Big Ten: 2011 signing day wrap

Illinois recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
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ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

The class

Recruits: 27 (all high school seniors, no players enrolled early)

Top prospects: The wait was worth it for Illinois as ESPNU 150 athlete Jon Davis chose to sign with the Illini on national signing day. He's expected to play tight end in Champaign. Darrius Caldwell provides a jolt to Illinois' defensive front as he was rated as the nation's No. 26 defensive end by ESPN Recruiting. Defensive tackle Clint Tucker is another exciting prospect for the D-line, and Dondi Kirby should help Illinois in the secondary.

Needs met: Illinois loses several key players in the defensive front seven, including tackle Corey Liuget and linebacker Martez Wilson, and addressed both areas with six line recruits and two linebackers. Ron Zook targeted the offensive line as a need in the class and brought in five recruits there, and Illinois is excited running backs Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young. The Illini needed a quarterback following Chandler Whitmer's departure and landed one in Reilly O'Toole.

Analysis: After a down year in recruiting in 2010, Illinois bounced back nicely with this year's class. The Illini didn't clean up within the state but did well in other regions, landing prospects like Davis (Kentucky), Caldwell (Georgia) and Kirby (Pennsylvania). It's a large class that should help the depth at several positions, namely offensive line, defensive line and the secondary. Illinois likely will need some defensive recruits to play soon, and several of these players look like they'll be able to do so.

ESPN Recruiting grade: B-

Indiana recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
2:00
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INDIANA HOOSIERS

The class

Recruits: 21 (all high school seniors, one player enrolled early)

Top prospects: Indiana is bringing in several exciting offensive skill players, including Shane Wynn, a wide receiver rated as the nation's No. 41 athlete by ESPN Recruiting. The Hoosiers also bolstered their backfield with quarterback Tre Roberson and running back D'Angelo Roberts, rated as the nation's No. 46 running back. Zack Shaw is a promising player at the linebacker spot.

Needs met: The Hoosiers need more competition in the secondary and helped their cause with five defensive backs (three cornerbacks, two safeties) in this class. Although none of the players are highly rated, a guy like safety Mark Murphy could help early in his career. It also was important for new coach Kevin Wilson to keep Roberson on board. Whether or not Roberson ultimately plays quarterback in Wilson's system, he'll be an asset to the IU offense.

Analysis: Wilson came aboard only in December and since then has endured some fluctuation on his coaching staff, but Indiana still kept most of the key committed players on board. Players like Wynn, Roberson and Roberts should help immediately on offense, but Indiana has to build depth on defense and that process likely will take some time. Expect to see more of Wilson's touch on next year's class, but there are some guys coming in now who can help IU.

ESPN Recruiting grade: C-

Iowa recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
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IOWA HAWKEYES

The class

Recruits: 23 (22 high school seniors, one junior college player)

Top prospects: Iowa landed two of the nation's top 20 guards in four-star prospect Jordan Walsh and three-star lineman Austin Blythe. The Hawkeyes had a key signing-day addition in Darian Cooper, rated as the nation's No. 21 defensive tackle by ESPN Recruiting. Ken O'Keefe's offense values the tight end position and Iowa got a good one in Ray Hamilton. Jake Rudock could end up being Iowa's quarterback of the future.

Needs met: The Hawkeyes lose quite a bit at receiver and tight end both now and after the 2011 season, and they addressed both positions in this class. Hamilton is one of three tight ends to go along with two wide receivers. Running back depth has been a major issue in each of the last two seasons, and Iowa added four of them, led by the mammoth Rodney Coe.

Analysis: There's a lot to like in this class, especially two or three years down the road. Iowa took care of its needs -- running back and receiver -- but also landed a potential huge steal at the most important position on the field in Rudock. Walsh and Blythe provide depth along the offensive line, and it'll be interesting to see how quickly defensive recruits like Cooper and linebacker Quinton Alston see the field.

