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Monday, November 11, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival

The Big Ten conference standings are taking shape and battles are heating up on the recruiting trail. Here is a look at the latest happenings in recruiting over the weekend.

Biggest commitment:

Tom VanHaaren: It happened last week, but the commitment of running back Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) to Michigan State was a big deal. London ultimately chose Michigan State over plenty of other Big Ten teams and will give the Spartans a lot of help in the run game.

Brad Bournival: Iowa picked up a strong running back when Markel Smith (St. Louis/St. John Vianney) gave his commitment to the Hawkeyes. Originally a Missouri recruit, Smith rushed for 541 yards and seven touchdowns in one game this season. Through 10 games, Smith has rushed for 2,313 yards and 33 touchdowns. Those numbers show his consistency, as he ran for 2,520 yards and 30 scores as a junior.

Biggest offer:

VanHaaren: Northwestern only has a few spots left in the 2014 class, so the Wildcats are already hitting 2015 hard. The staff offered one of the fastest-rising offensive linemen in Tristen Hoge (Pocatello, Idaho/Highland). The No. 99 ranked prospect in his class, Hoge has been racking up offers left and right. Since he is from Idaho he will likely be fair game to most programs, with no really big home-state team outside of Boise State.

Bournival: Penn State put its name in the hat for ESPN 300 offensive tackle Drew Richmond (Memphis, Tenn./Memphis University). The No. 68 player in the ESPN Junior 300 has over 20 offers, but only ones from the Nittany Lions and Ohio State in the Big Ten.

Best performance by a commit/target:

VanHaaren: Michigan 2015 running back commit Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) had 86 yards rushing on six carries with two touchdowns. He also had two receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown to go along with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Bournival: Purdue commit David Blough (Carrollton, Texas/Creekview) showed why he was an Elite 11 finalist this weekend. The four-star quarterback had himself a game when he threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-29 win over Forney (Texas) North Forney. He also rushed for 52 yards and two more scores.

Most important visit:

Frank Ragnow
Frank Ragnow took a visit to Minnesota this weekend, seeing the Golden Gophers notch their eighth win.
VanHaaren: Four-star offensive lineman Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen) took a visit to Minnesota on Saturday. The Golden Gophers improved to 8-2 on the season after yet another win, which seems to have caught the eye of the in-state target. Ragnow is down to Minnesota, Arkansas, Florida State, Wisconsin, Miami and Ohio State, so this was a big visit for the Gophers.

Bournival: Bret Bielema appears to have lost his grip on ESPN 300 tackle Jaden Gault (Monona, Wisc./Monona Grove). Gault committed to Wisconsin last year, but started to have second thoughts after taking an official visit to Arkansas. He took an unofficial visit to Madison, Wisc., this weekend and is now sticking with his original commitment to the Badgers.

That’s good news for Wisconsin, as Gault was also talking about possibly making a trip out to Oregon. That would have most certainly led to a decommitment since the Ducks won’t use official visits on targets that are committed elsewhere.

Biggest answer:

VanHaaren: Defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) and his team lost in the playoffs this past weekend. That means he will now focus on recruiting and should be scheduling his official visit to Northwestern in the near future. Once he takes that visit a final decision should come shortly after between the Wildcats, Vanderbilt and Michigan State.

Bournival: Ohio State commit Marcelys Jones (Cleveland/Glenville) took a big step forward to end speculation when he signed a mid-year agreement with the Buckeyes this week. It locks Ohio State into a scholarship for the early enrollee, but allows the offensive guard to still take visits and sign elsewhere if he chooses. Still, the pact is a giant step forward for Jones, who has taken trips to many other schools since committing to Ohio State on Christmas Day last year.

Biggest question:

VanHaaren: Where does Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) end up? The No. 6 ranked prospect announces on Thursday between Alabama, Florida and Michigan. The Wolverines are in need of some good news and Hand would be an outstanding addition to Michigan’s class. He would bring a pass rush that has been missing from Michigan’s defense, so all Wolverines fans are anxiously awaiting his decision.

Bournival: It will be interesting to see what Ohio State does next. The Buckeyes appeared to be the favorite to land ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./ Lincoln), but have since ended their recruitment of the No. 87 player in the nation. Will Ohio State look for another defensive lineman or stand pat with an already strong, deep unit?