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Insider

Big Ten's best recruiting classes by position

2/5/2015

Overall the Big Ten had a productive signing day with a few teams having more success than others. Different teams had different needs, though, so we break down who had the best classes by position within the conference.

Quarterback

Ohio State: The Buckeyes landed two ESPN 300 quarterbacks, including five-star athlete Torrance Gibson and four-star Joe Burrow. Gibson is more of an athlete, while Burrow is more polished as a passer, but Ohio State continues to reload the position.

Sleeper pick: Michigan landed ESPN 300 quarterback Zach Gentry late in the process, flipping his commitment to Texas. The Wolverines also had early enrollee Alex Malzone already on board. Quarterback was a huge need for Michigan as there is uncertainty at the position, so the Wolverines did a good job of adding competition.

Running back

Michigan State: L.J. Scott and Andrew Dowell could end up being an outstanding haul for the Spartans. Dowell might end up at a different position, but having Scott in this class is a huge deal. The ESPN 300 back has a chance to have an outstanding career as a Spartan and could have an immediate impact in East Lansing.

Sleeper pick: Wisconsin and Penn State both made the sleeper list because of who they were able to land. ESPN 300 running back Saquon Barkley and four-star Andre Robinson will be able to help Penn State’s run game next season. Wisconsin added two four-star running backs in Bradrick Shaw and Jordan Stevenson, which gives them a good amount of depth.

Wide receiver

Ohio State: Ohio State pulled in ESPN 300 receiver K.J. Hill on signing day, and were also able to land Aramis Alexander and Alex Stump. The Buckeyes don’t have many position groups where they could use depth help but receiver might be one. Stump and Alexander are both big bodies, both over 6-foot-3, and will be able to help on the outside.

Sleeper pick: Penn State added some big receivers as well with ESPN 300 wide out Juwan Johnson along with three-stars Irvin Charles and Brandon Polk. Johnson is a huge target at 6-5 and Charles is no slouch at 6-4. These two could eventually be big contributors in Penn State’s offense.

Tight end

Wisconsin: The Badgers picked up four-star tight end Kyle Penniston and three-star athlete David Edwards. Penniston was an Under Armour All-American and Edwards has played nearly every position on the field for his high school team. These two could be big targets for coach Paul Chryst’s offense, and Penniston could see some time early on in his career.

Sleeper pick: Illinois landed two junior college tight ends in Ainslie Johnson and Andrew Davis to go along with Caleb Reams all in one class. Landing two juco prospects means the Illini could see immediate production from those two prospects.

Offensive line

Penn State: The Nittany Lions had a huge need at offensive line and the coaches were able to fill the position with outstanding commitments. The coaching staff is expecting help early on from ESPN JC 50 lineman Paris Palmer, who stands around 6-6 and 300 pounds. The staff also reeled in ESPN 300 linemen Sterling Jenkins, Ryan Bates and Steven Gonzalez to eventually compete along the line.

Sleeper pick: Ohio State did an excellent job in turning what was supposed to be a weakness into a strength this past season along the offensive line. The coaches helped bolster the depth with this class by landing ESPN 300 linemen Matt Burrell and Isaiah Prince as well as Mirko Jurkovic Jr., Branden Bowen, Grant Schmidt and Kevin Feder.

Defensive line

Ohio State: ESPN 300 commits Jashon Cornell and Dre’Mont Jones headline the defensive line class to go along with Joshua Alabi, Rashod Berry and Robert Landers. The Buckeyes needed help along the line and this class is loaded with players that could develop into stars. Cornell enrolled early to get a jump start on his development and would be a big boost for the team if he can get on the field early.

Sleeper pick: Penn State landed ESPN 300 Jonathan Holland, who will start at tight end but could play defensive end. The Nittany Lions also signed Kamonte Carter, Shareef Miller, Robert Windsor and Ryan Buchholz at what was another need position group for the coaches.

Linebacker

Ohio State: The Buckeyes dominated signing day, if that wasn’t noticeable by now, and linebacker was another position group they had success with in landing ESPN 300 Justin Hilliard and Jerome Baker to go along with four-star Nick Conner. Hilliard is the No. 1-ranked outside linebacker and the Buckeyes were able to land the No. 1-ranked inside linebacker in the 2014 class with Raekwon McMillan, so those two will pair nicely with each other.

Sleeper pick: Penn State had a nice linebacker haul of its own with ESPN 300 prospect Manny Bowen and three-stars Daiquan Kelly, Jake Cooper and Kevin Givens.

Defensive back

Ohio State: Surprise, Ohio State had another great positional haul with defensive backs. If you’re an Ohio State fan there isn’t much to not like about this class. This group is led by ESPN 300 commitments Eric Glover-Williams and Jamel Dean as well as four-star Damon Arnette, Denzel Ward and Josh Norwood. That’s a ridiculous amount of talent being added to the Buckeyes’ secondary.

Sleeper pick: There were a lot of good defensive back classes in the Big Ten this year, so we are including Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota and Nebraska in this group. All four teams have at least one defensive back recruit ranked as a four-star and all but Michigan State has an ESPN 300 prospect within the secondary. Penn State landed ESPN 300 prospects John Reid and Garrett Taylor, Nebraska hauled in Eric Lee, and Wisconsin landed Arrington Farrar on signing day, making up all the ESPN 300 commitments for these teams at this position.