Big Ten: Keelon Brookins

The letters have all been signed and the faxes sent in. Signing day is officially over. So how did each Big Ten team do in fulfilling its most pressing needs?

Of course, the real answer to that question won't come for another one, two or even three years. But we'll take a stab now at figuring out how league teams addressed some glaring concerns, beginning with the Leaders Division. Adam will look at the Legends teams a little bit later in the blog.

INDIANA

Needs met: It's no secret that the Hoosiers desperately needed reinforcements on defense. They focused on that in this class with 13 of their 22 signees on that side of the ball, plus four players labeled for now as "athletes." That includes six defensive linemen and four linebackers for a team that must improve its front seven.

Holes remaining: After finishing with one of the worst rushing attacks in the Big Ten, Indiana signed only one true running back -- Daryl Chestnut -- in this class.

ILLINOIS

Needs met: After a disastrous 2-10 season where nothing went right, the Illini needed help everywhere, especially at the offensive skill spots. They signed five juco transfers for some immediate assistance and some speed to run the spread offense, including future starting quarterback Aaron Bailey.

Holes remaining: Illinois lost linebacker recruit Reggie Spearman to Iowa and didn't sign anyone at that position, though it had two freshmen starters there last year.

OHIO STATE

Needs met: Speed, speed, speed. Urban Meyer wanted a whole lot more of it, especially at the offensive skill positions. And that's exactly what he got in receivers Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, James Clark and Corey Smith. The Buckeyes should also be able to stop the pass with defensive backs Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows among the standouts in this class.

Holes remaining: Very few, as you'd expect with one of the nation's top classes. Ohio State signed only two offensive linemen, but the Buckeyes addressed that position group in the 2012 class.

PENN STATE

Needs met: The Nittany Lions had to get two quarterbacks in this class, and they managed to land the top-rated quarterback in the land in Christian Hackenberg as well as junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson. The team also needed to add some talent to the secondary and brought in four defensive backs.

Holes remaining: The Lions are bringing in only one running back, though they have last year's signee Akeel Lynch, along with Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak returning. With severe scholarship limitations, Penn State's holes will revolve around depth. The team has to be selective and hope its run-on program produces some gems.

PURDUE

Needs met: The Boilermakers needed reinforcements in the backfield after losing two senior quarterbacks and with a thin tailback corps. Their two top recruits in this class are pro-style QB Danny Etling and running back Keyante Green. The Boilers also added running backs Keith Byars II, David Yancey and Dalyn Dawkins.

Holes remaining: Purdue signed just one offensive lineman in this class (Jason Tretter). That's an area new coach Darrell Hazell will have to address in next year's class.

WISCONSIN

Needs met: The Badgers needed to restock the secondary after losing three starters from the 2012 team. They signed five defensive backs, including early enrollees Keelon Brookins and Sojourn Shelton. Wisconsin also got a potential impact defensive end in Alec James and possibly the latest in a long line of star running backs in Corey Clement.

Holes remaining: Wisconsin could still use a bit more playmaking at the wide receiver position after struggling to find complements to Jared Abbrederis last season. The Badgers will hope Robert Wheelwright and Jazz Peavy provide some help. Neither was a highly rated recruit -- but then again, the highly productive Abbrederis was a walk-on. And although you wouldn't expect Wisconsin to need more offensive linemen, new coach Gary Andersen said the team is a couple of linemen short of the ideal number after signing three in this class.
Gary Andersen's roots are on the defensive side of the ball, which came in handy the past six weeks. Andersen's first priority as Wisconsin's new coach was to defend and retain the team's verbally committed players from other potential suitors. He and his staff also had to add a few pieces to their first recruiting class. They did a good job of achieving both objectives as Wisconsin on Wednesday finalized a class of 17 scholarship players, headlined by ESPN 150 running back Corey Clement and junior college quarterback Tanner McEvoy.

ESPN.com caught up with Andersen on Wednesday to discuss his first recruiting haul.

What are some of the challenges you faced coming in when you did, trying to keep the committed guys, and then trying to go out and get some new guys?

