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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The List: Most important Big Ten recruits

By Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival

The Big Ten needs to add impact players across the board, so this 2014 recruiting class is going to be a crucial one. While Michigan and Ohio State lead the way in the class rankings, each team has important commitments in their own right.

Here is a look at the most important commit for each Big Ten team in the 2014 class:

WR Tyrin Stone-Davis
6-3, 190
ESPN 300 Rank: N/A (Juco)

Jabrill Peppers
Five-star defensive back Jabrill Peppers, a Michigan commit, is the highest ranked commitment Michigan has landed since 2006.
Illinois has four senior receivers this season, so the offense is going to need help in that category. Since Stone-Davis is a junior college prospect he will most likely be able to make an impact earlier than other receivers coming in this class. Add in the fact that he’s coming as a package deal with his twin brother Tyree, a cornerback, then it’s an added bonus for the Illini.

OT Delroy Baker
6-6, 259
ESPN 300 rank: Unranked

Kevin Wilson has made the offensive line a position of emphasis in this class and with good reason. Last season, the Hoosiers were defined by what they did when they had the ball. In 2012, the Hoosiers were second behind only Nebraska in total offense among Big Ten teams and were No. 1 in passing. Having Baker there to protect the quarterback will be paramount moving forward for Indiana.

ATH Jay Scheel
6-1, 170
ESPN 300 rank: 277

Is he a quarterback or wide receiver? Either way Scheel is a dual-threat athlete. At the next level the ESPN 300 senior should play under center and the fact he started his high school career at wideout should help as well. With a receiver’s mentality, Scheel already knows what his targets are looking for and that could go a long way with the Hawkeyes. The fact he’s succeeded as a quarterback makes his upside incredible.

RB Jeff Jones
6-0, 196
ESPN 300 Rank: N/A

Jones is a native of Minnesota and an outstanding running back. He feels as though he’s underrated, but he could provide a boost to the Golden Gophers’ run game in the future. Jones held offers from other Big Ten programs but chose to stay in-state and play for Minnesota.

DB Jabrill Peppers
6-1, 205
ESPN 300 Rank: 2

Michigan doesn’t have anyone like Peppers on its roster and he could be an immediate impact player. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Peppers has size and speed that could help Michigan’s defense in multiple ways. He can play the pass, but he’s also big enough to help defend the run and potentially mobile quarterbacks in a spread offense. He is the highest ranked commitment Michigan has landed since at least 2006, as well.

Michigan State
OL Brian Allen
6-1, 287
ESPN 300 Rank: 270

Allen is Michigan State’s highest ranked prospect, but he is important because the Spartans have had problems recently along the offensive line. Center is a vital position for the success of an offensive line and Allen will provide some stability to the position. He held his own at The Opening in Oregon against the top ranked prospects and should anchor the Spartans’ line in the future.

OL D.J. Foster
6-3, 316 pounds
ESPN 300 Rank: 253

Foster, who held offers from Florida, Georgia, Iowa, UCLA and Vanderbilt, among others, could have very easily decided to go away from home. But he chose the Corn Huskers. The 6-3, 316-pound lineman decided to stay home and play with his brother, Trey, who is currently on the Nebraska roster. He is a huge get to continue building a strong interior of the line in the future. Foster’s commitment along with Tanner Farmer (Highland, Ill./Highland), give Nebraska some excellent options going forward.

RB Justin Jackson
5-11, 175
ESPN 300 Rank: N/A

Northwestern running back Venric Mark is a senior this season, so the Wildcats will need more options when he is gone. Jackson isn’t as explosive as Mark, but he is a nice combination of power and speed that will still fit well with what Northwestern wants in its offense. He is a four-star back from Illinois, so it was a big deal to secure his commitment. An argument could be made for ESPN 300 quarterback commit Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North), but Jackson is a big get to help keep the run game going.

Ohio State
CB Damon Webb
5-10, 179
ESPN 300 rank: 58

More than just his play on the field, which has been incredible, Webb is the poster recruit for other potential pledges. Webb and his family created the web site dedicated to recruiting potential teammates to the Buckeyes. The cornerback is a constant on Twitter as well and has become a valuable part of the recruiting process for Ohio State.

Penn State
ATH De’Andre Thompkins
5-11, 176
ESPN 300 rank: 55

While an argument can be made for ESPN 300 quarterback Michael O’Connor here, Thompkins becomes more valuable because of the NCAA sanctions. With a limit of 65 total scholarships, the Nittany Lions can’t afford to miss. The fact Thompkins has the ability to play nickelback, wide receiver and kick returner is huge as his versatility to be a three-way standout should help Penn State.

QB David Blough
6-1, 187
ESPN 300 rank: Unranked

Anytime a team can grab a heralded player at a high-profile it’s a statement commitment. But what the Boilermakers picked up in Elite 11 finalist Blough goes beyond that. Heralded by Trent Dilfer and Drew Brees, Blough has a lightning-quick release. The fact Purdue was the first to offer and stuck with him says something about the future of the program under coach Darrell Hazell.

OT Jaden Gault
6-6, 280
ESPN 300 rank: 132

The Badgers have had some incredible offensive linemen go on to have great success at the next level, so nabbing the big tackle was vital. What’s more important is Gault is the highest-ranked player in the state of Wisconsin. Getting the in-state star to say yes to the Badgers not only shows Wisconsin is a player in recruiting, but that coach Gary Anderson is ready to take over and knows the importance of keeping budding talent at home.