14 Big Ten football players poised to break out in the fall
A look at football players in the Big Ten this spring who are poised to have standout seasons this fall:
WRs Nick Westbrook and Donovan Hale, seniors. Westbrook, who missed 2017 with an ACL tear, showed glimpses of his pre-injury talent last season but not the gaudy numbers. Hale emerged as a legitimate go-to receiver. Together, the 6-foot-3 Westbrook and 6-4 Hale should give Indiana one of the Big Ten’s most physical receiving tandems.
RB Anthony McFarland, sophomore. He started five games as a freshman yet still managed to top the 1,000-yard mark. He raised eyebrows around the Big Ten after running for 298 yards against Ohio State. Now he’s poised to become one of the league’s dominant backs.
CB Ambry Thomas, junior. His career highlight is returning a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against Notre Dame. Now he gets his opportunity at corner, where he was a four-star recruit and one of the nation’s top prospects in 2016. He’ll play opposite high school teammate Lavert Hill.
S Xavier Henderson, sophomore. He’s the heir apparent to the starting strong safety job. Henderson was the Spartans’ only true freshman to play in all 13 games, mostly at nickelback on third downs. He’s looking to build on a season in which he made 15 tackles, recovered a fumble and excelled on special teams.
WR Garrett Wilson, freshman. The early enrollee impressed with his maturity and appears to have the makings of a star. Wilson created buzz in the spring game when he out-jumped a defensive back for a long touchdown catch. There are a number of receivers ahead of Wilson, but it might not take long for this five-star recruit to emerge.
S Lamont Wade, junior. The Nittany Lions need to find a replacement for Nick Scott, and Wade is among the top candidates after playing a reserve role his first two years. He showed up in Happy Valley as a four-star recruit at cornerback but was moved to safety before his sophomore year.
RB Isaih Pacheco, sophomore. Playing in Raheem Blackshear’s shadow, Pacheco had 551 yards on 111 carries and scored three touchdowns. If Blackshear splits time in the slot and at running back, Pacheco will see increasing opportunities for an offense looking to improve its No. 106 ranking in rushing.