Gary Andersen: I think the biggest challenge first of all was getting a staff put together. Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland did an unbelievable job of really calming the waters when the transition took place. Once I was able to retain them on the staff, it took off from there. They had the parents settled, the coaches settled, the young men settled to say, 'Hey, let's just wait and see what happens here.' So that was a big first step. Secondly, it was getting the [remaining] staff hired, and thirdly, it was getting into their homes and presenting who we are as a program. The positive thing is you didn't have to go out and talk about education or a great program or facilities. What you had to do is go in and lay the groundwork of who we are as coaches, and work to start the trust factor that's really built over a period of six or seven months in the recruiting process, and try to get that down in three weeks. That's very difficult. But those were the major challenges. Most of our young men, except for the four we signed once we came here, had already taken [recruiting] trips, so we did have a little bit of a convenience there, being able to be out on the road some of those weekends. For me, there are 17 total kids, and the goal is to get into 17 homes in a very short period of time. We started with the commits we had and sort of went from there. There's a lot to it, but I'm very pleased with the coaches and grateful to the mentors, the parents, the kids and the coaches who hung in there with us and gave us a chance. It all ended very well.

[+] EnlargeGary Andersen
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsGary Andersen, left, who replaced Bret Bielema as Wisconsin's coach, said his staff worked hard to earn the trust of recruits and their families in a short amount of time.
How were you received by those players and their families? Did it surprise you one way or another?

GA: We were received at first cautiously, which I would expect. You get somebody walking into your living room or picking up the phone that is brand-new. They want to get to know you. They're people who have been through this recruiting process, and have great care for each one of the young men. So everybody's going to be guarded when they first get into that scenario. I'm never a guy who walks in and says, 'Hey, trust me right now.' I want to be able to earn your trust. But we got that done in a short period of time. They understood the direction we're headed. My big push, and it always is and always will be, is to let them understand that we're going to take care of the kids first. As we went through that process and they understood who we were. When we walked out of those homes, they felt very comfortable with us.

You inherited a roster that has three quarterbacks with starting experience (Joel Stave, Curt Phillips and Danny O'Brien). Why did you feel the need to bring in another quarterback, and why did Tanner appeal to you?

GA: You're right, there is great competition at the quarterback spot here. Last year, we had three young men start and play in games, and [they] have done some good things. But for us, just like every position, the key is to create as much competition as we possibly can. We had some injuries at the quarterback position. There were a couple young men who had injuries, a couple young men recovering from injuries. All of them look good, but there's still that question mark of 'are we healed and can we really get through a season in the Big Ten the correct way?' That played a factor into it. The next thing is Tanner's a tremendous athlete, a tremendous quarterback, and he does a lot of things that we like at that position. He strengthens our competition for next fall, and he has three years left. That was another thing that was very intriguing to us.

The other thing I liked is Tanner has had to fight his way here. He started off strong and got himself in a Division I school [South Carolina], and then he had to go back into the junior college and fight his way through there for a year. The story he tells about going through that process and making his decision in about four days to hop on an airplane to Yuma, Ariz., where he'd never been before. That builds toughness. It builds commitment to the sport of football. It helps him grow as a young man, which I think will continue to make him be a very good quarterback going forward. And he brings a lot of athleticism to the position. As we move forward, we'll see how that all filters out, but the best players are going to play, bottom line, and we have great competition there.

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July, 26, 2012
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If you're yearning for even more Big Ten media days coverage and the like, here ya go ...
The calendar has flipped to June, so it's time to check the Big Ten 2013 recruiting scorecard once again. There haven't been too many changes from the last scorecard, although teams like Illinois have made a surge, and others have picked up pieces here and there. Individual recruiting grades also have been updated throughout the ESPN database.

Michigan still leads the FBS in verbal commits with 18, although teams like Georgia and Texas A&M are closing the gap. The Wolverines have a bigger advantage in ESPN 150 commits with 11 total, three more than any other squad.

Ohio State is tied for fifth nationally in ESPN 150 commits with five, and Penn State is tied for 10th with three.

Scorecard time ...

MICHIGAN

2013 verbal commitments: 18

Spotlight: Fellow offensive line recruits Logan Tuley-Tillman and Kyle Bosch have been in the headlines this week following Tuley-Tillman's letter-burning incident, but Michigan has secured the nation's No. 1-rated guard in David Dawson from Cass Tech in Detroit. Dawson is the No. 2 player in the state behind fellow Wolverines commit Shane Morris.

