Big Ten: recruiting

The recruiting folks at ESPN.com have released their first-ever ESPN Junior 300, or the list of the 300 best prospects in the 2015 class. It's early to be talking about these guys -- these are, after all, players who only recently finished their sophomore years of high school -- but as Tom Luginbill writes, the recruiting process has become so accelerated that it's almost never too soon to discuss prospects. You'd better believe that college coaching staffs know all about them.

Not surprisingly, there are only a handful of players in the 2015 class who have already committed. The lone Big Ten representative so far on the list is Utah quarterback Austin Kafentzis, who has given his pledge to Wisconsin. Kafentzis is ranked No. 227 overall on the list and the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback.

It's also notable that the No. 1 prospect on the list, defensive end Jashon Cornell, hails from St. Paul, Minn. It's hard to get more Big Ten country than that, and you know that Minnesota is doing everything it can to get Cornell to stay at home in the Twin Cities. But Jerry Kill and the Gophers have all kinds of competition, including just about every other league school and many of the top programs in the nation. It's going to be tough for Minnesota to battle those teams, just as it was when Seantrel Henderson -- who went to the same high school as Cornell -- was considered the top recruit in the nation and ended up at Miami (via USC).

Other top prospects in the Big Ten footprint include defensive end Terry Beckner Jr. from East St. Louis, Ill. (No. 9), defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt from Warren, Ohio (No. 14), athlete Eric Glover-Williams from Canton, Ohio (No. 29), athlete Shaun Crawford from Lakewood, Ohio (No. 49) and defensive tackle Joshua Alabi from Detroit (No. 50). We should also include cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick from Jersey City, N.J. (No. 38), since the addition of Rutgers makes that Big Ten country, too.

There's a long way to go before these guys step onto campus, and perhaps even longer before many contribute to a college team. The rankings will change a lot between now and then. But schools are already in hot pursuit.
Now that we've moved into June, it's time once again to take stock of the Big Ten's 2014 recruiting efforts.

Indiana got its first commitment for 2014 over the weekend, giving every league team at least one in this class. Michigan continues to lead the way and currently has ESPN.com's No. 1 ranked class in the country. Ohio State is at No. 14, followed by Penn State at 16 and Northwestern at No. 19. Michigan also leads all teams with nine ESPN 150 commitments.

With the usual caveat that it's a long way away from signing day and much can change between now and February, here's a look at how the Big Ten teams are faring:

Michigan

2014 verbal commitments: 11

Spotlight: Cornerback Jabril Peppers, whom ESPN ranks as the No. 2 prospect in the country, committed to Brady Hoke late last month in memorable style. He explained his choice while rapping on live TV. That takes some guts, and that's what you want to see from the guys who will be on an island defensively.

ESPN 150 selections: 9

Highest rated: Peppers (ESPN grade: 95)

Northwestern

2014 verbal commitments: 11

Spotlight: The Wildcats have a Top 20 class right now, according to ESPN.com. Pat Fitzgerald got six commits in May alone, the latest being 260-pound defensive tackle Fred Wyatt. Northwestern doesn't have an ESPN 150 player yet, but Fitzgerald has done a great job identifying the right kinds of players for his program, and now he's improving the overall speed.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: QB Clayton Thorson (ESPN grade: 82)

Penn State

2014 verbal commitments: 10

Spotlight: Scholarship restrictions haven't slowed down Bill O'Brien, who can only offer 15 initial counters in for the 2014 class. He's already got 10 lined up, so Penn State can be very choosy with its final five.

ESPN 150 selections: 1

Highest rated: ATH De'Andre Thompkins (ESPN grade: 84)

Ohio State

2014 verbal commitments: 9

Spotlight: To oversimplify things, Michigan's Brady Hoke has been cleaning up with early commitments, while Urban Meyer is arguably the best closer in the business. The Buckeyes have just two commitments since early April but are hot on the trail of man big-time prospects and are looking for a quarterback to headline the class.

ESPN 150 selections: 1

Highest rated: CB Damon Webb (ESPN grade: 84)

Michigan State

2014 verbal commitments: 8

Spotlight: The Spartans' coaches are known as great evaluators of talent, so the lack of stars next to recruits' names don't bother them. It remains to be seen how much the rise of Michigan and Ohio State will affect Mark Dantonio's efforts. Quarterback Chris Durkin, at 6-foot-4, has an accurate arm and can move.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: ATH Byron Bullough (ESPN grade: 80)

Wisconsin

2014 verbal commitments: 6

Spotlight: Though Gary Andersen's roots are out west, five of his six commitments in his first full recruiting class are from the state of Wisconsin. The exception is Ula Tolutau, an athlete from Andersen's native Salt Lake City, Utah. The five Wisconsin players are not surprisingly all linemen. The more things change ...

