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Top incoming freshmen in the Big Ten for the 2022 season

Breaking down true freshmen from each Big Ten school who are poised to make an impact.

Michigan Spring Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

Believe it or not, we are 99 days away from the 2022 college football season.

With rosters turning over from last year, teams in the Big Ten and across the country will be turning to some of their incoming freshmen to provide some depth to their rosters, and in some circumstances be able to see the field and contribute right away.

Today, we will break down a top incoming freshmen from each school Big Ten school and what their outlooks might be for the 2022 season.

Michigan — Will Johnson, CB

Johnson is the Michigan Wolverines’ lone five-star recruit in its 2022 class and figures to make an immediate impact. While it’s possible the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder from Grosse Pointe could be in a starting role at some point in the season, he will at least be a contributor as a No. 2 to either Gemon Green or DJ Turner.

With Vincent Gray off to the NFL, Johnson is nice to have being a freshman who can come in and provide depth to the room right away.

Ohio State — C.J. Hicks, LB

The Buckeyes’ 2022 class ranked No. 4 in the country according to 247Sports, with Hicks being the No. 7 ranked overall player in the class. Hicks’ recruitment is timely considering that’s a position group that struggled to an extent in some of Ohio State’s tougher games last season.

That’s something new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will look to fix this season, but the good news for Buckeye fans is they have key returners at the position in the likes of Steele Chambers, Tommy Eichenberg and Cody Simon and have plenty of talent at the position despite some struggles last season.

Michigan State — Alex VanSumeren, DL

Michigan fans will recognize this name since Ben VanSumeren, Alex’s older brother, played three seasons for the Wolverines before transferring to MSU himself. The younger VanSumeren comes in as a 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman who shows good explosiveness for his size.

Seeing the field right away may be a challenge considering the Spartans’ depth, but he’s a player Mel Tucker and the MSU coaching staff will be excited about moving forward.

Northwestern — Reggie Fleurima, WR

The Wildcats landed a dynamic wide receiver in its 2022 class in Reggie Fleurima. His presence on Northwestern’s offense can only help a passing offense that ranked 102nd in the nation in passing yards per game in 2021.

According to the 247Sports composite, he is the 11th best Northwestern recruit of all time. In the class of 2022, he was ranked as the No. 37 wide receiver and the No. 7 player in the state of Illinois.

Rutgers — Moses Walker, LB

Moses Walker is the Scarlet Knights’ most touted incoming freshman. The four-star, 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker from Brooklyn seems to perfectly fit the mold of a Greg Schiano football team, being known for his toughness and willingness to sacrifice his body to make plays, according to analysis from 247Sports’ Brian Dohn.

Dohn also praised Walker’s speed and ability to fit run gaps and pursue the ball, which could greatly benefit of Rutgers team that showed flashes in certain moments last season.

Penn State — Nick Singleton, RB

There are multiple players to choose from when talking about Penn State’s No. 8 ranked recruiting class in the country for the 2022 class, but let’s talk about Nick Singleton. The running back position is one Penn State needs a spark from (and they could use some help from their offensive line), but maybe Singleton will be able to give that to the offense in the near future. He is a 6-foot, 210-pound back with big play ability and acceleration.

Illinois — Aiden Laughery, ATH

Brett Bielema and the Illini didn’t put together a great recruiting class, but Aiden Laughery is a two-way player coming out of high school who could provide some versatility for the team. 247Sports’ Allen Trieu wrote that Laughery could play a combination of defensive back, running back and slot receiver at the college level.

Purdue — Brady Allen, QB

Purdue was able to secure a big in-state signing from quarterback Brady Allen from Fort Branch, Ind. Purdue has its veteran quarterback back this season in Aidan O’Connell, but Allen, who is Purdue’s No. 7 recruit of all-time according to the composite, will be waiting in the wings and awaiting his turn when it comes.

His 6-foot-5 frame gives him the ability to be a prototypical pocket passer, while his arm strength allows for him to make almost all of the throws necessary.

Minnesota — Trey Bixby, DL

Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck kept 6-foot-5, 250-pound Trey Bixby home, as Bixby is from Minneapolis. According to the composite, he was ranked as the No. 42 defensive lineman and No. 2 player in the state of Minnesota in his class. Trieu wrote in his analysis that he still has areas of growth, but projects as a strongside end, a 3-4 end with the potential to play inside if he puts weight on.

Iowa — Xavier Nwankpa, ATH

Nwankpa, an athlete from Des Moines, Iowa, signed with the Iowa Hawkeyes and is the team’s top ranked incoming freshman. In high school, he played as a defensive back with the ability to cover multiple types of wide receivers in a variety of defensive packages. He could be a scary addition to an Iowa defense that essentially carried the team to 10 wins in 2021, whether he contributes immediately or a little down the road.

Nebraska — Jaeden Gould, CB

Scott Frost’s top ranked incoming freshman, Gould was the No. 254 ranked prospect in the 2022 class, the No. 31 overall corner and the No. 3 ranked player in New Jersey. 247 Sports’ Gabe Brooks wrote in his analysis that Gould should become a quality Power 5 starter and plays a physical brand of coverage while often contesting the ball with authority at the catch point.

Maryland — Jaishawn Barham, LB

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker from St. Frances Academy stayed home and is Maryland’s highest regarded freshman going into the fall. Dohn wrote that Barham has “second round NFL Draft potential” and he hits gaps quickly and is highly active in the running game and pursues the ball well. Areas of improvement include ability to get to quarterback on the blitz and improving his man coverage, according to Dohn.

Indiana — Dasan McCullough, LB

The Hoosiers couldn’t let McCulough get away from them, being he is from Bloomington, and Tom Allen kept the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder around. It wasn’t easy, as McCullough was originally an Ohio State commit and the No. 1 ranked recruit for Indiana football all-time, according to the composite.

McCullough is projected to be an edge-type player. He has experience playing multiple defensive positions in high school, which has led to him developing a wide range of skillset to be ready for Big Ten football.

Wisconsin — Joe Brunner, OT

Wisconsin's highest regarded freshman is a 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive lineman from Milwaukee. Brunner fits the Wisconsin mold to perfection, as he is a hard nosed offensive lineman who finishes his blocks whose biggest strength right now is in the run blocking game, according to Trieu. Brunner seems poised to help lead an always tough to deal with Wisconsin rushing attack in the future.