to a young Ray Lewis. We'll see if he can live up to those. OSU may need him early in 2011.

No. 1 Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller: Could he play in 2011? He just might, considering the Buckeyes need somebody to man the spot whole Terrelle Pryor sits out five games because of a suspension. Miller is seemingly a close of former OSU Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith – hopefully without Smith's off-the-field issues. At 6-2, 185 pounds, Miller is a fluid runner, a savvy, composed passer and elusive as all get out. Another useful comparison is Tyrod Taylor, who just finished his career at Virginia Tech and played in three Orange Bowls. Miller's at the top because he controls his own destiny – even this year – and has the potential keys to the Big Ten's best program.

See also: Nos. 40-31, 30-21, 20-11,

Tags: know your big ten, recruiting, big ten top 40 recruits, charles jackson, ameer abdullah, todd peat

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