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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Big Ten class rankings analysis

By Tom VanHaaren

There has been quite a bit of movement on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten. A few commits, decommits and decisions nearing which means it's time to take a look at the latest class rankings and trends for the conference for the Class of 2014.

Trending up:

Nebraska has been on a roll in recent weeks, picking up four commitments in December. Juco prospects Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City Community College), Byerson Cockrell (Columbus, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) and Joe Keels (Kenosha, Wisc./Highland community college) will all add immediate depth and competition at their position.

Three-star defensive end Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) chose the Cornhuskers over Michigan State and Penn State. The coaching staff has done a nice job late in the recruiting cycle to fill needs on the roster.

Purdue is also starting to pick up momentum. The Boilermakers have landed JaWhaun Bentley (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic), Brandon Roberts (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) and Keiwan Jones (Dunnellon, Fla./Dunnellon Senior) after they took official visits last weekend.

Trending down:

Michigan State was bumped from the top 40 class rankings by West Virginia and UCLA’s entrance, but the Spartans aren’t necessarily trending down in the future.

There are plenty of big targets still on the board for Michigan State including current Wisconsin commit Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wisc./Sun Prairie), defensive back Kiy Hester (Wayne, N.J./DePaul Catholic), Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook), Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) and Daniel Cage (Cincinnati, Ohio/Winton Woods), among others.

If the Michigan State coaches land any combination of their remaining targets, it could help bump them back into the top 40.

With the Big Ten championship under their belt, the coaching staff shouldn’t have a problem convincing a few prospects to join them for the future.

One to watch:

There are a few prospects who would impact the Big Ten rankings, and some who will be deciding in the coming weeks.

There are none bigger than linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), the No. 12-ranked prospect, who is deciding on December 16. McMillan is down to Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State and this is going to go down to the wire. With rumors swirling about Texas wanting Nick Saban, there is some intrigue with his decision.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) is also deciding in December and is down to Florida and Penn State. This would be a huge get for the Nittany Lions and could start to build some momentum for the coaches as well.

Recent Tennessee decommit Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike) is also a prospect who could end up in the Big Ten when all is said and done. Indiana is making a strong push for the ESPN 300 wide receiver and could land the in-state target if all goes well. Booth is still considering a few other programs, but the Hoosiers are looking good for now.

Bold prediction:

Michigan will hang on to top commit Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). The No. 2-ranked prospect said he would take official visits after his season because of rumors that coach Brady Hoke was on the hot seat.

The rumors were quickly shot down by athletic director Dave Brandon in a blog post on MGoBlue.com, and Peppers is scheduled to be in Ann Arbor on his official visit this weekend.

There is a good chance Peppers’ fears are calmed and he decides not to take any other visits after talking with the coaches. If Michigan can convince him that he should be a Wolverine and end his process it will be a huge victory for that staff.