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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Most important targets: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren

The 2014 recruiting cycle is winding down toward signing day, which means teams will pick up the heat on their top remaining targets.

Here is a look at the most important prospects left for each team in the Big Ten.

LB Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic)
6-foot-2, 219 pounds
Illinois is among Sykes' top list along with Indiana, Missouri, Notre Dame, South Florida and Syracuse. Sykes is a four-star prospect and would be a huge get for the Illini on defense. The staff has tried to keep in-state prospects home, and this would be a big one to start with. It looks as though Illinois might be behind right now, but there is still time to make up ground.

WR Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike)
6-foot, 196 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 232
Booth recently split ways with Tennessee and is now hearing from Indiana, Arizona State, LSU, Illinois, Rutgers, Colorado, Missouri, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky and Cincinnati. Indiana has an offense that Booth would thrive in, and it could benefit both sides if he stayed in-state to play for the Hoosiers. Indiana could be the beneficiary of the Vols' loss.

OL Brian Wallace (St. Louis, Mo./Christian Brothers)
6-foot-5, 283 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 145
Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri are the likely top schools for this big lineman. The Iowa coaches can’t replace offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher, who decommitted for Alabama, but Wallace would be an outstanding start. He would help fill a need at tackle and could anchor the line for years to come.

DT Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield)
6-foot-5, 260 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 68
McDowell is a huge in-state target for both Michigan and Michigan State. The nation's No. 68-ranked prospect has Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in his top group. That is a lot of competition for the local schools to fend off. He doesn’t plan on making a decision until at least January, but that could get pushed back even further if he decides to take multiple visits.

Michigan State
DB Kiy Hester (Wayne, N.J./DePaul Catholic)
6-foot-2, 195 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 196
The recent Rutgers decommit has Michigan State among his top list. The Spartans are known for their stellar defense and, more specifically, physical defensive backs. Hester would fit in well in East Lansing, but he is still taking visits to figure out where he will end up. He's already taken his visit to Michigan State, so only time will tell which school he chooses.

OL Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen)
6-foot-5, 296 pounds
Ragnow is a big deal for Minnesota. He would add talent to the offensive line, but a commitment from the four-star recruit could be more symbolic than anything else. The Gophers finished the season strong, and landing one of the bigger in-state prospects could help shape the future of their in-state recruiting efforts. Landing Ragnow would help Minnesota with some of the top prospects in future classes who hail from Minnesota, so he is a top priority right now.

DB Danzel McDaniel (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City Community College)
6-foot-1, 205 pounds
ESPN JC 50 rank: No. 44
Nebraska loses a few senior defensive backs after this season and has clearly been looking for help in the secondary. The staff already has five defensive backs committed, but McDaniel could be an immediate-impact player. His teammate, Terrell Clinkscales, is already committed, so the Cornhuskers have some help in their corner in landing McDaniel.

DB Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook)
6-foot, 185 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 96
Westphal just recently took his official visit to Northwestern and will make his final decision soon. The Wildcats are in his top group along with Michigan State and Vanderbilt. The Commodores will send head coach James Franklin out for an in-home visit on Dec. 12, and Westphal will make his decision shortly after that. Northwestern landed ESPN 300 tight end Garrett Dickerson (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic), and Westphal is the only remaining ESPN 300 prospect on the Wildcats' board. Closing with him and potentially Khari Blasingame (New Market, Ala./Buckhorn) would be an outstanding finish for coach Pat Fitzgerald and his staff.

Ohio State
LB Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County)
6-foot-2, 249 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 12
The No. 1-ranked linebacker in the country has Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State as his top three. He will be making his decision on Dec. 16, so there isn’t much time left in his recruitment. At No. 12 overall, McMillan would be a monster get for the Buckeyes. Linebacker has been a main focus of Ohio State's 2014 class, and he would be the star of the class if he decides for the Buckeyes.

Penn State
DT Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln)
6-foot-4, 303 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 87
There are a few big prospects still on the board for the Nittany Lions, but none bigger than Holley. He recently took a visit to Florida but has said he would like to make a decision in December. If he does in fact announce a decision in the next few weeks, that might mean good news for Penn State. The Nittany Lions have two other defensive tackle prospects in this class, but none similar to Holley.

DE Renell Wren (St. Louis/Lutheran North)
6-foot-5, 247 pounds
Wren is down to Purdue and Arizona State. He just took his official visit to Purdue on Dec. 6 and saw the Boilermakers land a few prospects from that visit in Jawhaun Bentley (Hyattville, Md./DeMatha) and defensive tackle Keiwan Jones (Dunnellon, Fla./Dunnellon Senior). Wren will announce his decision in the next week, so he could be the third prospect from that visit weekend to make his commitment.

RB Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom)
6-foot-1, 209 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 72
Mixon has a top four of Cal, Oklahoma, UCLA and Wisconsin, and the Badgers have a legitimate shot for the four-star back. He has taken a visit to Madison, Wis., and has listed Wisconsin as a top school for quite some time. Coach Gary Andersen and his staff have done an excellent job recruiting in 2014, but Mixon would make a huge impact in the offense Andersen would like to run.