ESPN 150 selections: 1

Highest rated: OT Jaden Gault (ESPN grade: 83)

Illinois

2014 verbal commitments: 5

Spotlight: One thing Tim Beckman has to sell is playing time, and don't be surprised to see him hit the juco route again. One such transfer, tight end Trevor Kanteman, is listed as a 2014 recruit but could play this fall.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: DE Tito Odenigbo (ESPN grade: 77)

Iowa

2014 verbal commitments: 3

Spotlight: The Hawkeyes' second commitment of this class was a big one, as they landed top-ranked offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher in January. They've had only one commitment since then and none since April 3 despite some inclinations to offer players earlier. With offensive lineman comprising two of the three commits, Iowa still has a lot of work to do to upgrade its talent at the skill positions.

ESPN 150 selections: 1

Highest rated: Pierschbacher (ESPN grade: 84)

Minnesota

2014 verbal commitments: 3

Spotlight: The Gophers typically take their time, and so you don't see a whole lot of early commitments under Jerry Kill. He has landed one of the top in-state prospects in running back Jeff Jones.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: Jones (ESPN grade: 78)

Purdue

2014 verbal commitments: 3

Spotlight: The Boilermakers picked up their third commitment last Friday when Georgia receiver Gregory Phillips said yes to Darrell Hazell. Purdue fans are still waiting for some blue-chippers to hop on board.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: LB Brandon Garner (ESPN grade: 70)

Nebraska

2014 verbal commitments: 2

Spotlight: The Huskers have had a slow go of it on the recruiting trail thus far, getting commitments from only a pair of safeties. This time a year ago, Nebraska had eight verbal commitments. It's disappointing, to be sure, but the coaching staff is hoping to land a bunch of commitments this summer when prospects come to Lincoln for camps and visits.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: S Jason Hall (ESPN grade: Not ranked)

Indiana

2014 verbal commitments: 1

Spotlight: Kevin Wilson didn't get his first commitment until linebacker Michael Barwick pledged over the weekend. But remember that the Hoosiers had no commitments in early June 2013 and ended up with one of the top-ranked classes in recent program history. So it's no time to panic.

ESPN 150 selections: 0

Highest rated: Barwick (ESPN grade: Not ranked)
Big Ten coaches have been arguably the most vocal among their profession in opposing a series of new NCAA rules that would greatly deregulate recruiting.

The coaches, along with the league athletic directors, issued a formal request last month for the NCAA to table those new rules until further discussion could be had. The NCAA did in fact halt two proposals which would have allowed schools to send unlimited printed materials to prospects and would have allowed staff members other than head coaches or assistants to perform recruiting duties.

That wasn't enough for Big Ten coaches, who voted unanimously on March 12 to tell their ADs and presidents to override another controversial rule: the one allowing unlimited contact with prospects in areas like phone calls and text messages.

Well, the NCAA received the necessary 75 votes to override that proposal, known as 13-3, on Wednesday. That means the rule on unlimited contact will now be subject to a review by the Division I board of directors at its May 2 meeting. The board will also review the other proposals on printed materials and non-coach recruiting.

The 18-member board, which is made up of college presidents, can vote to kill or amend the proposals. Or it could send them to an online vote of all Division I members, where they would need a 62.5 percent majority vote.

ESPN.com colleague Mitch Sherman writes that Wednesday's override vote helped quiet a growing storm over the proposals:
It was all part of NCAA president Mark Emmert's plan to focus on rules that make a difference -- to allow enforcement staff to stop counting phone calls.

Just one problem: College coaches need the NCAA to save them from each other. If restrictions in recruiting are removed, you can bet some coach will go too far. And then, everyone's gotta follow.

Hey, if it's within the rules …

Welcome to the world of recruiting excess, featuring a new arms race in which even the richest programs wonder aloud how much is too much.

The NCAA, in passing the proposals, displayed a tone-deaf understanding of its membership.

And now, that membership has spoken.

The NCAA, tone-deaf? What a surprise. At least these much-criticized proposals are getting more review. And if the Big Ten coaches get their way, they'll die a quick death.
The Big Ten coaches and athletic directors last month asked the NCAA to reconsider three proposals that would deregulate elements of football recruiting.

