Big Ten: Tekeim Reynard

Gary Andersen inherited a veteran-laden Wisconsin team that featured good depth at most positions with one obvious exception: the secondary.

The Badgers returned just one starting defensive back, safety Dezmen Southward, from last year's Big Ten championship squad. Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda knew they needed bodies in the back four and found a potential solution this spring in Reggie Mitchell.

A cornerback who moved to safety under the new staff, Mitchell drew praise from Andersen and Aranda for his performance this spring. Andersen last month told Sirius XM’s "College Sports Nation" that Mitchell "is going to lock down one of those safety spots."

But Mitchell won't be playing for Wisconsin this season. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh are reporting that Mitchell has been released from his scholarship at Wisconsin. WPXI-TV reports Mitchell, a Pittsburgh native, will transfer to Pitt. Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph recruited Mitchell to Wisconsin while he was on the Badgers' staff.

I'm sure there's more to the story as Mitchell seemed to be in a good spot at Wisconsin, and we'll pass along information as it becomes available.

Mitchell's departure makes a thin Badgers secondary even thinner. The competition to start opposite Southward in camp should be ramped up. Andersen has brought in two junior-college defensive backs in Donnell Vercher and Tekeim Reynard. Junior Michael Trotter also could be in the mix at safety, and there are reports that running back Jeff Lewis has been moved to safety to help the depth there.

Lewis' move is a bit odd so late in his career, although Wisconsin clearly needs help at safety and should be OK at running back with James White, Melvin Gordon, Vonte Jackson and incoming freshman Corey Clement.
There has been plenty of recent news on the recruiting trail around the Big Ten, and we're a bit overdue for a scorecard, so here's the latest rundown. Teams are sorted based on most verbal commitments for the 2014 class.

MICHIGAN

Total commits: 9
ESPN 150 commits: 8
The latest: Michigan's recruiting once again is off to an extremely fast start, as the Wolverines not only are piling up commits but quality players. Defensive end Lawrence Marshall on Saturday became the eighth ESPN 150 prospect to pick Michigan. No other FBS team has more than five ESPN 150 players pledged for the 2014 class. Barring a surprise turn, Michigan will sign a top-5 class in February. The Wolverines currently rank No. 3 in the RecruitingNation rankings.

PENN STATE

Total commits: 9
ESPN 150 commits: 1
The latest: Penn State has filled out most of its 2014 class before mid May, and the Lions are adding quality prospects like ESPN 150 athlete De'Andre Thompkins, wide receiver Chris Godwin and linebacker Troy Reeder. The Lions picked up two more commits late last week in defensive back Marcus Allen and linebacker Jared Wangler. Bill O'Brien and his staff have to be selective because of scholarship restrictions, but they've also been aggressive in piling up early commits. Penn State is No. 13 in the latest class rankings.

NORTHWESTERN

Total commits: 8
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: Northwestern is quietly putting together the best class in coach Pat Fitzgerald's tenure. The Wildcats are 19th in RecruitingNation's class rankings after an excellent week that ended with them landing talented running back Auston Anderson on Thursday. Anderson's pledge came on the heels of four-star athlete Dariean Watkins choosing Northwestern. Although Northwestern hasn't landed an ESPN 150 prospect, it boasts several commits (QB Clayton Thorson, Watkins) who are close.

OHIO STATE

Total commits: 8
ESPN 150 commits: 1
The latest: Urban Meyer's assistants are all over the recruiting trail -- and letting us know about it on Twitter -- and after a six-week drought without a commitment, the Buckeyes added one Sunday in wide receiver Lonnie Johnson. The Gary, Ind., native had offers from Indiana, Purdue and Nebraska, among others, but gives Ohio State a four-star prospect at a position of need. Ohio State checks in at No. 14 in the latest class rankings.

MICHIGAN STATE

Total commits: 6
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: The Spartans' total hasn't changed since they picked up linemen Brian Allen and Enoch Smith Jr. during spring game weekend, but they're closing in on prospects like tight end Matt Sokol and defensive end Rashawn Pierce. The downside is that Michigan State lost Marshall to rival Michigan after many believed Marshall would go green. Michigan State also had been pursuing Watkins, who verballed to Northwestern.

WISCONSIN

Total commits: 4
ESPN 150 commits: 1
The latest: Gary Andersen's staff has added just one 2014 commit (defensive tackle Craig Evans) since taking over in late December. Although Evans pledged in March, the Badgers staff has been active on the recruiting trail and extending plenty of scholarship offers. Wisconsin made a late addition to its 2013 class last week by picking up junior-college cornerback Tekeim Reynard.

ILLINOIS

Total commits: 4
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: The Illini added to their quarterback depth earlier this month by picking up a commitment from Ohio prep signal caller Chayce Crouch. Crouch led his team to the state championship game last season and had received scholarship offers from several MAC programs, as well as some interest from other Big Ten schools. Illinois also has injected some more spice into its in-state rivalry with Northwestern by picking up defensive end recruit Tito Odenigbo, the younger brother of Wildcats defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo.

