The Big Ten's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2015

These young players could have a big impact on the conference race during their first full season of action.

As the Big Ten Conference improves, so too does the incoming talent. The end result is a new crop of players talented enough to crack their respective starting lineups and make an impact throughout the season.

 

The Big Ten has a group of freshmen as talented as any conference in the country. They'll be stepping into starting roles or regular rotations and likely having a say in how the 2015 college football season plays out.

 

Related: Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015

 

Here are the ten freshmen to watch in the Big Ten this fall.

 

Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan

Peppers made this list last season but ended up redshirting after playing limited downs. Various reports out of Ann Arbor say that Peppers is quite simply the best player on Michigan's roster. He's going to lead Michigan's secondary and be an integral part of what Jim Harbaugh wants to do on special teams. Don't be shocked to see him used on offense as well.

 

Madre London, RB, Michigan State

The departure of Jeremy Langford leaves a gaping hole to fill in the Spartan backfield. It's looking more and more like that hole will be filled by committee for the time being. London figures heavily into that committee and could eventually emerge as the bell cow. He's as complete a back as Michigan State has on its roster, physical enough to get tough yards inside and quick enough to shoot 30 yards downfield in a blink.

 

Derwin Gray, T, Maryland

The 6-foot-5, 328-pound Gray is a monster with unlimited potential. He'll be thrust into a starting role immediately and will be a key piece in Maryland's quest to play in a bowl. In an offense with not a lot of individual playmaking talent at the skill positions, the ability to protect the pocket and own the edge will be instrumental to Maryland's success in 2015.

 

Vayante Copeland, CB, Michigan State

Copeland is one of the more decorated high school players to come out of Ohio in recent memory. He'll compete for a starting spot at corner, but will be a regular fixture in the Spartan secondary regardless of whether or not he wins the starting role. His ability to play like an upperclassman will be critical in a year where Michigan State is considered by many as a dark horse in the College Football Playoff conversation.

 

Nick Allegretti, G, Illinois

Protecting Wes Lunt and opening holes for Josh Ferguson are steps one and two in the plan for Illinois offensive success in 2015. Allegretti will be the youngest member of an offensive line that returns three starters. If the Illini are to make a repeat bowl appearance, Allegretti will play a pivotal role in that attempt.

 

Isaiah Gentry, WR, Minnesota

In an offense with limited skill position weapons, Gentry could be a major factor — particularly in the red zone. The departure of Maxx Williams leaves quarterback Mitch Leidner without a big, dependable target downfield. Gentry's prototypical (6-4, 210), NFL-caliber frame is going to be very inviting to a quarterback who likes to throw on the run.

 

Markell Jones, RB, Purdue

The Boilermaker offensive line returns five starters and figure to be the strength of Purdue. Markell Jones — Indiana's 2014 Mr. Football — is likely to be the feature back running behind the group. Jones is a patient runner with good vision. He may very well be the difference for Purdue down the stretch in close games, eating up yards and clock to preserve a couple of wins.

 

T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin

Edwards joins a talented linebacker corps that includes Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel. The former high school quarterback will be tasked with reading some of the better signal-callers in the conference and using his speed and athleticism to make key stops. It's important that Wisconsin does not get into shootouts throughout the season. Edwards will play a key role in that effort.

 

Dedrick Young, LB, Nebraska

Husker fans and media alike can't stop blushing and gushing over Young's physical attributes. "Grown man" is a term commonly used to describe him, and that's going to have to be the case in 2015. He figures to play plenty of snaps — if not start — in what may be Nebraska's thinnest position group from both a talent and depth standpoint. If he can step in and pick up the new defense quickly, it would prevent a lot of would-be heartburn in Husker Nation.

 

Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin

Running the ball down the opponent's throat has become both Wisconsin's strategy and identity. That's not likely to change under new head coach Paul Chryst. The Badgers are expecting big things from running back Corey Clement in 2015, and Deiter will play a key role if those big things coming to fruition. If he can play anywhere near the level of returning starters Tyler Marz and Dan Voltz, the Badgers should once again field one of the better offensive lines in the conference.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

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