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Recruiting rewind: All-B1G D, special teams

12/12/2012

By now, you've seen how our All-Big Ten selections on offense stacked up as recruits. Now it's time to look at how ESPN Recruiting evaluated the eventual All-Big Ten defenders and specialists.

As a reminder, these capsules list each player's scouting grade, which is explained here, along with where they ranked nationally overall (if applicable), by position and within their region. Note: Not all region and state rankings are available, so the Scout Grade and the national position rankings are most significant. I also list quotes from recruiting analysts about the prospects at the time (if available).

In case you missed it, here's our All-Big Ten team.

DEFENSE

DL: John Simon, Ohio State, Class of 2009: Scout Grade of 80, rated as nation's 16th best defensive tackle. Analysis: "Simon is a high-motor defender who makes opponents work. He works until the whistle and frequently gets in on plays even after he seems blocked. Has a lean, athletic build that resembles an oversized defensive end more than a defensive tackle. Needs to add bulk to his frame to hold up in the trenches in college. Could take some reps at end, but his skill set makes him better suited for playing inside."

DL: Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State, Class of 2010: Scout Grade of 76, rated as nation's 49th best defensive tackle. Analysis: "While he is basically a two-gap defensive tackle he will show flashes of being able to quickly step laterally and when he can get into the gap he can rumble up-field and be disruptive in the backfield. He is built to do his damage between the tackles, but shows some hustle for a big man and will turn and run to ball. Hankins shows some flashes, but will really be the best friend of his teammates in the front seven as he can take up space and eat up blocks that should allow them to make plays and at times the big man shows he can make a play of his own."

DL: Jordan Hill, Penn State, Class of 2009: Scout Grade of 76, rated as nation's 77th best defensive end, 159th best player in East region. Analysis: "Hill is a monster sized middle linebacker for his high school team. While he is not too shabby at linebacker with his size a better fit will be along the defensive line. He could make a nice sized run defender at the defensive end position. He is solid with his hands as a linebacker trying to take on and shed from blocks, but he will need to be more violent with his weapons as an end as he will need to engage and separate much quicker from blockers. Now he will tend to lose his hands some. He is a stout kid that is tough to move, but will need to focus on playing lower."

LB: Michael Mauti, Penn State, Class of 2008: Scout Grade of 82, rated as nation's No. 3 inside linebacker and 58th best player, 36th best player in Southeast region. Analysis: "Mauti possesses great instincts, a non-stop motor and extreme aggression -- all the qualities you look for in your middle linebacker and defensive captain. He plays physical and possesses good size to take on fullbacks and linemen between the tackles. One of his best attributes is his ability to shed -- he flashes good hand technique and sifts well through the trash without losing any speed. While he is not an elite sideline-to-sideline chaser, he possesses a great short-area burst and excellent closing speed for rugged run plugger."

LB: Ryan Shazier, Ohio State, Class of 2011: Scout Grade of 81, rated as nation's No. 4 outside linebacker and 81st best player, 47th best player in Southeast region. Analysis: "Shazier is explosive and quick as an edge rusher however although his height is what we like to see for the defensive end position his weight is lacking at the present time. Therefore a move to the OLB position is a possibility. This is a very flexible and athletic player; is extremely quick across the line of scrimmage showing good instincts with the ability to change direction vs. inside and outside run plays. His quick hands allow him to play off blockers while working through traffic. Does a nice job applying up field pressure with the great quickness and balance necessary to work back inside and flatten down the line on plays away. His backside pursuit is relentless. "

LB: Jake Ryan, Michigan, Class of 2010: Scout Grade of 77, rated as nation's 60th best outside linebacker. Analysis: "Ryan is a sleeper outside linebacker prospect with the potential to grow into a defensive end. Is tall, well-built and strong but lean and high-cut enough to add a lot more bulk. Has good height and body length on the outside needed to keep blockers off his body when attacking vertically or stringing out the run to the perimeter. Uses hands well as a shedder. Covers a lot of ground and is difficult to outflank. Can lunge and leave his feet but is a strong reach-and-grab type tackler who is difficult to escape."

LB: Chris Borland, Wisconsin, Class of 2009: Scout Grade of 74, rated as nation's 134th best athlete. Analysis: "Borland is an good athlete but impresses you more as a total football player on film. He has good size with his compact, thickly-built frame. A very durable prospect. Could get recruited on either side of the ball at the next level and will bring a lot of toughness and versatility to a college roster. Flashes good athleticism and range when employed at linebacker. Displays sound instincts and nose for finding the football quickly. His ability to hold his base versus bigger D-I linemen on the cutoff block and provide stout run support at the point of attack is our main concern with his current size."