ESPN Recruiting grade: B-

Michigan recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
1:00
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MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

The class

Recruits: 20 (all high school seniors, one player enrolled early)

Top prospects: Four-star defensive backs Blake Countess and Delonte Hollowell could provide immediate help to a secondary that needs it in 2011. The Wolverines addressed their defensive front seven with Brennen Beyer, rated as the nation's No. 24 defensive end by ESPN Recruiting, as well as linebacker Kellen Jones. Although Michigan lost running back commit Dee Hart to Alabama, the Wolverines held onto Justice Hayes, who rates as the nation's No. 22 running back.

Needs met: Anyone who watched Michigan last season could identify the secondary as a glaring need, and the Wolverines addressed it with five defensive backs, including the nation's No. 14 and No. 15 cornerbacks in Countess and Hallowell. Field goals were an adventure in 2010 and Michigan wisely added kicker Matt Wile. Defensive line also was a need, especially with Michigan transitioning to the 4-3, and players like Beyer help.

Analysis: Coach Brady Hoke and his staff deserve a lot of credit for keeping several key verbal commits on board and making some late additions to the class despite taking over the program less than a month before signing day. From a ratings standpoint, this class won't go down as one of Michigan's best, but the late coaching change didn't hurt the Wolverines as much as it could have. Michigan needs several of the defensive recruits to blossom right away, especially in the secondary. Hayes and Wile also are players who could make an early impact.

ESPN Recruiting grade: B-

Michigan State recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
12:30
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MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

The class

Recruits: 21 (20 high school seniors, one junior college transfer, one player enrolled early)

Top prospects: For the second consecutive year, Michigan State's top recruit is a defender from Detroit. ESPNU 150 linebacker Lawrence Thomas headlines the 2011 class, following William Gholston in 2010. The Spartans added to an already deep receiving corps with Juwan Caesar, rated as the nation's No. 37 receiver by ESPN Recruiting. Center Jack Allen leads a promising group of offensive linemen in the class.

Needs met: Michigan State likely will be a consistent Big Ten title contender it if upgrades its line play, and this year's class should help with players like Allen and defensive linemen Brandon Clemons and Damon Knox. The Spartans lose two multiyear starters at linebacker (Greg Jones and Eric Gordon), and they addressed the area with players like Thomas and Darien Harris, rated as the nation's No. 32 outside linebacker by ESPN Recruiting. Joe Boisture's departure creates a need for a quarterback, and Michigan State adds one in Connor Cook.

Analysis: Mark Dantonio and his staff have made Michigan State a consistent upper-tier recruiting presence in the Big Ten. This year's class not only includes strong in-state prospects like Thomas, but nice additions from other regions like Caesar (Florida) and Harris (Maryland). There aren't as many big names this year as there were in 2010, but if the Spartans continue to build on their on-field success, their recruiting profile will continue to grow.

ESPN Recruiting grade: B-

Minnesota recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
12:00
PM ET
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

The class

Recruits: 22 (17 high school seniors, two junior college transfers, one FBS transfer, one prep school player; five players enrolled early)

Top prospects: The Gophers' offensive line gets a boost with four-star guard Tommy Olson and the McAvoy twins, Kyle and Luke, both of whom project at tackle. ESPN Recruiting ranks Olson as the nation's No. 14 guard. Wide receiver Quentin Gardener brings a good skill set to the Gophers' passing game, and Jephette Matilus adds depth at the linebacker position.

Needs met: The offensive line is the biggest key for Minnesota to become a consistent bowl team again, and new coach Jerry Kill addressed things by signing six O-linemen on Wednesday. Olson, like his older brother Ed, should be an early contributor for Minnesota. The Gophers also need pass rushers and brought in three defensive ends. The class lacks a running back, which could be an issue going forward.

