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August 29, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Entering college as the No. 1 player at his position, and No. 3 overall prospect in the class of 2010 Rivals100, there were lofty expectations surrounding Hillsdale (Ill.) Proviso West wide receiver Kyle Prater two years ago.
At 6-foot-5 and over 200 pounds, Prater was frequently compared to previously highly ranked receivers such as Julio Jones and Rueben Randle. Prater's one-reception tenure at USC and subsequent transfer to Northwestern has lessened the shine on his "can't miss" label.
Prater leads the pack of Big Ten players who need to shine entering the upcoming football season not only for the success of their team but also to justify the early hype each player received coming out of high school.
Louis Vaccher, who has covered the Northwestern program for the last seven years for WildcatReport.com , said expectations for Prater may need to be tempered a little.
"There are two sets of expectations, the realistic and the unrealistic," he said. "Prater will tell you that he's just working to learn the offense and earn a starting job. However, there are still many fans out there who will expect Prater to step onto the field and dominate from Day One.
"They look at him, at 6-foot-5, and think he should be the second coming of Calvin Johnson."
Northwestern boasts arguably the deepest receiving corps in the conference, meaning Prater's role and impact may be limited.
Vaccher believes that Prater could be a solid offensive weapon and that his presence could be a major boost for a program that has struggled to score touchdowns when inside the 10-yard line.
"He's a very big, physical outside receiver with leaping ability and great body control," he said. "I think he can be a real weapon for Northwestern in the red zone. He may not be the 'Megatron' many envision, but I think fans will be happy if he can be an impact player inside the 20."
So, a player that would have been viewed as program-changing commit for Northwestern during the recruiting process is now just trying to find his spot on the roster.
"He has already attracted a lot of attention from the Chicago media, and he will probably draw some eyeballs to Northwestern that weren't there before," Vaccher said. "But I don't think that we will one day refer to this as the Kyle Prater Era."
Prater still has three years of eligibility remaining to prove his doubters wrong. The potential Prater Era begins Sept. 1 against Syracuse.
Below is a look at the other former top prospects who need to step up in the Big Ten. (Click player's name for a look at his prospect profile coming out of high school):