IOWA

Total commits: 3
ESPN 150 commits: 1
The latest: The Hawkeyes haven't added to their total since getting a pledge from offensive lineman Lucas LeGrand in early April. But with three in-state prospects -- headlined by guard Ross Pierschbacher, the nation's No. 47 player and highest-ranked Big Ten commit, according to RecruitingNation -- Iowa still is off to a decent start. Iowa is extending its recruiting reach to Georgia and recently offered defenders Henry Famurewa and Bradley Chubb.

MINNESOTA

Total commits: 3
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: The Gophers added two verbals during spring game weekend in athlete Dimonic McKinzy (early All-Name team nominee) and defensive tackle Steven Richardson. In-state running back Jeff Jones, a three-star prospect, headlines the class so far. Like the previous coaching staff, Jerry Kill and his assistants are targeting Texas for recruits like linebacker Everett Williams and defensive end Noah Westerfield.

NEBRASKA

Total commits: 2
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: The Huskers wait for their second 2014 commitment ended last week as Texas defensive back Jason Hall pledged for Big Red. At 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, Hall brings excellent size to Nebraska's defensive backfield. Although Nebraska should continue to add to its total in the coming weeks and months, recruiting coordinator Ross Els told ESPN.com last week that the Huskers likely won't see a surge until prospects start coming to campus on official visits this fall.

PURDUE

Total commits: 1
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: Purdue is going back to its recruiting roots under new coach Darrell Hazell, as its first verbal for 2014 comes from the fertile state of Texas. The Boilers recently added wide receiver Trae Hart to the mix. I'll have more on this later in the week, but Boilers recruiting coordinator Gerad Parker said the program is ramping up its efforts in the Lone Star State, mindful of the success former Purdue boss Joe Tiller had there.

INDIANA

Total commits: 0
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: After signing an excellent recruiting class in February, Indiana's efforts for 2014 are off to a slow start. Indiana and Colorado are the only programs from a big-five conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) without a verbal commit for next year. Things should pick up when camps kick off next month in Bloomington.

Future Big Ten members Rutgers and Maryland also are recruiting for the Big Ten, so here's a quick look at how they're doing ...

RUTGERS

Total commits: 9
ESPN 150 commits: 0
The latest: The Scarlet Knights recruited well under Greg Schiano, had six players selected in April's NFL draft and continue to bring in quality players under Kyle Flood. After a productive March and April, Rutgers began May by adding a pledge from defensive tackle Pete Mokwuah. Running back Joshua Hicks and defensive end Justin Nelson headline Rutgers' 2014 so far. Rutgers also went into current Big Ten territory for quarterback Tyler Wiegers from Detroit Country Day School.

MARYLAND

Total commits: 3
ESPN 150 commits:
0
The latest:
The Terrapins added two pieces to their 2014 class in recent weeks in running back Johnathan Thomas from Massachusetts and athlete William Ulmer from Washington D.C. Maryland has plenty of local and regional players on its radar for 2014, as the areas surrounding College Park consistently produce a ton of FBS talent. The Terps picked up most of their 2013 recruits before the start of the season, but they might have to be more patient after a 4-8 record in 2012.

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Is Gary Andersen turning Wisconsin into Kansas State?

His plan isn't nearly that extreme, but the new Wisconsin coach has so far kept to his word so far about bringing junior-college players to Madison. Andersen, himself a former junior college All-American before moving onto Utah, makes it clear that Wisconsin is in the market for junior-college talent.

The Badgers added another piece during the weekend as cornerback Tekeim Reynard committed to the school. Reynard, who played last year at Independence Community College in Kansas, will be eligible to play this fall and have three seasons with Wisconsin. The 5-11, 175-pound cornerback, originally from Virginia, picked Wisconsin ahead of Colorado, Kentucky and others.

Reynard is the third junior-college player to join Wisconsin since Andersen's arrival. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy and safety Donnell Vercher both arrive this summer.

"They told me how I would fit in and elevate their defense," Reynard told BadgerNation.com. "I feel excited about it and can't wait to dominate. This is just the beginning of something special. I'm an impact player and a dynamic player. You’ll see a passionate player with a lot of energy on the field for Wisconsin. I just can't wait."

Well, he certainly doesn't lack confidence.

Andersen and his assistants haven't hidden the fact that they need bodies in the secondary, where just one starter (safety Dezmen Southward) returns from the 2012 team. Sophomore Darius Hillary and junior Peniel Jean worked as the first-team cornerbacks during spring practice, and freshman early enrollee Sojourn Shelton received steady praise from the coaching staff. But Wisconsin still lacks significant game experience at corner, so bringing in Reynard, who recorded 88 tackles (56 solo), an interception and seven pass breakups in seven games, makes sense from a depth standpoint.

Andersen has stated often that any junior-college player brought in will get a fair chance to compete for a starting job in preseason camp, so keep an eye on Reynard, McEvoy and Vercher in August.

Junior-college players aren't unusual in the Big Ten, but they are at Wisconsin, which before Andersen's arrival hadn't brought in a juco player since 2008.

"It's a privilege to be at this school," Andersen said in February. "For junior college kids, if they take care of business, they have high academic standards ... they'll be able to come in without any problem."

Andersen is putting his imprint on Wisconsin's recruiting efforts. Expect more players from the West in future classes, as well as a greater emphasis on speed and athleticism at receiver and defensive back.

But the most dramatic change so far has been the junior-college arrivals, who could make an impact this season.

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