DB: Bradley Roby, Ohio State, Class of 2010: Scout Grade of 78, rated as nation's 42nd best athlete. Analysis: "Roby may be one of the more underrated receivers out of Georgia this year. His very good blend of size, speed and secure hands are highly sought-after at the next level. May get a look at corner as he flashes the great speed, body length and ball skills sought-after as a perimeter defender. Overall, this is a guy who may be falling under the radar nationally and with some positional polish should develop into a very good wideout or corner at the major college level. We also like his ability to return kicks as well as cover them showing his athleticism and versatility."

DB: Ciante Evans, Nebraska, Class of 2010: Scout Grade of 76, rated as nation's 52nd best athlete. Analysis: "Uses hands well jamming receivers off the line and taking away leverage but needs to continue filling out and improve upper-body strength. Shows a bit of stiffness at times but flips his hips, opens and redirects sharply mirroring off the line for a taller, high-cut corner. Displays good overall footwork and polished technique. Recovers quickly and can be difficult to create separation on with his body length and proper positioning. Shows promising ability as an underneath zone corner once he fills out."

DB: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State, Class of 2010: Scout Grade of 74, evaluated as a wide receiver, rated as nation's 166th best wideout. Analysis: "Dennard is a sleeper at the wide receiver position and is a prospect who could see his recruiting stock improve with another productive season. Has a taller, longer frame with a large catch-radius but is still very lean. Will need to fill out to adjust to the increased physicality of the college level. Versatile receiver who shows the ability to play both in the slot and split out wide. Flashes big-play ability after the catch with his good elusiveness and foot-quickness in space. Demonstrates good jump-cut skill and shake freezing defenders in the open field and is slippery to wrap up."

DB: Daimion Stafford, Nebraska, Class of 2009: Not rated in position, region or state rankings as a high school cornerback. No recruit analysis is available.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jeff Budzien, Northwestern, Class of 2009: Scout Grade of 77, rated as nation's 19th best kicker. Analysis: "Excellent tempo and follow through on kickoffs. Good hang time and easily kicks to back of end zone; 72 percent touchbacks. Strong leg on field goals with good initial height. Has made field goals of 55 and 49 yards.

P: Mike Sadler, Michigan State, Class of 2010: Scout Grade of 79, rated as nation's No. 5 kicker/punter. Analysis: "Sadler is a natural lefty punter. He finished first at Kohl's National Scholarship Camp last summer for the 2010 class and third this past summer. He can hit huge punts that get great hang time and distance. It is rare to see a high school punter get five-second hang times and have the ball travel 50-plus yards. He also has great consistency with his punts and a great demeanor to be a big-time college punter. Sadler can also kick field goals and kick off in college."

All-Purpose: Venric Mark, Northwestern, Class of 2010: Scout Grade of 73, rated as nation's 199th best athlete. Analysis: "It's not very often that you can say a players best potential at the next level might be as a return specialist but this could be the case with Mark. He has both quickness and pure speed. Can make the first man down miss then immediately accelerate downfield. Reads blocks on the run and possesses very good football instincts and reactions. Has the unique ability to spin when running full speed and maintains balance and body control without losing speed. Doesn't have the height to play wide out at the next level but could be a slot receiver where all his talents can be used. Could be a seam threat as well as a sure receiver in the intermediate zones. As a slot, would be a real running threat on the counter and reverse. The only thing Mark has going against him is pure size."

Thoughts: Our All-Big Ten offense had three ESPN 150 recruits. The defense/special teams boasts only two in Mauti and Shazier. Quite a few players far exceeded their recruiting evaluations, including Stafford, Mark and Dennard, who earned decent praise as a wide receiver but has blossomed at cornerback for the Big Ten's best defense. It's amusing to think of Simon, one of the nation's top weight-room warriors, as a guy who "needs to add bulk to his frame" to make it at the college level. Michigan's Ryan turned out to be a heck of a sleeper prospect for the Wolverines. It was interesting to read about Roby's receiving skills, although he clearly has found the right spot at cornerback. The most accurate statement came about Borland, described as a "good athlete but impresses you more as a total football player on film." Bingo. The thought of Mark as a featured back coming out of high school seemed far-fetched. After a 1,300-yard season, Northwestern now wishes it had put Mark at running back from the moment he stepped on campus. Two of the more accurate recruiting reviews came for Budzien and Sadler.