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Monday, October 28, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten

By Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren

The Big Ten always has plenty of recruiting storylines worthy of following.

From key commitments to intriguing attempts to flip prospects committed elsewhere, here’s what went down in a very busy week on the trail for the conference.

Biggest commitment

Brad Bournival: During his tenure with Penn State Bill O’Brien has become quite the flipper when it comes to getting targets to change allegiances. The reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year was at it again with a pledge from four-star running back Johnathan Thomas (Danvers, Mass./St. John’s Prep), who was originally committed to Maryland. Thomas is the third Terrapins pledge whom O’Brien has flipped during his time with the Nittany Lions.

Tom VanHaaren: Inside linebacker Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) was a big pickup for Penn State. The Nittany Lions lost Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) to Michigan, and the coaches finally found a replacement. A good student and good player, Cabinda was starting to pick up interest from other Big Ten teams despite his Syracuse commitment. The three-star senior received his offer from Penn State and didn’t take too much time before he flipped.

Biggest offer

Bournival: Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, who is no stranger to Ohio having been at Kent State as a head coach and Ohio State as an assistant, looked at a couple of Cincinnati pledges and extended offers. This time the first-year Boilermakers coach targeted target defensive ends Spencer Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and Landon Brazile (Dayton, Ohio/Thurgood Marshall). Not to be outdone, Wisconsin offered ESPN Junior 300 standout Canton Kaumatule (Honolulu/Punahou). The Badgers are the first Big Ten school to tender an offer to the defensive end.

VanHaaren: Oklahoma offered Nebraska defensive back commit Trai Mosley (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) this weekend. The three-star commit is an important part of this Cornhuskers class as they need help on defense. Nebraska lost to Minnesota 34-23 this weekend, so that doesn’t help to keep other suitors at bay.

Best performance by a commit/target

Bournival: Wisconsin pledge and Jacksonville (Fla.) Ribault quarterback D.J. Gillins put up a game for the ages in a 27-3 win over Jacksonville Paxon. The three-star senior was 23-of-32 for 402 yards and three touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass. He also rushed for 58 yards on four carries.

VanHaaren: Running backs Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn) and Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) continue their duel for the best season. Jones had five touchdowns and one passing touchdown to go along with an interception on defense this weekend. Harris had 191 yards on eight carries with three touchdowns in his game.

Most important visit

Bournival: Ohio State had more than a dozen ESPN 300 and ESPN Junior 300 targets on campus during the 63-14 win over Penn State. While Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) and Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) were all visiting and in the top one-third of the ESPN 300, inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) was on his official visit and stayed through Monday morning. The 14th-ranked player in the nation was hosted by Curtis Grant and Ryan Shazier and is considered the most important target remaining in the 2014 class.

VanHaaren: McMillan was hands down the biggest visit of the weekend. For Ohio State to blow out Penn State like that with McMillan on hand was a big deal. It only helps the case for the Buckeyes to land him.

Biggest answer

Bournival: Wisconsin’s attention to the defensive line continued when three-star defensive tackle Jeremy Patterson (Jesup, Ga./Wayne County) gave his commitment to the Badgers. Patterson is the 18th pledge in the Class of 2014 and sixth linemen, joining Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie), Billy Hirschfeld (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead), Conor Sheehy (Milwaukee/Marquette University), Rohan Blackwood (Brooksville, Fla./Nature Coast Technical) and Joe Keels (Highland, Kan./Highland Community College).

Patterson is also teammates with wide receiver and 2014 Wisconsin commit Krenwick Sanders.

VanHaaren: I don’t know if this is so much an answer as it is a situation that creates a question, but there are going to be a lot of recruiting battles within the conference in the 2015 class. It seems like there are a lot of similar targets for that class among Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin. As I said, that creates a question of who will win those battles, but it’s going to be something to watch going forward.

Biggest question

Bournival: How far does junior college offensive tackle Avery Gennesy (Southhaven, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) jump up on the chart for the Buckeyes? After an official visit, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gennesy has a top two of Ohio State and Texas A&M. East Mississippi Community College athletes are no strangers to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes as current junior and 2013 signee Corey Smith was a late pickup by the staff in the last recruiting class.

VanHaaren: What is going to happen with Nebraska if the team doesn’t turn around? The loss to Minnesota was a bad one and seems to have resonated with plenty of people. Former Cornhusker Tommie Frazier has been vocal about his displeasure for the current situationm and he tweeted as much again on Saturday. If Nebraska continues its bad play further into the season it could impact recruiting down the line.