Big Ten: 2010 recruiting wrap

Penn State recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Penn State Nittany Lions

The class

Recruits: 20 (all high school seniors, six players enrolled early)

Top prospects: Khairi Fortt is ranked as the nation's No. 2 inside linebacker by ESPN's Scouts Inc., while defensive linemen Dakota Royer, Evan Hailes and C.J. Olaniyan all were among the ESPNU 150. Penn State also landed the nation's best center in Miles Dieffenbach, as well as a quarterback (Robert Bolden) who can compete for snaps right away.

Sleepers: Late addition Shyquann Pulliam could really help the secondary, an area Penn State must continue to upgrade. Mike Hull adds depth to the linebacking corps after Penn State loses all three starters from the 2009 team. Running back Silas Redd could be a big help if the Lions suffer injuries to one of their top ball carriers.

Needs met: Penn State once again did a fabulous job of reloading in the defensive front seven with players like Fortt, Royer and Hailes. The Nittany Lions needed another quarterback and got a very good one in Bolden. Joe Paterno's staff also thought to the future at both tight end and offensive line and brought in several very solid prospects there.

Analysis: Penn State signed unquestionably the best recruiting class in the Big Ten, and it could have been even better. The Nittany Lions not only brought in elite prospects, but they addressed their needs in the front seven and bolstered the offensive line and some of the skill positions. After losing a lot of decorated players from the 2009 team, Penn State will need this class to contribute in 2010 and 2011. Despite Paterno's age and his uncertain future, Penn State has elevated its profile in recruiting the last two years.

Scouts Inc. grade: A-minus

Illinois recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Illinois Fighting Illini

The class

Recruits: 20 (19 high school seniors, one junior college player, three players enrolled early)

Top prospects: Chandler Whitmer gives the Illini another option at quarterback as the team tries to replace four-year starter Juice Williams. Wide receiver Darius Millines, a last-minute addition, bolsters the receiving corps, while safety Earnest Thomas will get a chance to play right away in the secondary.

Sleepers: Linebacker Mark Wilson should help a group that regains the services of Martez Wilson this fall. Arguably the team's most intriguing prospect is junior college safety Trulon Henry, the older brother of former Illinois star Arrelious Benn. Henry served nearly five years in prison for armed robbery but has turned his life around and should help in the secondary.

Needs met: Time will tell if Illinois addressed its need in the secondary, as players like Henry and Thomas need to contribute right away. Losing safety Corey Cooper to Nebraska hurt, but embattled head coach Ron Zook and his new-look staff closed recruiting well with players like Millines and Brandon Denmark. The wide receiver position should once again be strong this season.

Analysis: The class isn't drawing high marks, which puts pressure on the coaching staff to develop players for a make-or-break 2010 season. Illinois held onto Whitmer, which could be key, and finished strong after the class looked bleak in early December. If the defensive recruits can come in and contribute this fall, Illinois might be able to stabilize itself on that side of the ball.

Scouts Inc. grade: C-minus

What Ron Zook said:
  • "The strengths are the linemen and obviously the receivers. If you go back and you look at who we lost, we filled in the positions. ... Hopefully, we're getting to a point where we don't have to continually count on freshmen playing. Although I think there will be some guys [in this class] who have a pretty good opportunity to do that."
  • "Darius [Millines] is an unbelievable athlete, he can run like a deer. He probably surprised a lot of people down there because he committed early to West Virginia. Doc Holliday really had a great relationship with him, and he's at Marshall now. I think he has a chance to be a special guy. Jarred Fayson said, 'Coach, he's one of us.' That makes me feel good."
  • "There's been a lot of negative recruiting going on, but that's part of it. People don't have to say anything. They just take the articles that are written and show them. You're defending your manhood, you're defending everything about you every time you go out there."

Indiana recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Indiana Hoosiers

The class

Recruits: 25 (22 high school seniors, three junior college players, four players already enrolled)

Top prospects: Among the high school seniors, linebacker Ishmael Thomas stands out as a guy who can help a position of need. Indiana's three junior college signings -- linebacker Jeff Thomas and cornerbacks Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles -- all will contribute immediately this fall as the Hoosiers lose five of seven starters in the back half.

Sleepers: Athlete Kofi Hughes is an interesting prospect who could be a playmaker at quarterback or another spot. Indiana has recruited the wide receiver spot very well in recent years, and Logan Young should help there. Running back Matt Perez could be a factor if Darius Willis struggles or gets banged up again.

Needs met: The secondary was an obvious need as Indiana loses three starters, and the staff found immediate help with three juco players. Indiana also addressed the defensive end spot, where it loses both starters, though Jibreel Black would have been a nice get for Bill Lynch.

