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Monday, September 30, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival

The Big Ten doesn’t need an entire schedule of games to make news, and it proved it in the recruiting world.

Here’s a look at what happened off the field in yet another busy weekend of looking toward the future.

Biggest commitment

Tom VanHaaren: There were only two commitments, defensive back Lubern Figaro (Everett, Mass./Everett) to Wisconsin and kicker Jake Hartbarger (Whitehouse, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) to Michigan State. Judging by those two I would say the bigger get was Figaro for the Badgers, even though Hartbarger is an Under Armour All-American. Figaro is a defensive back with good size that had a few Big Ten teams in his top group.

Brad Bournival: It might have been a recommitment as Purdue pledge Denzel Ward (Chicago/Simeon Academy) decided not to take an official visit to UCLA. The Bruins had offered the three-star offensive tackle and he intended to see what UCLA had to offer, but Ward had a heart-to-heart with Boilermakers freshman quarterback Danny Etling and decided to cancel his California plans.

Biggest offer

VanHaaren: Northwestern offered 2015 athlete Kai Locksley (Baltimore, Md./Gilman) this past weekend. Locksley is listed as an athlete, but the Northwestern coaches are recruiting him as a quarterback. He has some big offers already, but I think his offer list is going to keep growing once more schools see his junior film at quarterback. He would be a great get for Northwestern and fit in to the dual-threat role it would like.

Bournival: After a few months of flirting, Penn State pulled the trigger with an offer to inside linebacker Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) on Sunday. Cabinda impressed the Nittany Lions over the summer, but without an offer the three-star senior committed to Syracuse. The offer didn’t fall on deaf ears, however, as Cabinda will definitely consider Penn State and might take a visit on Oct. 12 when the Nittany Lions play Michigan.

Best performance by a commit/target

VanHaaren: His name hasn’t popped up too much yet, but 2015 running back Alex Grace (Saginaw, Mich./Swan Valley) has been turning heads. He had 337 rushing yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns in his last game. Grace is averaging 249 yards per game with 1,248 yards and 17 touchdowns through five games.

Bournival: Wisconsin might want to take notice of a big-time target making an official visit on Oct. 12. Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) will be in town and right now he couldn’t be more of a hot commodity. The ESPN 300 running back rushed for 298 yards and scored six touchdowns in a 47-21 win over Castro Valley (Calif.) over the weekend.

Most important visit

VanHaaren: Florida commit J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee) and teammate D'Ernest Johnson made their way up to Minnesota for an official visit. The Golden Gophers also hosted wide receiver Kendrick Holland (Winter Haven, Fla./Winter Haven) and running back Trevon Walters (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee), who is committed to Missouri.

If that wasn’t enough, Minnesota also had the No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2015 class, Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) in attendance as well. That’s a big weekend for the Gophers.

Bournival: Ohio State has made no bones about wanting to nab ESPN 300 wide receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer). Dixon was on an official visit and definitely got a feel for what the Buckeyes and their fans are all about.

“It was insane,” he said. “BuckeyeNation was turnt up. You can tell they are passionate about their team and the energy was crazy.”

Biggest answer

VanHaaren: Bill O’Brien and Penn State got their answer from the NCAA. Getting those scholarships back faster than anticipated is going to be huge for the Nittany Lions, not only in recruiting, but for depth down the road. This reversal by the NCAA was a big, big deal.

Bournival: Like VanHaaren, I think it came from Penn State as well. When the sanctions were reduced many wondered if it would open up the floodgates for some of the Nittany Lions’ 2014 targets. Those targets all stated the fence was never closed as they always considered Penn State a destination.

Biggest question

VanHaaren: If the firing of USC coach Lane Kiffin has any impact on any Big Ten recruits. John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) just took a visit to Ohio State and plans on taking a visit to Michigan for the Ohio State game. “JuJu” is also considering USC, so it might be an opportunity for either school to talk about stability within the programs for Smith and potentially a few other prospects.

Bournival: While Ward was reassured by Purdue’s future, a 55-24 drubbing at the hands of Northern Illinois couldn’t have helped matters, especially since it came on the Boilermakers’ home turf. While the Huskies are a formidable team, Purdue needs to take steps forward in the Boilermakers’ first year under Darrell Hazell, so getting bounced by 31 points couldn’t have helped matters.