They got two-thirds of their wish last week, as the NCAA's Rules Working Group recommended that the Division I Board of Directors suspend and modify the legislation at its May 2 meeting in Indianapolis. The recommendations called for additional study and discussion about:
  • Proposal 11-2, which would eliminate the requirement that only a head coach or assistant coach can perform the functions of a recruiting coordinator. The result of this has been teams hiring player personnel/scouting types in bunches
  • Proposal 13-5-A, which would have eliminated restrictions on printed materials sent to prospects. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said last month of the proposal, "Could you imagine what's going to be rolling into kids' driveways? Fatheads and magnets -- it's nonsense. ... I don't agree with that at all."

But no action was taken on arguably the most contentious proposal, 13-3, which would remove numerical limitations and modes of recruiting communication from college coaches to prospects, including text messaging.

The Big Ten coaches still want 13-3 to be tabled for further discussion. The coaches held a teleconference Tuesday and unanimously voted to recommend to their athletic directors and presidents to submit override votes if no action is taken.

"We're very thankful that the NCAA has reconsidered two of the three propositions that we made a statement regarding," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who chairs the Big Ten coaches' group, told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "But we still feel strongly that 13-3 should be tabled also. We look forward to working with the NCAA in finding great solutions to not only the recruiting process, but also to make the great game of college football and the experience for our student-athletes even better."

The board must review any proposal that receives 75 override votes, and if 125 override votes are received by March 20, the legislation would be suspended pending a vote of members. The new legislation would go into effect Aug. 1 unless the board suspends it in May.

The coaches mainly want to be involved in the discussion, which they haven't been to this point. Although the Big Ten coaches have been the most vocal about this, coaches from other leagues feel similarly. It would be surprising if additional action isn't taken on 13-3.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

January, 4, 2013
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Now that bowls are over, the next big date on the college football calendar is signing day.

With that in mind, it's time to take a look at where each Big Ten team stands in its recruiting efforts with less than five weeks to go before high school prospects can sign their official letters of intent.

Illinois

Current commitments: 26
Spotlight: The Illini need all the skill position talent they can find, and junior college Martize Barr seems to fit that bill. The 6-foot wide receiver is one of five juco transfers who have already signed with Illinois as Tim Beckman looks to plug roster holes. He started his career at New Mexico before transferring to Iowa Western, which won the juco national title.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Indiana

Current commitments: 19
Spotlight: Kevin Wilson and his staff have gotten some nice pickups on the recruiting trail and maybe none better than ESPN 150 prospect Rashard Fant. The 5-10, 165-pound athlete committed before ever stepping foot in Bloomington. He projects as a defensive back but has been told he could possibly play at least some snaps on offense.
ESPN 150 commitments: 1
ESPN 300 commitments: 2

Iowa

Current commitments: 18
Spotlight: This season showed that the Hawkeyes need some more playmaking ability at the receiver positions. They could get some immediate help there from junior-college transfer Damond Powell. He's only 5-foot-11 and didn't have a ton of high-profile offers, but he reportedly runs a 4.4 40 and averaged 30 yards per catch last season. Iowa could use both those things.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Michigan

Current commitments: 24
Spotlight: David Dawson -- the nation's No. 1 offensive guard, according to ESPN.com -- violated Brady Hoke's no-visit rule for Michigan commits when he took a trip to Florida earlier this fall. But the Wolverines didn't give up on him, and Dawson re-committed last month. He's one of three players from Detroit's Cass Tech who have given their pledge to play in Ann Arbor.
ESPN 150 commitments: 10
ESPN 300 commitments: 14

Michigan State

Current commitments: 15
Spotlight: Quarterback Damion Terry is ranked as the No. 13 dual threat signal caller in the country and could give the Spartans' offense a different look in the future. He led his team to a Class AAA Pennsylvania state title, along with fellow Michigan State commit Delton Williams.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 2

Minnesota

Current commitments: 14
Spotlight: It's no secret that the Gophers could use some help at the skill positions, and maybe receiver Nate Andrews can offer some assistance. The Fairhope, Ala., prospect is sticking by his commitment to Jerry Kill despite some late offers from Tennessee and Alabama, two schools that Minnesota doesn't often beat out for players from down South.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Nebraska

Current commitments: 17
Spotlight: The Huskers did more than just play in the Capital One Bowl while in Orlando. They also picked up a wide receiver from Mickey Mouse country in Dominic Walker, who is their highest-ranked high school recruit, according to ESPN.com rankings. Walker is 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds and was also recruited by Florida, Georgia and Florida State, among many others.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 3

Northwestern

Current commitments: 20
Spotlight: Four-star athlete Godwin Igwebuike is a headline writer's nightmare but someone who could be in the news a lot. He played running back in high school and could move to safety for the Wildcats. He was heavily pursued by Nebraska, Wisconsin and many others.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

