Wells, Evans lead freshman watch list

Here's a look at the five freshmen who will make an impact in the Big Ten this season.

1. RB Chris Wells, Ohio State
Ohio State's Antonio Pittman quietly rushed for more than 1,300 yards in 2005, but Wells is clearly the future at running back for the Buckeyes.

The Garfield High (Akron, Ohio) product is the ultimate Big Ten power back, and his supreme combination of rare size, speed and lower-body strength will provide the thunder to Pittman's lightning.

Coaches are expecting Wells to consistently push Pittman for the starting tailback job in 2006. And by the way, Wells will make Ohio State fans forget all about Maurice Clarett.

2. DE Maurice Evans, Penn State
Not only is Evans an explosive pass rusher but the Nittany Lions need him because only one starter returns from last year's front four. Our top-ranked DE in 2006 exploded on the scene as a high school senior and is capable of making an impact this fall.

Christ the King High School in New York is primarily known as a basketball school, which is why Evans' name might not be all that familiar -- but it will be.

Evans has the size to contribute right away, and his initial quickness off the ball and closing burst to the quarterback are special.

3. RB Lance Smith, Wisconsin
You might be wondering: Who is Lance Smith? Well, this kid was a huge steal out of Warren, Ohio, and with redshirt freshman P.J. Hill being an unknown at this point for the Badgers, expect Smith not only to play a lot but to end up being the starter sometime in 2006.

Smith will remind many Wisconsin fans of Michael Bennett, only he might be even more explosive. Smith has game-breaking ability and an aggressive running style. He will fit in perfectly with Wisconsin's power zone running scheme.

4. CB/S A.J. Wallace, Penn State
Ideally, Penn State coaches would like to see Wallace line up at cornerback opposite sophomore Justin King, but the bottom line is to get him on the field any way they can.

The Maryland product is a special athlete with rare size for a cornerback, giving him value and versatility to play safety or move inside as a nickel. Penn State is thin in the secondary, and with the recent early success of Derrick Williams and King, Wallace could emerge early.

Expect Wallace to add speed and athleticism to this defense as the secondary will be tested early and often.

5. QB Isiah "Juice" Williams, Illinois
Ron Zook and his Fighting Illini have nowhere to go but up, and why not do it with better athletes than the ones he and his staff inherited. In-state phenom quarterback/athlete Williams likely will be the starter among many true freshmen expected to see significant playing time in 2006.

The Illinois roster lacks speed and athleticism across the board, and Williams is a dual-threat quarterback who can make things happen under center. Expect to see the Illinois offensive scheme become more spread out to enhance Williams' ability to throw and run.

The 2006 recruiting class for Illinois could be the one that gets this program back on the right track.

Tom Luginbill is the national recruiting director for ESPN's Scouts Inc. He is a former quarterback, scout and coach. For more on recruiting, check out the Recruiting index.