Analysis: Kill and his staff faced a tough challenge with this class after arriving only in early December. The good news is they prevented many defections among the recruits who committed to Tim Brewster. The class lacks the wow factor, but Kill and his crew boast a long track record of player development. If some of these offensive linemen pan out, Minnesota should be in good shape in the future.

ESPN Recruiting grade: C

Nebraska recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
11:30
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NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

The class

Recruits: 20 (18 high school seniors, two junior college transfers, three players enrolled early)

Top prospects: The Huskers bring in the Big Ten's top-rated recruit in Aaron Green, ranked as the nation's No. 3 running back and No. 11 overall prospect by ESPN Recruiting. They also bolstered the offensive backfield with ESPNU 150 quarterbacks Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling, although Starling could bolt to play professional baseball. Both lines are addressed in this class with players like center Ryne Reeves and defensive tackles Todd Peat Jr. and Kevin Williams. The defensive backfield adds a key player in ESPNU 150 cornerback Charles Jackson.

Needs met: Nebraska needs a featured running back following Roy Helu Jr.'s departure, and the addition of both Green and Ameer Abdullah answers a need there. The Huskers also need to build depth at receiver and brought in two potential contributors in Taariq Allen and Daniel Davie. Life after star specialist Alex Henery begins this fall and Nebraska picked up kicker Mauro Bondi late in the recruiting process.

Analysis: If the 2011 class is any indication, Nebraska will be a formidable recruiting force in the Big Ten. The Huskers capitalized on their Texas connections with players like Green, Turner and Jackson and also did well closer to home with in-state products like Reeves. Although Nebraska didn't neglect its two lines, the overall athleticism in this class really stands out. Skill players like Green, Turner, Starling and Jackson should be able to contribute early in their careers.

ESPN Recruiting grade: B

Northwestern recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
11:00
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NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

The class

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

Top prospects: The Wildcats added a heralded recruit to arguably their deepest position group in wide receiver Christian Jones, an ESPNU 150 selection from Spring, Texas. Northwestern also boosted both lines with offensive tackles Jack Konopka and Shane Mertz and defensive ends Max Chapman and Deonte Gibson. Zack Oliver could be the team's quarterback of the future.

Needs met: Northwestern's defensive line underachieved in 2010, and the team tried to address the need with players like Chapman, Gibson and C.J. Robbins. Running back has been a problematic position during coach Pat Fitzgerald's tenure and the team hopes Treyvon Green and/or Jordan Perkins can help rectify the situation. Despite recruiting well to the offensive line in recent years, Northwestern added four more trailblazers up front.

Analysis: Fitzgerald's fondness for redshirting freshmen results in smaller recruiting class, but the coach noted that this year's crop might be the deepest Northwestern has had in some time, and he could be right. The recruiting analysts like the top one-third to two-thirds of the class, and players like Jones, Green and superback Mark Szott could see the field early. If this class produces some productive defensive linemen and a potential answer at running back, it will labeled a success.

ESPN Recruiting grade: C

Ohio State recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
10:30
AM ET
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES


The class

Recruits: 23 (all high school seniors, five players enrolled early)

Top prospects: The Buckeyes bolstered all three areas of their defense with ESPNU 150 prospects such as defensive linemen Steve Miller and Michael Bennett, cornerback Doran Grant and linebackers Curtis Grant and Ryan Shazier. Ohio State also addressed a potentially pressing need at quarterback with Braxton Miller, rated as the nation's No. 4 signal-caller by ESPN Recruiting.

Needs met: Miller's addition is big because Ohio State will be without starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor for the first part of the season and needs other options if Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton don't pan out. The Buckeyes also are fairly unproven at receiver and added depth in this class with ESPNU 150 prospect Evan Spencer as well as Devin Smith. Offensive line is the only position that could have used a few more players in this class.

