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August 9, 2013

Big Ten: Newcomers who could make impact

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Predicting these things is no exact science. But, with a few key positions on key teams up for grabs, new players will become households names during the upcoming Big Ten season.

If everything breaks correctly, both Purdue and Penn State could start true freshman at quarterback. Wisconsin had a junior college transfer in the mix at the position as well. It doesn't end at the most important position on the field, though.

Iowa and Purdue have JUCO wide receivers competing for serious for playing time. Minnesota may roll out freshmen at kicker and punter. Plenty of other spots across the conference are up for grabs.

Some of the league's highest-ranked prospects will have to wait their turn while other, not-so-familiar new names have walked into ideal situations. Making an early impact is as much about depth charts as it is about talent, and the Big Ten's crop of true freshman and JUCO transfers prove just that.

As the college football season approaches, Rivals.com is breaking down the conferences across the country to see which five true freshmen or junior college transfers could have the biggest impact.

Measurables: 6-foot-4, 212 pounds. Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy
Recruiting ranking: Four stars. No. 2 pro-style quarterback, No. 24 overall in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour.
Buzz: Hackenberg is a bit of a risky pick only because he is a true freshman locked in a position battle. There's a chance he loses the starting job and redshirts this season, reducing his impact to holding a clipboard. With that in mind, though, leaving him off the list would be just as risky. Hackenberg has all of the physical tools to be a great Big Ten quarterback. If he adjusts to the college game well during camp, there's no reason he shouldn't win the job. After all, there are few better places to make an instant impact on the league than as quarterback. If Hackenberg finds his way to the top of the depth chart, he'll instantly become the Big Ten's most important newcomer.

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 9 pro-style quarterback. No. 167 overall in the Rivals250 presented by Under Armour.
Buzz: From one risky choice to another, Etling is in the same situation as Hackenberg. Etling is in the mix to win Purdue's starting quarterback job. And if he does that, his name will be one everybody will get to know. He's competing with fifth-year senior Rob Henry, but early indications are that Etling's arm is good enough to earn the top spot. Etling, who has a great build, started the spring No. 3 on the depth chart but has already clawed his way into the backup role. There's plenty of reason to think the Boilermakers may break camp with a true freshman at the helm of their offense.

Measurables: 5-foot-10, 174 pounds. Desoto, Texas
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 5 all-purpose back. No. 100 overall in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour.
Buzz: Wilson is much closer to a sure thing than either of the two quarterbacks listed. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has already been on record saying his speedy freshman will, indeed, play this season. How much he'll play, however, is up unclear. Ideally, Meyer will use Wilson out of the backfield as well as splitting him out wide. If he continues to excel in both roles, he'll get a solid number of touches for a national title contender. The talent that surrounds him and the situation in which he walked into make Wilson an easy pick. Few true freshman are as poised to make an instant impact as he is.

Measurables: 6-foot-5, 225 pounds. Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College
Recruiting rankings: Three stars. No. 80 overall in the Rivals Junior College 100 presented by Under Armour.
Buzz: Minnesota needed some linebackers, and talented JUCO transfer De'Vondre Campbell needed a place that would allow him to play immediately. The two came together on signing day and, just like that, Campbell is on this list. Campbell, who was committed to Kansas State and Tennessee during the process, was a signing-day surprise for the Gophers. Now, just few months later he looks to be a serious threat to grab a starting job. Campbell was a certifiable commodity out of junior college for good reason. He has the size and the speed necessary to make an impact on Big Ten as a first-year player. It certainly helps his cause that his team is thin on top talent at the linebacker spot.

Measurables: 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. Arizona Western Community College
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 11 overall in the Rivals Junior College 100 presented by Under Armour.
Buzz: Nebraska has not released its initial depth chart, but there's reason to think Gregory will be listed as a starter when the time comes. Head coach Bo Pelini has already singled out the 230-pound defensive end when discussing players who have impressed in early practices. The former junior college star's teammates are also singing his praises. Gregory, who will have three years to play at Nebraska, sat out last season with an injury but is now fully recovered. His skill set is solid across the board but Gregory really shines when it comes to rushing the passer, which plays right into the Huskers' needs. Gregory has a college-ready body and was considered to be one of the top junior college prospects in last year's class despite missing the entire season.

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