Analysis: Indiana started very fast in recruiting, securing 20 of its 22 commitments from high school seniors before the 2009 season. The class lacks many superstars, but the three junior college defenders address pressing needs at both linebacker and cornerback. Lynch's staff has done a nice job of recruiting offensive skill players, and this class should produce a few more. But if the defenders in this group don't produce, Indiana will have a rough time winning games this fall.

Scouts Inc grade: C-minus

What Bill Lynch said:

  • "Our staff did a great job last winter and spring identifying kids. We work really hard to get them here in the summertime. Of the 22 high school kids we signed, 21 of them were here last summer on unofficial visits. Selfishly, Bloomington and Indiana University is quite a place in the summertime. They get here and they see the campus and get to meet us in a relaxed atmosphere, and that went a long way toward getting those commitments."
  • (On Andre Kates) "When you get a commitment like that, a quality player who has a great chance to compete right away, you certainly don't want to lose him. Because you count on him all through the recruiting process. We've got two JC corners, [Lenyatta Kiles] is in school now and then Andre will come in the summer. That was a real priority of ours because we did lose guys in the secondary."
  • "Kofi Hughes is an outstanding football player. He's a quarterback, real athletic kid. Like we told them, 'If you're going to play and be a starter-type player, we're going to play you. If not, we're going to redshirt you.'"

Michigan recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Michigan Wolverines

The class

Recruits: 27 (all high school seniors, seven early enrollees)

Top prospects: Safety Demar Dorsey is the top-ranked recruit in the Big Ten, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. Quarterback Devin Gardner, an ESPNU 150 selection, will compete for snaps right away. Defensive recruits like Marvin Robinson, Cullen Christian and Richard Ash might be able to help the beleaguered unit early on.

Sleepers: Safety is a huge need for Michigan in 2010, and Ray Vinopal and Carvin Johnson both could factor into the mix there. Linebacker Jake Ryan, a late bloomer during recruiting, also is a player to watch.

Needs met: Arguably no Big Ten team needed to bolster a particular position like Michigan needed to bolster its secondary. The addition of Dorsey gives the Wolverines a possible immediate contributor in the back four. Rich Rodriguez added the quarterback he needs in Gardner, and Michigan also stocked up at wide receiver, defensive line and linebacker.

Analysis: Michigan started quickly, lost a bit of ground with elite prospects and then finished strong by adding Dorsey on National Signing Day. Rodriguez signed a large and important class that must help a struggling defense this fall. Gardner will push Tate Forcier at quarterback, and the early enrollees at both wide receiver and running back will be fun to watch this spring. If this class doesn't bolster Michigan's defense immediately, the Wolverines will be in trouble.

Scouts Inc. grade: B-plus

What Rich Rodriguez said:
  • "Demar is a very athletic guy. Very fast. Has indicated he may run track as well. So it will be good news for our track program. A fast guy. He can play corner and safety. We'll probably start him at corner first, eventually teach him the back end stuff as well. Also returns kicks. Runs very well."
  • (on Devin Gardner) "It helps he got in early. I don't know if 15 spring practices can really give you a whole thing. But I know it helped Tate [Forcier] last year. Devin is going to have pieces around, veterans that know what we're trying to do offensively and all that. But again, until I see him at spring practice and how quickly he picks up the plays and all that, I couldn't tell you. I know he's very competitive. He's one of those guys eager to learn."
  • "Our back-end guys, linebackers and safeties and corners, are guys we felt we needed to play in space. And so we tried to address that with the athleticism. Again, these guys are young. Let's not put too much on too soon. They have to come and earn a spot and all that. But immediately the competition has risen on the defensive side of the football."

Northwestern recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Northwestern Wildcats

The class

Recruits: 17 (all high school seniors, no early enrollees)

Top prospects: Offensive tackle Paul Jorgensen continues an impressive run of O-line recruiting by the Wildcats. Chance Carter is a talented edge rusher, while quarterback Trevor Siemian fits what Northwestern looks for to lead its spread offense.

Sleepers: The running back position is anything but solidified, and late signee Adonis Smith could compete for carries very early. Athletes Kain Colter and Venric Mark give Northwestern excellent speed and flexiblity, while Tony Jones could end up being a very good addition at wide receiver.

Needs met: The Wildcats needed defensive line help and got it with Carter and tackles Will Hampton and Sean McEvilly. Northwestern couldn't have a class without a running back and added Smith, and Pat Fitzgerald's staff also bolstered the offensive skill positions. The return game really needed a boost and Northwestern brought in several players who can contribute there, especially Mark.

