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Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Big Ten class rankings analysis

By Tom VanHaaren

With the final update to the ESPN 300, there has been movement within the class rankings as well. Big Ten teams have added to their classes and are looking for last minute prospects.

Here is a look at the latest within the Big Ten.

Trending up

Penn State has been on the rise since James Franklin took over as coach despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle commit Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida. Franklin has already flipped three former Vanderbilt commitments to Penn State and still has a few spots left in the 2014 class.

The Nittany Lions will likely take a hit in the class rankings for the Holley departure, but there is a good chance Franklin and his staff will rebound.

Nebraska has also made a small push up the rankings, entering the top 40 at No. 39. The addition of a few commitments, including three-star wide receiver Jariah Tolbert (New Orleans/Edna Karr), has helped the Cornhuskers move up.

Trending down

No programs are necessarily trending down, but the number of prospects available is shrinking. Moving closer to signing day brings everything down to the wire, and the targets remaining are dwindling.

Schools such as Northwestern, who have closed out the class, have nothing to worry about. But many of the Big Ten teams will need to work fast to secure spots.

Nebraska is getting a visit from wide receiver DeSean Blair (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood), who is a Louisville commit, and Wisconsin is still working hard to sign former Florida defensive back commit Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation).

Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are all fighting to land ESPN 300 defensive lineman Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), which means at least two Big Ten schools will miss on the big lineman in the end.

One to watch

With the dead period lifted after Wednesday, visits will once again be allowed to take place. Coaches can make in-home visits and prospects can take official visits during the contact period.

Three-star running back Mikale Wilbon (Chicago/De La Salle) recently decommitted from Vanderbilt and is planning to take an official visit to Nebraska on Friday.

Wilbon was offered a scholarship by the Cornhuskers shortly afterward and could be a late addition to the class. He would be an outstanding last-minute pickup for Nebraska.

ESPN 300 running back Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn) is another one to watch for both Minnesota and Michigan fans. The No. 137 prospect will visit Michigan on Jan. 31 and will make a decision after his trips. He is still committed to Minnesota, but has been listening to other programs.

Bold prediction

Predictions around signing day are always scary, because you never know what’s going to happen. There are always surprises and a few shocks in the end, and that should hold true this year.

Defensive linemen are at the forefront for many programs heading into signing day. Penn State is added to that list with the loss of Holley. Prospects such as ESPN 300 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) and former Vanderbilt commit Jashon Robertson (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell Academy) have become more important than ever.

It looks as though Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State will all be in line to add more bulk to the defensive line and could benefit on signing day.