Ohio State

Current commitments: 19
Spotlight: Eli Apple, who is ESPN.com's No. 3 ranked safety and No. 6 overall prospect, was known as Eli Woodard when he originally committed to the Buckeyes. He announced he had changed his name last month to honor his stepfather, who has helped raise him since he was 2. Ohio State is pursuing another top safety in Georgia prospect Vonn Bell.
ESPN 150 commitments: 8
ESPN 300 commitments: 13

Penn State

Current commitments: 18
Spotlight: Tyler Ferguson, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior college transfer, gives the Nittany Lions some much-needed depth at the quarterback position. The pocket passer can help push Steven Bench and possibly provide a bridge to the future should Penn State decide to redshirt top quarterback prospect Christian Hackenberg.
ESPN 150 commitments: 2
ESPN 300 commitments: 3

Purdue

Current commitments: 13
Spotlight: Purdue's running back depth chart was thin this year, so Keyante Green's commitment this summer was important. Green originally was a UCLA pledge, but the Georgia native apparently wanted some earlier playing time. New coach Darrell Hazell knows how to use running backs; Kent State had two 1,000-yard rushers this season.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 2

Wisconsin

Current commitments: 18
Spotlight: New Jersey running back Corey Clement (No. 169) is ranked just outside the ESPN 150 and is the No. 17 rated running back in the class. He also had offers from Nebraska and Notre Dame. Clement has already said he wants to break Montee Ball's records someday.
ESPN 150 commitments: 0
ESPN 300 commitments: 1
Michigan debuted at No. 1 in the ESPN.com initial Class of 2013 team recruiting rankings earlier this summer.

Well, the Wolverines have done great work on the recruiting trail, but now ESPN likes another school a little better. USC has overtaken Michigan for the top spot in the latest class rankings, which were released yesterday .

The Trojans have 16 commitments for 2013, 12 of whom are in the ESPN 150. The Wolverines, by contrast, have 22 pledges and half of those are in the ESPN 150. USC may have nudged ahead by landing running back Ty Isaac, who was also considering Michigan.

If you're the type to get worked up over such a thing, fine. But it doesn't really matter if Michigan finishes No. 1 or No. 2, since they don't hand out trophies or hang banners for winning recruiting rankings. It should be enough to know that Brady Hoke and his staff are killing it out on the trail.

Speaking of which, Ohio State continues to do the same. The Buckeyes remain No. 5 in the latest class rankings, with 15 commits and six ESPN 150 prospects in the fold. And the rankings were done before today's news that four-star wide receiver Taivon Jacobs from Maryland had committed to Ohio State. Jacobs, a speedster who's been timed at 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is a big get for a program seeking more offensive speed and playmakers.

The only other Big Ten school in the top 25 class rankings is Penn State, which remains at No. 14. You can't say enough about the job Bill O'Brien and his staff have done in putting together a top-flight class under difficult circumstances, to put it lightly. Will the Freeh report have any negative impact on the recruiting class, which hasn't gained a commitment since the investigation was completed last week? Time will tell, but so far the prospects on board seem to be staying loyal to the Nittany Lions.
ESPN.com colleague Mitch Sherman has a really interesting story today about the costs associated with recruiting in big-time football.

Sherman sifted through budget data from 99 of the 120 FBS schools to see how much teams spent on recruiting in 2010 and 2011. Some of the results were surprising. For example, Ohio State, which finished second nationally in football revenue, spent less on recruiting than Memphis and Army.

Then again, the Buckeyes have traditionally not had to look much outside their own state's borders for prospects, thus avoiding many travel costs.

As Sherman writes, recruiting budgets can account for travel to see prospects, on-campus visits and designing and distributing recruiting packets.

Here's how much the Big Ten schools surveyed spent on recruiting in 2010 and 2011 (Note: information for Northwestern and Penn State is not available because those schools are not subject to state open records laws):

Illinois

2010: $537,773
2011: $545,363

Indiana

2010: $272,625
2011: $270,134

Iowa

2010: $207,117
2011: $307,226

Michigan

2010: $489,412
2011: $577,663

Michigan State

2010: $390,289
2011: $383,448

Minnesota

2010: $615,063
2011: $348,609

Nebraska

2010: $344,471
2011: $478,554

Ohio State

2010: $297,342 2011: $320,938

Purdue

2010: $528,095
2011: $428,805

Wisconsin

2010: $230,227
2011: $204,181

Michigan spent more on recruiting than every other Big Ten school surveyed in 2011, followed by Illinois, which spent more in the two years combined than any other league team. Surprisingly, Minnesota led the way in 2010 under former coach Tim Brewster. The amount spent on recruiting decreased by almost half in 2011, the first year under Jerry Kill. Purdue was also a big spender in 2010. Wisconsin continues to get a lot of bang for its buck in recruiting, spending less on recruiting than every other Big Ten school surveyed yet continuing to churn out top-notch players. Iowa, which has increased its number of early commitments this year, saw a big jump in its recruiting budget from 2010 to 2011.