Analysis: A small class allowed Fitzgerald and his assistants to be fairly selective, and they certainly upgraded several positions, namely defensive line and wide receiver. It was important to add both a running back and a quarterback, and the Wildcats actually picked up two signal-callers in Siemian and Colter. Offensive line wasn't a major need after the last few recruiting classes, but Jorgensen is a guy who won't be on the sideline too long.

Scouts Inc. grade: C

What Pat Fitzgerald said:
  • "We've got a lot of depth now at running back. We didn't graduate anyone this year, and we might only graduate one next year. So to add Adonis there, it was kind of our target, to add one back. We were in recruiting efforts with a couple other guys, and Adonis was a perfect fit for us. He's a physical kid. He's closing in on 195 pounds, so he's got good size. He's smooth, he catches the ball well."
  • "We needed to get a couple of quarterbacks. We went into it thinking we might only need one, but then when Joe Mauro had to retire early, we moved forward and ended up signing two. We signed two very athletic and very dynamic quarterbacks. We're excited about those guys."
  • (on the defensive backs) "They all can really run. All three are really athletic. All three were at some point in their careers kick returners or punt returners. So they bring that element to the football team. I feel really good about the talent we have internally right now in the program."

Iowa recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Iowa Hawkeyes

The class

Recruits: 21 (all high school seniors, two players have enrolled early)

Top prospects: Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is an ESPNU 150 selection who should challenge for playing time right away following the departure of Tony Moeaki. Offensive tackle Andrew Donnal certainly fits the mold at Iowa, which always produces great O-linemen. Marcus Coker won't contribute right away at a crowded running back position, but he'll be very good down the line. Athlete A.J. Derby will find a spot on the field early in his career.

Sleepers: Linebacker James Morris could end up being a key contributor for the Hawkeyes defense. Austin Vier is an intriguing prospect who will get a shot at quarterback but likely will move to tight end.

Needs met: Iowa will need to reload along the defensive line beginning in 2011, so five recruits at either end or tackle should help. The same goes at linebacker. The offensive line has a few question marks this year, and while Donnal could step in as a freshman, both he and Brandon Scherff will help in the future. This class addresses the tight end position for years to come.

Analysis: Arguably no staff in the Big Ten gets more out of less than Iowa's coaches, so fans clamoring for five-star recruits should simply consult the history books. Iowa doesn't need immediate help at too many positions, though Fiedorowicz could be a key contributor this season alongside Allen Reisner. There's a lot of versatility in this class, so it will be interesting to see what Kirk Ferentz and his assistants do with players like Derby and Vier.

Scouts Inc. grade: B-minus

What Kirk Ferentz said:

  • "This year we went a little heavier maybe on defense, certainly with three of our four defensive linemen next year being seniors. The next two guys being juniors. It was real important to us to get some guys in that we felt could be involved right away. And same thing with our linebacker position, we've got a heavy group of seniors next year. We just graduated two outstanding players [Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds]. So those are two positions we felt were really, it was important to fortify."
  • (On A.J. Derby) "He's a winner. And on top of that, you know, we think he's got a lot of upside at the quarterback position. If that doesn't work down the road, there's probably a lot of things he could do. ... That's our intent is for him to play quarterback. We're eager to see how he can progress and improve. And if things change in our style a little bit, that's fine."
  • "There aren't too many guys we're counting on to save our team next year. But they're really going to be important in our future. And we'll have the discussion down the road possibly about are you going to be a special teams guy, a back-up guy, get your feet wet, and then we're going to have a lot of vacancies a year from now. I know that."

Purdue recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Purdue Boilermakers

The class

Recruits: 25 (23 high school seniors, one junior college player, one 2009 signee)

Top prospects: Wide receiver O.J. Ross from Florida can contribute right away for the pass-happy Boilers. Cornerback Ricardo Allen fills a critical need in the secondary, which loses all four starters and will feature plenty of competition before the season. Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston is a big get for a team that struggles to stop the run.

Sleepers: Allen generated the most recruiting buzz, but Purdue's other defensive backs in this class -- Normando Harris, E.J. Johnson, Antoine Lewis and junior college transfer Michael Eargle -- all could contribute early in the secondary.

Needs met: The secondary is Purdue's most pressing need, and the coaches answered it with five defensive backs. The Boilers also needed defensive line help and got it with Gaston and several others, while Sean Robinson adds another good arm to the mix at quarterback.

