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Tuesday, November 19, 2013
ESPN Junior 300 analysis: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren

The newest version of the ESPN Junior 300 is out and there was plenty of movement within the list to interest Big Ten fans. Here is a look at what changes were made from a Big Ten perspective.

Jerome Baker Jr. of Cleveland Benedictine is having a breakout junior season.
Who’s rising: Linebacker Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati/St. Xavier) made one of the biggest leaps on the list. He moved from No. 145 all the way up to 34 overall. He’s a prospect with a ton of Big Ten teams after him already, and someone who continues to rack up offers.

A few other prospects who moved up included Garrett Taylor (Richmond, Va./St. Christopher's) from No. 180 to 72, linebacker Jerome Baker Jr. (Cleveland/Benedictine) from No. 157 up to 98 and athlete Osa Masina (Salt Lake City/Brighton) moved up to No. 126 from 168.

Who’s falling: Hjalte Froholdt (Warren, Ohio/Warren G. Harding) fell from No. 14 to 42 overall. This is a unique prospect, and was probably somewhat a victim of his situation. He is a foreign exchange student who played his sophomore season in Ohio before returning to his native Denmark for his junior season. Because of that, there isn't a lot to evaluate compared with others. Froholdt recently trimmed his list to Arkansas, Florida State and Michigan, and should be making a decision in the near future.

A few other Big Ten targets who fell on the list include Joshua Alabi (Detroit/Cass Tech), who dropped from No. 51 down to 139 overall, Chason Virgil (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) from No. 76 to 146 and linebacker Chris Green (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic) from No. 91 down to 172.

New entrant: Wide receiver Alex Ofodile (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge) was one of the highest risers within the new entrants group. He went from outside the rankings to No. 149 overall.

Ofodile has been racking up Big Ten offers for a while now, and should continue to get more in the future. At 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, he fits in with the typical Big Ten receiver mold.

A few other new entrants who are Big Ten targets included Juwan Johnson (Glassboro, N.J./Glassboro) at No. 212 and athlete Kai Locksley (Baltimore/Gilman) at No. 252 overall.

Battle to watch: The battle for the No. 1-ranked prospect is popular no matter what class or who is after him. In 2015, that prospect is Jashon Cornell out of Big Ten territory at St. Paul’s (Minn.) Cretin Derham-Hall.

Cornell already has offers from most of the Big Ten and has a tough decision ahead of him. It is looking as though he will narrow his list down in the near future, and it would be a huge deal if any Big Ten team could keep him away from other conferences.

Michigan already has the No. 2 ranked prospect in George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), so if the conference could nab Nos. 1 and 2 in the same class, it would be a big deal.

Biggest question: As of right now, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin are the only Big Ten teams with commitments from ESPN Junior 300 prospects. The question becomes how many other Big Ten teams are going to be able to reel in targets within this list.

Recruiting throughout the conference has been noticeably down, so this is a big year for the other teams. Rutgers and Maryland will soon be added to the mix of Big Ten teams, so the competition is going to increase.

For the conference to grow as a whole, teams must improve their results on the recruiting trail. With 32 Midwest prospects within the ESPN Junior 300, and only two of them committed so far (both to Big Ten teams), the conference has a lot on the table.