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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Big Ten class rankings analysis

By Brad Bournival & Tom VanHaaren

The latest ESPN recruiting class rankings are out, and seven Big Ten teams are ranked among the top 40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, trends and stories are developing. Big Ten recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren give you a look at what to watch within the conference:

Trending up

Brad Bournival: The stock of three-star athlete Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central). Penn State was interested in the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Cabinda as a linebacker when he camped with the Nittany Lions in early June. They never pulled the trigger on an offer, however, and Cabinda committed to Syracuse. After losing Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) to Michigan last week, Penn State has reached out to Cabinda.

Tom VanHaaren: Offensive linemen within the Big Ten. There are currently 25 offensive linemen committed to Big Ten schools, including seven within the ESPN 300. There are 18 commitments along the offensive line within the top 50 of their position, between tackle, center and guard. The league schools' top prospects are ranked No. 4, 8, 9 and two commitments are ranked at No. 11 at their respective positions. The Big Ten is known for big, bruising offensive linemen, and more are on the way.

Trending down

Bournival: Iowa, and badly. The Hawkeyes lost the No. 1 offensive guard in the nation when Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa) decommitted and pledged to Alabama. Pierschbacher’s defection vaulted the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 spot overall and should send red flags all over Iowa as the Hawkeyes couldn’t keep their top prospect at home despite gaining an early commitment.

VanHaaren: Big Ten teams. There hasn’t been a Big Ten team to move up in the rankings the past two weeks. In fact, Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern each moved down this week. Florida and Alabama added ESPN 300 prospects and are on the rise. This trend could change as some of the Big Ten teams' top targets make decisions in the near future, but it’s trending down for now.

One to watch

Bournival: When Rutgers joins the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights will become a pain in the side of those recruiting on the East Coast. Rutgers was able to keep in-state ESPN 300 receiver Saeed Blacknall when the 113th-ranked player in the nation committed to the Scarlet Knights last week. They’ll likely grab ESPN 300 running back Jonathan Hilliman of Jersey City, N.J., on Thursday as well. Incidentally, Rutgers moved up four spots with Blacknall's commitment.

VanHaaren: Defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) could make an impact a few different Big Ten teams. It is looking like Westphal could be close to a decision. Westphal has kept everything close to the vest. He could end up at Michigan, Michigan State or Northwestern, among others. His decision for any of the three schools would impact the rest. If he chose Michigan, it could bump the Wolverines up in the rankings, giving them 10 ESPN 300 commits. Northwestern could benefit the most from his commitment, though, as he would give the Wildcats two ESPN 300 commitments. It would potentially move Northwestern up closer to the top 20, which would be a big deal in Evanston.

Bold prediction

Bournival: Four-star athlete Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus) will be a part of Ohio State’s class by Friday night. Don’t be surprised if he pulls the trigger on a commitment and becomes the 12th four-star senior in the Buckeyes’ 2014 class, which would stand at 17 commitments.

VanHaaren: The Big Ten ends up with 40 ESPN 300 commitments. That means seven more will have to commit to Big Ten teams, but I think that’s a definite possibility. Most of those will be made up between Michigan and Ohio State, but there is a chance that the Big Ten could close well with the remaining targets on their boards.