Analysis: Danny Hope isn't afraid to wait for good recruits, and his patience once again paid off with several strong pickups in the weeks before signing day. Allen can step in immediately at cornerback, and Robinson and Ross might form a dynamic passing combination several years down the road. Gaston is a huge addition for the defensive line, and Hope addressed areas like tight end and kicker.

Scouts Inc. grade: C

What Danny Hope said:

  • (On Bruce Gaston) "One of the most dominant defensive tackles I've been around in many, many years. He'll be one of the great defensive linemen to play at Purdue. When it's all said and done, he could be an iconic player here."
  • "We did very well secondary-wise. We didn't have a lot of margin for error. We couldn't go take some little peanut guys even though they could run fast and have to wait two, three years for them to get big enough. ... That wasn't gonna help our needs. So we went out and got good size, good brains, good athleticism, physical guys, guys that want to play early and can come in and compete with the two or three guys we brought in last year."
  • "Sean Robinson was our No. 1 quarterback on the board. He's a great dual-threat quarterback, excellent passing potential. You can put him in the shotgun and throw the ball with him every snap and have a chance to win, and you can use him as a ball carrier and as a runner every snap and have a chance to win. ... He's a great get. Star potential for us at Purdue."

Michigan State recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Michigan State Spartans

The class

Recruits: 21 (20 high school seniors, one junior college player, four early enrollees)

Top prospects: Linebacker William Gholston is the No. 2 recruit in the Big Ten this year, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. Linebacker Max Bullough also will play early in his career, and quarterback Joe Boisture could be Michigan State's long-term answer under center.

Sleepers: Cornerback Mylan Hicks and safety Isaiah Lewis can help right away as the Spartans must improve in the secondary for the 2010 season. Wide receiver Keith Mumphery also might see the field early as the status of several wideouts, namely Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, is unknown for 2010. Head coach Mark Dantonio likes Marcus Rush's potential at defensive end.

Needs met: By adding both Gholston and Bullough, Michigan State is set up well at linebacker when Greg Jones and Eric Gordon depart after the 2010 season. Boisture gives the Spartans a fourth scholarship quarterback, possibly freeing up Keith Nichol to play elsewhere. Michigan State needs to improve on both lines and added several solid prospects there.

Analysis: Despite a step back both on and off the field in 2009, Michigan State maintained its recruiting momentum, particularly within the state. This class likely won't grade quite as high as the 2009 haul, but Michigan State really helped its defense with players like Gholston, Bullough, Rush and Hicks. If one of the wide receivers can come in and contribute this season, the Spartans should be in decent shape in the passing game.

Scouts Inc. grade: B-minus

What Mark Dantonio said:

  • "We talked about trying to stack a class on top of another class. We had a great class last year, and this one stacks up right behind that one in terms of quality players we had coming into various positions. There's a lot of versatility. All of our skill guys play on both sides of the ball, they're all kick returner-punt returner type guys. The majority of our class is very, very explosive."
  • "[William Gholston] is 6-6, 250 pounds, he's put together, he runs well, he's instinctive on the football field. When you look at him, you try and figure out how can we get him on the field as soon as we can. There's a lot of things going on at linebacker, but as sort of an outside back in the mold of a Julian Peterson, we can possibly try to do those things with him. As good as he is physically, he brings some things to the table intangibly that are very, very good as well."
  • "Max Bullough is an outstanding football player. Marcus Rush, same thing. Those two guys play with a high motor. Very instinctive players and they're guys who have a knack for finding the big play. Mylan Hicks and Isaiah Lewis are two guys in the secondary that are also very explosive and very aware football players and could find the field very quickly."

Ohio State recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Ohio State Buckeyes

The class

Recruits: 18 (16 high school seniors, two prep school players, one player enrolled already)

Top prospects: Defensive back Christian Bryant should see the field early. Running back Roderick Smith could be a factor as the starting job remains a bit unsettled. Linemen Darryl Baldwin and Andrew Norwell and wide receivers James Louis and Corey Brown also come in with plenty of accolades.

Sleepers: Speedy Bradley Roby is a late signee who only gained major attention in recruiting after switching from wide receiver to cornerback as a senior. Quarterback Taylor Graham struggled with injuries in high school but has a good pedigree as the son of former NFL QB Kent Graham. Defensive tackle Johnathon Hankins is a big body on the interior.

Needs met: Ohio State addressed a mini need in the secondary with Bryant and Roby. The Buckeyes would have liked one more offensive lineman -- Seantrel Henderson or Matt James -- but they added depth at both wide receiver and running back.