Big Ten schools still don't spend as much on recruiting as Tennessee, which budgeted nearly $1.5 million in 2011. Since that program recruits coast to coast, it's understandable. Defending national champion Alabama spent $980,000 on recruiting, while Auburn spent $950,000. By contrast, Boise State spent only $71,290 on recruiting in 2010. Yet the Broncos manage to do just fine on the football field.

The 2013 ESPN 150 -- our list of the top high school rising seniors in the country (now with less U!) -- was unveiled this afternoon. And the Big Ten's hand prints are all over the list, which you can find in its entirety here. (You can read more about the class, including spotlights on Penn State commit Christian Hackenberg and Ohio State recruit Cam Burrows, here).

Twenty players from the list have already committed to Big Ten schools. So of the 77 players who have committed, the Big Ten claims more than a quarter of them. The Big Ten only signed 12 players from the 2012 ESPN 150 list.

Michigan is responsible for the biggest portion of that haul. The Wolverines -- who have 17 total commitments for the '13 class -- boast 11 ESPN 150 prospects in their corner so far.

That's easily the most of any school in the country. Texas and Florida are next with seven ESPN 150 commits each, followed by Alabama and Georgia with six. Alabama had the top class in the country this year with 13 ESPN 150 signees. Michigan has a chance to compete for the top class ranking next year if this current group holds together and gets a few more notable additions. Brady Hoke and his staff have done an excellent job of locking up early pledges.

Ohio State is doing well, too. The Buckeyes currently have five ESPN 150 commits for Urban Meyer, including three in the top 55 of the list.

But the league school with the highest-ranked prospect so far is Penn State. Let's take a look at the players from the list who are currently committed to a Big Ten team:

No. 11: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

No. 12: Eli Woodard, CB, Ohio State

No. 21: Cam Burrows, CB, Ohio State

No. 37: Shane Morris, QB, Michigan

No. 39: Adam Breneman, TE, Penn State

No. 55: Jalin Marshall, ATH, Ohio State

No. 63: Gareon Conley, CB, Michigan

No. 75: Mike McCray II, OLB, Michigan

No. 92: David Dawson, OG, Michigan

No. 97: Logan Tuley-Tillman, OT, Michigan

No. 98: Dymonte Thomas, ATH, Michigan

No. 105: Chris Fox, OT, Michigan

No. 107: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan

No. 112: Kyle Bosch, OG, Michigan

No. 113: Matt Alviti, QB, Northwestern

No. 115: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

No. 121: Patrick Kugler, OG, Michigan

No. 123: Greg Webb, DT, Penn State

No. 127: Marcus Baugh, TE, Ohio State

No. 142: Evan Lisle, OT, Ohio State

Here is where we issue the requisite word of caution, as these are only verbal commitments and it's a long way until signing day next February. Things can change a lot between now and then, and star rankings do not always predict college success. But clearly the Big Ten is doing a good job competing for the nation's highest-ranked prospects during this recruiting cycle.
This is Part II of our Big Ten recruiting roundtable. Once again, our experts are senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill, Midwest recruiting writer Jared Shanker and Scouts Inc. recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert.

Topic 4: After the top tier of Ohio State and Michigan, what other Big Ten schools have done a good job with this class?


Tom Luginbill: "Michigan State has done a really good job on offense. They had to replace a some wide receivers, and their top two players in the class are receivers, in my opinion. I think they've done a nice job with the offensive line and on the edge with the defensive line. But they haven't addressed maybe their defensive tackle needs. Really, David Fennell is the only one in the whole class. But they're going to recruit their style of guy and they're going to develop them and mold them, because this isn't a program that feels it has to play true freshmen.

"I've been a little bit surprised that there isn't more of a Texas presence in [Nebraska's] class. I understand their want and need to create a presence in the Midwest, because that's where half of their livelihood is during the fall. But you look at where their guys are from -- Missouri, Colorado, Utah, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois -- and you're only really talking about one Texas prospect in their entire class, and that's a little bit surprising. Michael Rose is a really good player on the inside at linebacker and in front of him Paul Thurston out of Colorado has a chance to be a really good one, too. So they've done a nice job in the front seven overall, which they obviously needed to do."

