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Monday, December 23, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren

There was plenty of recruiting action over the past week for the Big Ten Conference. With new offers, commitments and more, here is a look at the latest news.

Biggest commitment

There were quite a few commitments within the Big Ten this past week, including ESPN Junior 300 defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook), who committed to Northwestern. Westphal, the No. 96 prospect, closed out the 2014 class for Northwestern on a high note.

Illinois had a few big pickups, including junior college defensive lineman Jihad Ward (New York/Golbe Institute of Technology), the No. 35 juco prospect. Ward gives the Illini a big body up front and potentially immediate help along the defensive line.

Iowa bolstered its offense when 2014 quarterback Tyler Wiegers (Beverly Hills, Mich./Detroit Country Day) committed to the Hawkeyes. The four-star quarterback had decommitted from Rutgers before picking Iowa and gives coach Kirk Ferentz two good quarterback options in 2014 and in 2015 with ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Jack Beneventi (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy).

Biggest offer

Penn State offered 2014 wide receiver David Njoku (Cedar Grove, N.J./Cedar Grove) this past week. Njoku, a three-star receiver, also holds an Ohio State offer and plans on visiting the Buckeyes Jan. 17.

At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he is being recruited as a flex tight end for Ohio State, so he could be versatile in Penn State’s offense.

Purdue went on an offer spree with local 2015 prospects this past week. Teammates Matt McCann (Indianapolis/Bishop Chatard) and Adam Solomon, defensive back Mykelti Williams (Indianapolis/Warren Central) and Darrin Kirkland Jr. (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central) all received offers from the Boilemakers, among others.

Ohio State also offered a prospect starting to pick up some steam in his recruitment -- 2015 tight end Chris Clark (Avon, Conn./Avon Old Farms). The 6-foot-5, 240-pound prospect holds offers from the Buckeyes, Georgia, Indiana, Texas Tech and Virginia among others.

Top talent committed

There are 31 ESPN 300 prospects committed to Big Ten teams. Michigan and Ohio State lead the way with nine ESPN 300 commits each. Penn State is next in line with four.

That number doesn’t seem all that great when compared to the SEC with 100 ESPN 300 commitments within the conference, but the Big Ten total could still go up.

There are still eight ESPN 300 prospects seriously considering Big Ten schools, including Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell), Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) and Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield).

Where those prospects end up is still a question, but the talent is needed in the Big Ten.

Biggest answer

Ohio State answered a lot of questions when it added five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) and four-star wide receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) this past week.

McMillan is ranked No. 12 overall and Dixon at No. 39, so both were huge additions. The biggest statement with these commitments, though, is that Urban Meyer showed he is able to pull top-ranked recruits from the South. Landing these two high-profile prospects really made a big statement to SEC and even Big Ten teams about the direction of the program.

Biggest question:

There already have been a few coaching changes within the conference, with Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers landing the James Madison head coaching job and Penn State parting ways with two of its assistants.

The season isn’t quite over yet, with bowl games to be played, so it will be interesting to see if there is any more movement within the coaching ranks. If there are any changes, the question becomes how that impacts the committed prospects.