ESPN 150 selections: 11

Highest rated: Shane Morris, QB (Grade of 87)

OHIO STATE

2013 verbal commitments: 11

Spotlight: Ohio State might solidify the cornerback position for years to come in the 2013 class. Both of the Buckeyes' top-rated prospects, Eli Woodward and Cam Burrows, play cornerback. Ohio State will have one vacancy at cornerback after the 2012 season, and Woodward and Burrows have the skills to see the field early in their careers.

ESPN 150 selections: 6

Highest rated: Eli Woodard, CB (Grade of 89)

ILLINOIS

2013 verbal commitments: 10

Spotlight: May was a productive month for the Illini, who picked up four commitments, including one from another Detroit Cass Tech player, defensive tackle Kenton Gibbs. At 6-foot-1 and 280 pounds, Gibbs won't need to get much bigger to help Illinois on the interior defensive line.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: Aaron Bailey, QB (Grade of 80)

IOWA

2013 verbal commitments: 8

Spotlight: Defensive end David Kenney III seems to fit the mold of previous Iowa defensive linemen. He might be able to play both line spots, and has the ability to power rush off of the edge. Along with defensive tackles Brant Gressel and Nathan Bazata, Iowa is putting together a strong group of defensive linemen in this class.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: David Kenney III, DE (Grade of 80)

PENN STATE

2013 verbal commitments: 8

Spotlight: The Lions hope defensive tackle prospect Greg Webb is their next dominant defensive tackle. But Webb will have to bounce back from an injury setback after he tore his ACL in February. Webb recently told Statecollege.com that his recovery is going well, and that he's ahead of schedule.

ESPN 150 selections: 3

Highest rated: Christian Hackenberg, QB (Grade of 89)

NEBRASKA

2013 verbal commitments: 8

Spotlight: The Huskers lose two senior tight ends (Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed) after this season, but they're replenishing the position with Greg Hart from Bo Pelini's home state of Ohio. Hart already is a big target at 6-4, 225, who should fit in well with Tim Beck's offense.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: Tre'vell Dixon, Athlete (Grade of 82)

MICHIGAN STATE

2013 verbal commitments: 7

Spotlight: Michigan State's last superstar linebacker named Jones, Greg Jones, attended Cincinnati's Archbishop Moeller High School. The Spartans are hoping for the same success with commit Shane Jones, a 6-1, 220-pound linebacker. Jones will join another Moeller alum, defensive end Marcus Rush, in East Lansing.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: Damion Terry, QB (Grade of 82)

WISCONSIN

2013 verbal commitments: 6

Spotlight: Defensive end Chikwe Obasih continued Wisconsin's pipeline to Brookfield, Wis., with his verbal commitment in late April. He'll play multiple positions in a 3-4 defense as a senior before joining the Badgers' 4-3 scheme in 2013.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: Jack Keeler, T and Garret Dooley, LB (Grade of 79)

NORTHWESTERN

2013 verbal commitments: 2

Spotlight: Matt Alviti resembles recent Northwestern quarterbacks in that he lacks height but makes up for it with speed, arm strength and competitiveness. A Dan Persa clone? Wildcats fans would be thrilled if that's the case.

ESPN 150 selections: 1

Highest rated: Matt Alviti, QB (Grade of 84)

PURDUE

2013 verbal commitments: 2

Spotlight: Defensive end Randy Gregory originally committed to Purdue in 2011 before heading to a junior college in Arizona. Several other schools pursued Gregory, but he pledged again to the Boilers, and will suit up in 2013.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

MINNESOTA

2013 verbal commitments: 1

Spotlight: Cornerback Keelon Brookins is Minnesota's only verbal so far, but the Gophers had only two players committed at this time last year. So it's too soon to press the panic button. It will be interesting to see how well second-year coach Jerry Kill and his staff do within the state. They had 10 Minnesota players in last year's class.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

INDIANA

2013 verbal commitments: 0

Spotlight: The Hoosiers are one of four major-conference programs -- Iowa State, Oregon State and Wake Forest are the others -- without a commitment for 2013. This is a departure from the end of the Bill Lynch era, when Indiana was among the Big Ten's leaders in early commits.

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