Jared Shanker: “Wisconsin really tried to swing for the fences and went after some top guys. They only have 12 commitments. It’s not a whole lot in quantity, but there is some good quality. They have four four-star guys, and in the 2010 and ‘11 classes, they had one four-star guy combined. It looks like they really slowed down after the season started. They were going after some big guys. It looks like they’re going to lose Kyle Dodson. They lost the other offensive tackle, [J.J.] Denman. They’re hoping to get Jordan Diamond, but if I had to guess, I think he’ll end up at Michigan. They sent out a couple last-second offers to some other offensive tackles. Wisconsin, it looks like they tried to take that next step in recruiting. They whiffed on some, but I still like what they did overall with the class, even though they don’t have a whole bunch of numbers.

“Nebraska didn’t have a whole bunch of room. They had 14 or 15 guys, but they’re hoping to get three or four more. It looks like they’ll get Andrus Peat, one of the best tackles in the nation. He’s a guy they’ve been high on the whole time. Getting Imani Cross, the running back out of Georgia, was a big pickup. It looks like they’re probably going to land three-star Vincent Valentine out of Illinois. It would be a pretty successful signing day for them [if they get Peat and Valentine]."

Craig Haubert: “Very quietly Iowa, especially down the stretch here, has put together a pretty solid class. They just picked up a four-star offensive lineman, Alex Kozan. He was their sixth four-star guy in their class, so they’re doing a really good job. They’ve done a nice job in the trenches, especially on the offensive line where they’ve got some guys leaving and need some guys. They’re not a team a lot of people are buzzing about, but they’ve quietly done a good job.

“Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, you can lump together. If you ask five people to look at those classes and rank them, you’d probably get three different answers. With Wisconsin, it’s a very small class but a good class, just not much in numbers. The same can be said for Nebraska. They’re going to sign a small class, too, but did a great job filling needs at linebacker. The Armstrong kid can develop into a nice fit for them at quarterback.

“Northwestern, getting Ifeadi Odenigbo was, in the six or seven years I’ve been doing this, the most significant defensive pickup they’ve gotten in that time. Over the years they’ve actually picked up some pretty good offensive guys, but in our eyes, they’ve never landed anybody quite to his caliber, especially coming out of high school.”

Topic 5: What are your surprises and disappointments in the Big Ten for this class?


CH: “The team that’s really surprised me is Minnesota. They’ve done a really good job. That being said, they’re going to probably still finish in the lower half. But if you look at their class, they’ve done a very good job, and they’re on the heels of some of the teams right in front of them. The only difference with their class and some of the Michigan States and Wisconsins and Iowas, when you get to the meat of the class, Minnesota drops off a little bit. But at the top of their class, they’ve done a great job. They’ve got two really god wide receivers in Andre McDonald, who is a Minnesota kid, and Jamel Harbison, a kid out of North Carolina who’s a really good player. ... Considering how bad they’ve been on the field the last few years, this is a really good class. If you’re a Minnesota fan, you can look at this class and say there’s only a limited amount of prospects coming out of the state of Minnesota. You’ve got to be able to keep them. They’ve done that, and they’ve gotten some decent out-of-state pickups.

“A disappointment is Illinois. There’s a real possibility they could finish last in the conference. Any time you get a coaching change, that can cause some problems, but their class is just not very strong, and they lost a few guys after Zook was fired. So it’s really not a very strong class. They’ve been a team that has shown over the years that they can put together some pretty good classes. While they’ve surprised at times with some of those classes with guys like [Arrelious] Benn, it’s probably equally surprising how opposite this is.”

JS: “The disappointment is Michigan and Ohio State are up there and there isn’t another Big Ten team in the class rankings. You’d expect Michigan and Ohio State to always be up there, but with Michigan struggling recently and Ohio State going through its turmoil, if you were the other programs you hope this is an opportunity to maybe close the gap in recruiting. And none of them were able to do that. Not that they got bad classes, but you would have hoped that they’d take full advantage.”

TL: "I think Minnesota has slowly but surely put together a pretty nice looking group. When you consider the issues with Jerry Kill and his health throughout the fall and the fact they had an abysmal year on the gridiron, they've still been able to get three of the top five guys within the state. I would say their top five-to-seven guys would probably exceed expectations from what they'd normally be able to draw. It's a very big and deep class. So I think they're a surprise that's fallen under the radar to some degree.

"Another team where things weren't ideal for them on the field but they put together a pretty decent class is Iowa. They've done a pretty nice job of getting a lot of high-end three-star, low-end four-star players that aren't getting that internet notoriety, which they could care less about.

"I wouldn't say there's any disappointment. Northwestern has done as good a job as they can given their parameters. I don't want to judge Tim Beckman yet, because he's just now laying down his blueprint."