Analysis: Ohio State might not have hit a home run with this class, and the Buckeyes lost a few key in-state products to other teams, namely Jordan Hicks. But Jim Tressel and his staff brought in plenty of speed and versatility, and added several key wide receivers who could contribute early following graduation losses and Lamaar Thomas' transfer. Unless Henderson dumps USC in the coming weeks, Ohio State will need to add more offensive linemen in the 2011 class.

Scouts Inc. grade: B

What Jim Tressel said:

  • "If you asked coach [Jim] Bollman how many offensive linemen he would have liked, we had pigeonholed two. He probably would have liked three or four, but we could afford two within our budget. So we'll see how we end up there."
  • "With the way the game has changed, you need so many guys who can play out in space. In this class, we have a lot of guys with skills and speed."

Wisconsin recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Wisconsin Badgers

The class

Recruits: 24 (all high school seniors, one enrolled early). Wisconsin also signed six preferred walk-ons.

Top prospects: Safety Frank Tamakloe was on the fringes of the ESPNU 150 rankings. Defensive tackle Beau Allen could be a force on the defensive line very early in his career.

Sleepers: Offensive lineman Joe McNamara, a late arrival to the class, could end up being a steal. Another late arrival, wide receiver Isaiah Williams from Miami, provides a big target for the quarterback.

Needs met: Wisconsin needed defensive tackles and got three of them, including Allen. The Badgers also addressed the secondary with four defensive backs, including Tamakloe and Peniel Jean.

Analysis: For the second consecutive year, Wisconsin has to feel very good about its recruiting class. Rankings don't matter to Bret Bielema and his assistants, who got a lot out of unheralded young players in 2009 and likely will do so again in 2010. The Badgers added depth in the defensive backfield and the offensive line, filled a need on the interior defensive line and picked up another quarterback in Joseph Brennan. This was an unusually good year for in-state recruiting, and Wisconsin capitalized at home before polishing off the class with Florida prospects.

Scouts Inc. grade: C

What Bret Bielema said:
  • "We expected to take four DBs, which we did. We expected to take three linebackers, so we oversigned by one there. And then the defensive line, it was just an exceptional year for us to get kids on campus and get an opportunity to recruit them. I'm really pleased with the progress there. And then on the offensive side, we had smaller numbers, but we went after specific targets and were able to get them."
  • "Obviously, Dallas Lewallen, the young man from Wisconsin, fits our mode, and then Robbie Havenstein comes our way from Maryland, but in reality, his mom and dad were born and raised in Michigan, Midwest people through and through. They really fit into what we try to do offensive-line wise. And then with the tight ends, same deal. Manasseh [Garner] is more of a Travis Beckum, Lance Kendricks type, and Sherard [Cadogan] is more of a Garrett Graham type, he can do a lot of different things."
  • "Frank [Tamakloe] was a kid who came in during the summer and went on a whirlwind tour, looked at a lot of places that had great academics and a good football reputation. We're excited to get him in here, especially the inroads we're making in that part of the country [Washington D.C.]."

Minnesota recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
Minnesota Golden Gophers

The class

Recruits: 25 (20 high school seniors, four junior college players, one prep school player)

Top prospects: Jimmy Gjere might be the best offensive lineman from the state of Minnesota not named Seantrel Henderson. Running backs Lamonte Edwards, Donnell Kirkwood and Devon Wright should bolster the Big Ten's worst rushing attack.

Sleepers: Offensive lineman Johnathan Ragoo is a big body with some athleticism. Brewster also likes linebackers Dwayne Mitchell and Willie Tatum.

Needs met: Minnesota still hasn't found an answer at running back, and this class addresses the position with three players. The offensive line needs to be upgraded, and Gjere should help there.

Analysis: Minnesota's 2008 recruiting class generated national headlines, but Brewster believes this class is better top to bottom. The Gophers missed out on several big names, most notably Henderson, but they added depth along the offensive line and signed several skill players who can contribute early. It's imperative that Minnesota finds a capable running back this fall, and Edwards, Kirkwood or Wright could be the answer.

Scouts Inc. grade: C

What Tim Brewster said:
  • "Jimmy Gjere is one of the top offensive linemen in the country. He's extremely athletic, and that's what we were really looking for in this class, length. We wanted taller, longer guys, athletic guys. He's a spectacular player."
  • "Lamonte's exactly what we want there. He's got the size, he's a very explosive runner, physical runner. He's going to grow into an outstanding tailback. If Lamonte Edwards was in Texas or Florida, he'd have had 100 offers. As it was, he was a four-star kid who's probably the best-kept secret in the country because he committed to us so long ago."
  • "In the offensive line, we wanted to go out and sign a group of guys who would be the foundation of our team as we move forward. This is a heck of a group of offensive linemen."