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Thursday, November 7, 2013
Big Ten recruiting storylines: Nov. 7

By Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren

From commitments, to targets about to make a pledge, to pledges taking other visits, here’s a look at the recruiting happenings in the conference this week.

Hawkeyes on the prize

Iowa picked up a running back commit with some eye-popping numbers when Markel Smith (St. Louis/St. John Vianney) chose Iowa over Missouri and Ole Miss.

Once a Tigers commit, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Smith saw everything he wanted in the Hawkeyes. He has formed a tight bond with the coaching staff.

“The coaches kept in touch since Day 1. I fit in the offense really well,” Smith said. “It’s where I fit the best.”

As a junior, Smith rushed for 2,520 yards and 30 touchdowns. This season, he has gained more than 2,000 yards and scored more than 30 touchdowns. Included in that is an incredible 42-carry performance in which he set a state record with 541 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns in a 48-41 win over Washington (Mo.).

“I’m a very respectable young man,” Smith said. “I work my hardest at all times. I don’t quit, no matter what. I go hard for whoever is coaching me and that shows in my numbers.”

Hand’s last visit

What kind of week would it be if we didn’t talk about Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge)? The No. 6 prospect in the ESPN 300 is taking his final official visit, to Florida, on Saturday.

He is expected to announce his decision a week from today, on Nov. 14, so this is a big one.

The five-star defensive end has kept everything close to the vest, so this is a difficult one to predict. There is a lot within his recruitment that points towards Michigan. You never know with this type of visit, though. There is a chance the Gators could wow him, but it is going to be tough to beat the Wolverines.

Penn State hoping to land a big fish

Add Penn State to a growing list of schools offering ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle Drew Richmond (Memphis, Tenn./Memphis University). And Penn State means business.

Head coach Bill O’Brien made sure the 6-6, 305-pound lineman knew how serious the Nittany Lions were when he offered the fifth-ranked tackle in the junior class, ranked No. 68 overall.

Richmond has more than 20 offers. Ohio State is another Big Ten team that has offered a scholarship to Richmond.

Rescigno on the rise

Giovanni Rescigno (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) was the backup quarterback to 2013 Michigan signee Shane Morris until his senior year. Rescigno didn’t have much junior film because he was behind a top quarterback prospect until this season.

He has been the starter and in the spotlight for his final season now, and is starting to pick up steam in his recruitment.

“I’ve heard from Toledo, Bowling Green and now Michigan,” he said. “I’m visiting Michigan this weekend [for the Nebraska game], and they invited me up for the Ohio State game, too.”

Rescigno doesn’t hold any offers yet, but is hoping to land his first very soon.

Michigan is tight on numbers, but even if the Wolverines offered a preferred walk-on spot, it would be tough to turn down. Having his former teammate, Morris, on the roster certainly helps.

He has just started mailing out his highlight film, and is starting to hear from more programs.

Westphal waiting

Michigan State, Northwestern and Vanderbilt fans are all patiently waiting for ESPN 300 defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) to make his decision.

Those fans might just have to wait a little bit longer for the No. 96 ranked prospect. He and his team are currently in the state playoffs and it’s likely that he will wait until his team’s season is overto do anything with recruiting.

He has taken a visit to Michigan State and Vanderbilt, and is waiting to take his trip to Northwestern before he decides. If all goes as planned, that trip won’t happen for a while.

Once he does make it out to see the Wildcats, though, a decision is likely to come shortly after that.

Wisconsin trying to hold onto ESPN 300 pledge

Bret Bielema certainly made an impression on Jaden Gault (Monona, Wis./Monona Grove) when the four-star tackle committed to Wisconsin on Aug. 18, 2012. Now, the former Badgers coach is trying to pull the 6-6, 280-pound lineman to Arkansas.

Smith took an official visit to see the Razorbacks last weekend. He’s eyeing a trip to Oregon as well, but the Ducks expect a decommitment first before entertaining an official visit.

Gault is expected to take an unofficial visit to Madison, Wis., this weekend.