Topic 6: Give us three or four players who can make an immediate impact next season.


TL: "I think Noah Spence could have an impact at the defensive end spot for Ohio State. I think either Aaron Burbridge or Monty Madaris at receiver for Michigan State will likely be asked to contribute in some way, shape or form, just because there's a significant need there. Michigan could have quite a few guys come in and play a role. Maybe Devin Funchess at a need position [tight end] for them on offense. A guy who may surprise and get on the field pretty quickly for them is Joe Bolden, a linebacker."

JS: “Ifeadi Odenigbo, going to Northwestern, coming in he’s going to obviously have to add some weight, but he’s a guy that can be a situation pass rusher, coming in on third down and maybe end up with six, seven, eight sacks as a freshman just with his speed off the edge.

“Adolphus Washington, committed to Ohio State. He’s another guy who could make a big impact. He had a huge senior season. He doesn’t play against the best competition, but I was really impressed watching him, the few times I saw him this year.

“And if he gets a chance, even on special teams, I really like Joe Bolden, going to Michigan. I saw him play in the opener, and he has great instincts. He was making two steps in the direction the play was going to go before the ball was even snapped. I wasn’t down in St. Petersburg, but I heard he tore up the Under Armour game.”

CH: “Any time you’re a five-star guy, you’ve got to look at a guy like Noah Spence. Joe Bolden, he’s got a chance for two reasons: he’s already on campus, and he’s a pretty good football player, a pretty instinctive guy. Also for Ohio State, Adolphus Washington, a kid with good size, great motor.

“In Iowa’s class, Greg Garmon. He fits their system well.

“For Nebraska, that corner they got out of juco [Mohammed Seisay] is pretty good. But sticking with the high school kids, Imani Cross was a great pickup for them. He was committed to Tennessee at one point. He’s a really good running back, a bit bigger, but in addition to being a good prospect, he’s a great fit for them. He’s a no-nonsense runner. He finds his hole, makes one cut and gets up field. And for a need at linebacker, [Michael] Rose is really good, too. I really was impressed with the job he did down at the Under Armour game. He’s got good size for a kid coming out of high school, a linebacker, pretty savvy in coverage, too, for a high school kid.”
With national signing day just two weeks away, ESPN.com has revealed its final rankings for the class of 2012. And the big winners in the Big Ten appear to be Ohio State and Michigan.

The Buckeyes, helped by the arrival of Urban Meyer, have secured commitments so far from five players in the final 2012 ESPNU 150, including three in the top 100. They are:

No. 4: DE Noah Spence
No. 65: DE Adolphus Washington
No. 98: DE Se'Von Pittman
No. 104: OG Joey O'Connor
No 108: DT Tommy Schutt

If these players pan out, Meyer could be building an intimidating defensive line in Columbus, and we all know that winning starts in the trenches.

Michigan is second in the league with four ESPNU commitments, and like Ohio State the Wolverines are loading up on defense with this class. Their top prospects are:

No. 68: CB Terry Richardson
No. 113: OLB Royce Jenkins-Stone
No. 132: OG Kyle Kalis
No. 142: OLB Joe Bolden

Only three other members of the ESPNU 150 are committed to Big Ten schools, and somewhat surprisingly, Minnesota and Northwestern account for two of them. They are:

No. 51: DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, Northwestern
No. 112: OG Isaac Hayes, Minnesota
No. 131: ILB Michael Rose, Nebraska

ESPN has also updated its class rankings for 2012, and Michigan leads the Big Ten pack at No. 7 nationally. Ohio State is the only other league school ranked, sitting right behind the Wolverines at No. 8. The Buckeyes could overtake Michigan if Meyer is able to reel in some more top prospects late.

Speaking of which, our recruiting folks also take a look today at where some of the top uncommitted prospects stand, including blue-chippers who are looking at Big Ten schools. The No. 8 overall prospect, athlete Davonte Neal, has Ohio State on his list. Offensive tackle Andrus Peat, the No. 9 prospect whose older brother plays for Nebraska, is strongly considering the Huskers, as is athlete Devin Fuller (No. 39). Michigan is in play for offensive guard Josh Garnett (No. 44), while Ohio State is battling for tailback Joel Caleb (No. 83). The Buckeyes, Wolverines and Wisconsin are all hoping to hear good news from offensive tackle Jordan Diamond (No. 94), who isn't expected to announce his decision until after signing day.
The latest ESPNU 150 -- ESPN.com's ranking of the top high school football players in the Class of 2012 -- is now out. And the Big Ten school with a the highest-rated recruit committed is ... Indiana?

