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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Big Ten preseason recruiting report card

By Tom VanHaaren

Big Ten programs have been working hard to fill their recruiting classes before the season starts to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way. With 26 ESPN 300 commitments within the conference there is still work to be done, though.

The conference is once again top heavy in the recruiting class rankings and has a few teams that need to step up their efforts.

Who’s trending up:

Michigan landed two big in-state commitments from Brian Cole and Mike Weber and now could be in the driver’s seat for ESPN 300 defensive lineman Darian Roseboro, who announces at the end of August. If Michigan can have a fast start to the season, recruiting could stay positive heading into signing day.

Who’s trending down:

Indiana has landed only three commitments since July and is sitting with 12 commitments. The Hoosiers are in need of playmakers in this class and need to finish out strong.

Biggest remaining target:

Illinois: Wesley Annan
Indiana: Mykelti Williams
Iowa: Raequan Williams
Maryland: Isaiah Prince
Michigan: Keisean Lucier-South
Michigan State: Anthony McKee
Minnesota: John Kelly
Nebraska: Justin Martin
Northwestern: Isaac James
Ohio State: Torrance Gibson
Penn State: Matt Burrell
Purdue: Anthony McKee
Rutgers: Najee Clayton
Wisconsin: Osa Masina

Three teams that must improve their class:

Minnesota, Rutgers and Indiana. The Gophers are sitting at 10 commitments but still need to add to their class. Rutgers has some nice pieces in 2015, but the Scarlet Knights have struggled with top-ranked New Jersey and East Coast prospects. That can’t happen in the future if the program is going to succeed in the Big Ten. The problem is that there aren’t many more spots available and the target list is dwindling as we get closer to the season and signing day. The Hoosiers are in the same boat. With a few good pieces in this class, including receiver Leon Thornton and quarterback Tommy Stevens, Indiana has a good foundation. A few more playmakers on defense would really boost this class, though, so that’s why they make this list.

Three teams that can gain the most this fall:

Penn State already has the top recruiting class in the country, but there is still a lot to gain for the Nittany Lions. Eyes are on new coach James Franklin and his staff to see if they can produce on the field in year one. If the coaches can put together a strong season then expect a lot of questions to be erased and momentum on the recruiting trail to continue in the direction its headed. Maryland and Michigan State are two other programs with a lot to gain, depending on how their seasons play out. The Terrapins are entering their first season in the Big Ten and could do a lot for themselves with local prospects if they show well. The Spartans could solidify themselves as a consistent contender, and a team that will be at the top of the standings for some time to come with another good season. That could elevate their recruiting prowess and move them up nationally.

One big prediction:

Ohio State lands three more big ESPN 300 targets and catapults past Penn State for the top-ranked class in the conference. The Buckeyes still have some big targets left, including Josh Sweat, Torrance Gibson, Damien Harris, Matt Burrell, Terry Beckner Jr. and Neville Gallimore, among others. There is a real chance that Ohio State finishes strong, a staple of Urban Meyer recruiting classes, and holds the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten on signing day.