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Monday, December 16, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren

The evaluation period is over and we have moved into a dead period on the recruiting calendar. That means that there is no more in-person contact with coaches and prospective student athletes until the dead period ends on Jan. 16.

Coaches utilize the evaluation period to get targets on campus one last time, or to make in-home visits to give one last pitch before decisions are made.

The Big Ten coaches were out across the country and hosting several important targets in the past few weeks. Here is a look at some of the more important conference visits.
Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill Peppers maintains he is 100 percent committed to Michigan.
CB Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic)
6-foot-1, 202 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 2

Peppers had said he was going to take other official visits after his season while staying committed to Michigan. That goes against coach Brady Hoke’s no-visit policy for commitments, so that was a big deal. Peppers took an official visit on Dec. 13 with most of the other 2014 commitments, and came away saying positive things about the Wolverines. Peppers told fellow commit Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate) that he is 100 percent committed to Michigan and that’s where he wants to play football for the next four years. If Peppers doesn’t end up taking any other visits then this official visit will prove to be a huge one for the Michigan coaches.

LB Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County)
6-2, 249 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 12

McMillan announces his decision on Monday and has narrowed his list to Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. The Buckeyes coaches were in-home with McMillan this past weekend. It’s obvious why this would be a huge pickup for Ohio State, since he is so highly ranked. But he would also help address a position of need.

DT Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield)
6-foot-5, 280 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 68

McDowell took visits to Alabama and Florida in the past few weeks. These official visits are a big deal because Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are all fighting to keep him in the Midwest. It looks as though LSU, Florida State and Ohio State will get official visits in January.

DT Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln)
6-foot-4, 303 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 87

Holley took his official visit to Florida at the end of November and it’s now being reported he is down to Penn State and Florida. The Nittany Lions have thought to be the leader for the big defensive tackle, but Florida seems to be making a push. His decision could come in December, so it will be interesting to see if the last visit to the Gators pushed them over the top.

DB Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook)
6-foot, 185 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 96

Westphal is down to Northwestern, Michigan State and Vanderbilt. He hosted Michigan State coaches on Dec. 9, Northwestern coaches Dec. 11 and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin on Dec. 12 and should be making his decision in the very near future. He has taken official visits to all three schools. This could go any way with all three schools having a lot to offer in academics and football.

OL Brian Wallace (St. Louis, Mo./Christian Brothers College)
6-foot-5, 283 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 145

Wallace has taken official visits to Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Alabama. Iowa and Nebraska would love to land this big-time offensive lineman and it looks as though Iowa has a legitimate shot. Alabama already has six offensive line commits, including two tackles, so there might be limited space on the roster.

OL Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen)
6-foot-5, 296 pounds
Four-star

Ragnow took a visit to Minnesota on Dec. 6 and then made it out to Florida State on Dec. 13 for his official visit. Those are two programs that very well could end up landing the four-star prospect. The in-state team, Minnesota, has made a big push in his recruitment and if the Gophers can keep him home, it would be a huge win.

DT Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie)
6-foot-3, 305 pounds
Four-star

Evans had taken an official visit to Michigan State despite being committed to Wisconsin. He followed that visit with a trip to see the Badgers on Dec. 13. He will be making his final decision on Jan. 4, so getting the last visit might end up being a big deal. The Badgers have four other defensive linemen committed, but Evans is the highest ranked.

DE Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair)
6-foot-3, 215 pounds
Three-star

Slade took his visit to Nebraska the last weekend in November and said the Cornhuskers were in last place before the visit. He was surprised by how much he enjoyed his trip and ended up committing to Nebraska shortly after. This was a big pickup for Nebraska because the coaching staff is looking for help along the defensive line. They have picked up a few junior college commitments in this class, though, so it was also important to balance that out with high school prospects.