Analysis: After what could be labeled a down recruiting year in 2010 according to its standards, Ohio State rebounded in a big way Wednesday. The Big Ten's best program signed the league's best class, which includes seven ESPNU 150 prospects. Ohio State brought in several players who can contribute early in their careers on both sides of the ball. Braxton Miller could be Ohio State's post-Pryor answer at quarterback, and he'll have some targets to throw to in this class with players like Spencer and Smith. Ohio State did a better job of locking down the top in-state prospects than it did in 2010 and also reached to other regions for players like Curtis Grant and Shazier.

ESPN Recruiting grade: A-

Penn State recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
10:00
AM ET
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS

The class

Recruits: 16 (all high school seniors, one player enrolled early)

Top prospects: Penn State bolstered both lines with players like Anthony Zettel, Angelo Mangiro and Deion Barnes. Mangiro, the team's only ESPNU 150 selection this year, is ranked as the nation's No. 2 guard by ESPN Recruiting. Zettel and Barnes bring size and athleticism to the Lions' defensive front. Athlete Bill Belton is a very intriguing player who should be able to help early in his career.

Needs met: Line play is the biggest key toward Penn State becoming a consistent Big Ten title contender, and the Nittany Lions addressed it on both sides of the ball. They need to get tougher along the offensive line and find some capable pass rushers, and some of these players should help the cause. The signing day addition of defensive back Adrian Amos could pay off following the 2011 season.

Analysis: The class certainly doesn't match up with its predecessor, which ranked as the Big Ten's best and 11th nationally in 2010, but it's also not the disaster many predicted for much of the fall. Penn State already has the skill players to take the next step, but it needed bodies for both lines and this class provides them. If the 2010 class meets lofty expectations and this class fills gaps, Penn State should be in great shape.

ESPN Recruiting grade: B-

Purdue recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
9:30
AM ET
PURDUE BOILERMAKERS

The class

Recruits: 16 (12 high school seniors, three players enrolled early and one walk-on received a scholarship)

Top prospects: Athlete Raheem Mostert could be a game changer for Purdue, which has found some playmakers from the state of Florida under Danny Hope. Another Floridian, receiver Frankie Williams, should bolster the Boilermakers' passing attack. Pennsylvania product Armstead Williams ranks as the nation's No. 24 outside linebacker according to ESPN Recruiting.

Needs met: Running back depth became such a problem in 2010 that Purdue had to move some of its young receiver into the backfield. This class should address the running back spot as Purdue brings in Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt. The Boilers also added to the tight end and linebacker spots, two positions that need boosts.

Analysis: A small class that lacks big names might not get too many folks excited, but Hope has a formula that needs some time to work. Purdue found some athletes this year like Mostert, Frankie Williams and Brandon Cottom. This might not be a difference-making class, but it addresses several position groups and could get Purdue back to making bowl games on a consistent basis again.

ESPN Recruiting grade: C

Wisconsin recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
9:00
AM ET
WISCONSIN BADGERS

The class

Recruits: 20 (all high school seniors, one player enrolled early)

Top prospects: A.J. Jordan is a four-star prospect ranked by ESPN Recruiting as the nation's No. 40 receiver. The Badgers snared another talented running back in Melvin Gordon, who looks to follow in the footsteps of standout freshmen like James White and P.J. Hill. Defensive end Jesse Hayes and linebacker Jake Keefer should provide depth on defense.

Needs met: The Badgers will lose a lot in the secondary after 2011, and they addressed the area by signing five defensive backs. They also bolstered their pass-catching/blocking spots with two wide receivers and four tight ends. The absence of a quarterback in this class could hurt Wisconsin if Jacoby Brissett decides to sign elsewhere.

Analysis: Although Wisconsin didn't make a huge splash toward the end of the recruiting cycle, it brings in a decent class that addresses areas like the secondary. The Badgers collected some solid in-state prospects including Gordon, who originally committed to Iowa. It's fair to have expected a little more from Wisconsin after a Rose Bowl appearance, but Bret Bielema and his staff have shown they can develop players very well.

ESPN Recruiting grade: C+

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