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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
5 to watch: Big Ten signing day preview

By Tom VanHaaren

Signing day is inching closer and closer, which means there are questions out there. The Big Ten has plenty of top targets remaining.

Here are five things to watch within the conference as signing day approaches:

1. Where does Malik McDowell land?

One of the more highly sought-after prospects in the Midwest, McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) is still taking his visits.

Malik McDowell
DE Malik McDowell is considering schools from three conferences, so his commitment is very much in the air.
The No. 60 prospect in the country, McDowell recently took a visit to Florida State. He plans on using all of his officials and isn’t set on where his final few trips will be.

He is being targeted by Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, LSU, Alabama and Florida State and could realistically end up at any of those programs.

It seems as though he is likely to stay close to home, which could be a positive for Ohio State or Michigan State if either program can secure one of his final visits.

The ESPN 300 prospect keeps everything close to the vest, though, so where he ends up is still up in the air.

2. Can Nebraska fill its holes?

The Cornhuskers have lost a few big commits in defensive end Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) and ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City Community College).

The coaching staff still has some big targets on the board, including three-star running back Mikale Wilbon (Chicago/De La Salle), receiver DeSean Blair (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) and recent Utah decommit Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger).

With 18 current commitments, it seems as though Nebraska still has some of the bigger questions remaining in the conference.

3. How does James Franklin close?

Franklin hit the ground running since he was named Penn State head coach.

He has already landed Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca), Brendan Brosnan (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine Township South), Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), defensive back Grant Haley (Atlanta/The Lovett School) and Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown).

There aren’t many spots left, but a few targets are emerging for the Nittany Lions, including Trent Sherfield (Danville, Ill./Danville) and Amani Oruwariye (Tampa, Fla./Gaither). A few others could emerge.

Franklin made some strong remarks at his introductory news conference about dominating the state and region in recruiting. This is his first chance to show the Penn State fans what he and his staff can do.

4. How many surprise targets pop up?

With recruits flipping their commitments and decommitting, it's always possible that new names appear on the radar of different teams.

Most of the Big Ten teams have spots left in their class, so it's very possible that a few new names will emerge. Keep an eye on this as we get closer to signing day.

5. How many more ESPN 300 prospects pick the Big Ten?

With 33 ESPN 300 commits already on board within the Big Ten, there are still a few big-name prospects left for the conference to snag.

Big Ten teams are still targeting eight ESPN 300 prospects, but it doesn’t seem likely that they all end up within the conference.

Defensive back Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) is down to South Carolina and Wisconsin and will decide on signing day.

One of the more likely prospects to land in the Big Ten is McDowell. Since he is still considering three Big Ten teams, there is a good chance he ends up staying close to home and adding to the talent pool.

Most of the remaining targets within the ESPN 300 seem to be leaning toward other conferences, so it doesn’t look like the Big Ten will add too much more top talent in 2014.