Yep, quarterback Gunner Kiel, who pledged his services to Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers, checks in at No. 20, highest among current Big Ten recruits. Here's a look at where the other ESPNU 150 players planning to enter league the next year are ranked:

No. 67: Cornerback Terry Richardson, Michigan
No. 100: Defensive end Se'Von Pittman, Michigan State
No. 105: Offensive tackle Joey O'Connor, Penn State
No. 114: Offensive guard Isaac Hayes, Minnesota
No. 115: Linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone, Michigan
No. 130: Defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, Penn State
No. 134: Linebacker Tommy Rose, Nebraska
No. 135: Offensive tackle Kyle Kalis, Michigan

Only having nine players in the ESPNU 150 is not a heavy presence for the Big Ten, but many of the top prospects have yet to announce where they're going to school. Here's a look at who the top prospects are considering, including many Big Ten targets.

The ESPN recruiting folks have also updated their class rankings by school. Michigan's class is ranked No. 6 nationally, one spot lower than last month. Penn State is No. 18, the same spot it held in the previous rankings. No other Big Ten school cracked ESPN.com's Top 25 class rankings.
ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World was turned into a recruitnik's paradise over the weekend.

That's where the Gridiron Kings -- a 7-on-7 competition featuring some of the best talent in the country -- was held. As you might expect, ESPN.com's recruiting experts were all over it, and Michigan fans might like the developments.

One of the players who drew the most praise from the event was 2013 quarterback and Wolverines commitment Shane Morris. Here's what Tom Luginbill had to say about Morris:
"Morris, a 2013 QB prospect, already is pushing 6-2 and he will be 6-3 and 215 pounds when all is said and done. He has a supreme arm and a lot of talent. Morris is a lefty with a compact delivery, and you don't see all lefties with that. He throws with pop and natural velocity. Right now, Morris doesn't have the clock operating in his head just right and that could be a result of youth or a result of playing in a foreign environment and not used to throwing to these receivers."

Jamie Newberg writes in his story that "Of the quarterbacks here, there's no mistaking Morris is the most polished." Another 2013 quarterback at the camp, Riley Ferguson, also has been offered by Michigan, among many others.
"I first met Riley at a Michigan camp last year and we battled it out and had a lot of fun," Morris said. "We both know that being here is an honor. It's a blessing to play with the best. We both want to prove we can compete with the 2012 kids. And we want to have some fun.

Another ESPN.com story from the event highlighted Michigan tight end target Ron "Sugar Bear" Thompson. That's right: Sugar Bear.
"It just started with a few of the guys here," the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Thompson said of the nickname. "It's all fun and games. I guess because I'm big and I can move, or something like that. It doesn't bother me. I'm just gonna go out and perform."

Thompson says Michigan is among his final three college choices, and he's playing on the same Midwest team as Morris.
"Shane is my man," he said. "I love to play with him. He throws a nice ball. Oh yeah, he's recruiting me. He keeps calling me stupid [for not committing to Michigan]. He's doing his job, though."

That Midwest team, by the way, shocked the two-time defending champion Southeast team in the semifinals. Who says the South always dominates? One of the players on the Midwest team was yet another Michigan recruit, defensive back Terry Richardson.

"Let's be real, that's the Florida team and we wanted to beat the Florida team more than anything," Richardson said. "They have been walking over everyone at Gridiron Kings from the beginning and we did not want to be the next team."
The newest ESPNU 150 -- ESPN.com's list of the top 150 high school prospects for the Class of 2012 -- was released on Wednesday. More than half the nation's top recruits on this list are still uncommitted, and even those who have pledged their services to a school can change their mind before February. But here's a look at the ESPNU 150 players who have already committed to a Big Ten school:

No. 68: Terry Richardson, CB: Committed to Michigan

No.97: Jarron Jones, OT: Committed to Penn State

No. 117: Royce Jenkins-Stone, OLB: Committed to Michigan

No. 139: Michael Rose, ILB: Committed to Nebraska

No. 140: Kyle Kalis, OT: Committed to Ohio State

Our recruiting folks also have a list of players who just missed the cut, and they include linebacker Joe Bolden and tight end Devin Funchess, both Michigan commitments. Brady Hoke is off to an excellent start in his first full recruiting season for the Wolverines, and his ability to attract elite defenders has to make his fan base smile.

Many people are going to be watching Ohio State's recruitment this year to see if the Buckeyes' off-the-field troubles and lack of a permanent head coach hurt their efforts to sign top prospects.

There is plenty of time for the Big Ten to rack up more blue-chippers off this list; for example, the No. 4-ranked player (defensive end Noah Spence) is considering Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan.

Look for ESPN.com's early 2012 class rankings in a few days.

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