How notable early enrollees in the Big Ten fared during spring practice
Penn State cornerback Lamont Wade during an autograph session prior to the annual Blue-White game on April 22, 2017. Joe Hermitt | firstname.lastname@example.org
Across the Big Ten, talented freshmen skipped their final semester of high school to enroll early and get a jumpstart on their college careers by participating in spring practice. In the Class of 2017, every Big Ten school except for Iowa signed at least two early enrollees. On the Banks, SB Nation’s Rutgers blog, has a nice breakdown of the numbers across the Big Ten. Michigan had the most, with 11, while Ohio State and Maryland had nine and eight early enrollees, respectively.
So who were some of these early enrollees? And how did they fare?
Browning was a five-star recruit and the No. 11 player in the nation in the 247Sports composite rankings. He was expected to help boost a unit that lost Raekwon McMillan to the NFL draft, but he suffered a shoulder injury in March and needed surgery. He was sidelined for the rest of practice, but he’s expected to return at full strength for the fall.
“I don’t want to get into too much detail, because I’m not exactly sure until they get it figured out,” coach Urban Meyer said. “They’re saying he’ll be 100 percent by June. As of now, he’ll play this fall — because of the way he’s been doing [in practice], too.”
The Buckeyes secondary — which had three early enrollees in practice this spring — struggled during the team’s spring game, but Okudah, a five-star recruit and No. 7 player in the nation, earned some kudos from Cleveland.com:
“Former five-star cornerback Jeffrey Okudah was in on a handful of pass breakups. He’s probably the most advanced freshman on the team, and there wasn’t really any glaring issue or blown coverage that left a bad impression.”
Michigan receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones is seen on the bench during the Michigan spring football game, Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Peoples-Jones, a five-star recruit and the No. 12 player in the nation, was one of two early enrollee wide receivers for the Wolverines alongside Tarik Black. Peoples-Jones, a Detroit native, had two catches in Michigan’s spring game and didn’t drop any passes. Michigan needs to replace two of its top wide receivers, and Peoples-Jones could play a big part in boosting the Wolverines passing game.
“He’s really serious about being good, that’s what’s stood out the most,” coach Jim Harbaugh told MLive earlier this month. “That’s standing out even more than some of the physical attributes that he has.
“So far so good. But he’s serious about being good. Very smart.”
Penn State cornerback Lamont Wade smiles after knocking down a pass during the annual Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium on April 22, 2017. Joe Hermitt | email@example.com
Wade, a four-star recruit and No. 46 player in the nation, committed to the Nittany Lions with much fanfare in December after a legendary career at Clairton in Western Pennsylvania. He immediately made an impression and was “killing it at corner,” and in the Blue-White game last week, he broke up the first pass attempt thrown in his direction. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry thinks he’ll make an immediate impact.
“The maturity, the way he approaches practice, his work ethic,” Pry said.
“The guy should be getting ready for the prom and he’s out there competing against (wideout) Juwan Johnson. He’s just an impressive guy.
“He can handle a poor play and bounce right back. He’s got a lot of confidence for a young guy. He reminds me a lot of John Reid in how he studies the game. … He’s what I would call a ‘Tell him once, guy’. He doesn’t make many mistakes twice.”