Chicago Colleges: Football recruiting

Have you heard the one about the SEC coaches being upset at a former comrade because of his latest recruiting technique? Because those same coaches probably aren't too pleased with a certain independent school from South Bend, Ind., either.

Penn State coach James Franklin, formerly of Vanderbilt, will guest coach next week at a Georgia State camp. So long as the visiting coach isn't running the camp, this is permissible by NCAA guidelines, which bars programs from running prep camps more than 50 miles from campus. The SEC, however, does not allow its coaches to work at camps more than 50 miles from their campuses.

As you can imagine, SEC coaches are crying foul. And in doing so, they are hilarious, as my colleague Adam Rittenberg brilliantly described in a column last week.

News surfaced shortly afterward that Notre Dame was planning to do the same thing next summer at Georgia State, with Panthers coach and former Fighting Irish assistant Trent Miles telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the decision was mutual.

“It’s great for us getting the exposure and getting some kids on our campus that Notre Dame will bring because of their name," Miles told the AJC. "I think it will be great for Notre Dame because they have a national presence, and I’m very close to those guys.”

The move makes plenty of sense from Notre Dame's standpoint. The Irish have made no secret about their recruiting desires in the Peach State, having hauled in recent NFL draftees like Stephon Tuitt and TJ Jones from there. Their ACC deal will already give them more exposure in the region and a potential upcoming series with Georgia would only add to that.

Notre Dame's staff also gets the chance to work closely with a bunch of local and regional talent, who won't have to worry about travel and the finances that accompany it.

“I’m hearing that the SEC isn’t really happy but I’m worried about us at Georgia State,” Miles said with a chuckle, according to the AJC. “I’m only concerned about Georgia State, and I have close ties to Notre Dame. If I can do something to help Notre Dame, I will.”

This isn't all entirely new or exclusive to Franklin, Miles and Brian Kelly. Look around the national landscape: Oklahoma State and New Mexico are working camps this summer in Texas. BYU, another independent, is heading West near Los Angeles to guest-coach a camp at the University of Redlands, with coach Bronco Mendenhall tweeting: "Show your skills in front of our coaches in Southern California!"

So long as the rules allow it, satellite camps are no-brainers for programs looking to cast wider nets. Few cast them wider than Notre Dame.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

May, 5, 2014
May 5
12:00
PM CT
The calendar now reads May (happy Cinco de Mayo to you, too) and it's a good time to check the recruiting scorecard for the 2015 class. Thirteen of the Big Ten's 14 squads are on the board -- Minnesota is still waiting for its first verbal pledge -- and several teams are filling up fast.

The James Franklin effect continues to boost Penn State, which not only has the most verbal commitments (13) in the Big Ten -- the second-most in the FBS behind Alabama -- but also the most ESPN 300 prospects (six). Nebraska also is in double digits for 2015 recruits, and Northwestern and Iowa also are off to quick starts.

Remember, February is a long way away and many things can and will change between now and national signing day, but here's where Big Ten teams stand right now:

PENN STATE
2015 verbal commitments: 13
ESPN 300 prospects: 6
Highest-rated recruit (according to ESPN Recruiting Nation): Offensive tackle Ryan Bates
Spotlight: PSU has added to its defensive line in recent weeks with a pair of defensive tackles from Maryland. Adam McLean, an ESPN 300 prospect, committed during Blue-White Weekend. Then, after a relatively quiet three weeks, Penn State added Jonathan Holland on Saturday. Holland has good size at 6-foot-5, and at 225 pounds could fill out some more.

NEBRASKA
2015 verbal commitments: 10
ESPN 300 prospects: 2
Highest-rated recruit: Cornerback Eric Lee
Spotlight: The Huskers had a nice surge toward the end of spring practice, picking up four verbal commitments, including one from quarterback Kevin Dillman. An ESPN 300 prospect, Dillman is a native of Sweden who started his high school career in California and will finish it in Texas. An intriguing prospect, to say the least.

NORTHWESTERN
2015 verbal commitments: 9
ESPN 300 prospects: 0
Highest-rated recruit: Athlete David Dowell
Spotlight: Northwestern picked up eight of its nine commits during a five-day stretch last month (April 11-15). The surge included the Dowell twins, David and Andrew, a running back. David played both cornerback and wide receiver for Saint Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio. He'll likely suit up in the secondary at Northwestern.

IOWA
2015 verbal commitments: 8
ESPN 300 prospects: 1
Highest-rated recruit: Athlete Drew Cook
Spotlight: After adding four recruits in March, Iowa has been fairly quiet, other than picking up a familiar name in Brady Reiff. The younger brother of former Hawkeye star offensive tackle Riley Reiff committed in late April. Brady is a defensive end at Parkston (S.D.) High School. Riley also came to Iowa as a defensive end before switching to offense.

RUTGERS
2015 verbal commitments: 7
ESPN 300 prospects: 0
Highest-rated recruit: Quarterback Michael Dare
Spotlight: The Scarlet Knights had a nice surge of commits toward the end of spring ball, including running back Charles Snorweah. Born in Liberia, Snorweah boasts good speed and has played both running back and fullback during his high school career.

MICHIGAN
2015 verbal commitments: 5
ESPN 300 prospects: 3
Highest-rated recruit: Cornerback Garrett Taylor
Spotlight: After losing two coveted recruits in the winter, Michigan picked up a key player in Taylor, the nation's No. 10 cornerback prospect. Taylor is the latest top prospect from Virginia to go blue, joining running back Derrick Green (2013 class) and quarterback Wilton Speight (2014 class).

WISCONSIN
2015 verbal commitments: 4
ESPN 300 prospects: 0
Highest-rated recruit: Quarterback Austin Kafentzis
Spotlight: The Badgers traditionally have done a good job of securing their borders with top offensive line recruits, and they continued the trend with Jon Dietzen. A native of Seymour, Wis., Dietzen had offers from Nebraska, Miami and Michigan State but opted to stick with his home-state school.

MICHIGAN STATE
2015 verbal commitments: 4
ESPN 300 prospects: 2
Highest-rated recruit: Offensive tackle Kyonta Stallworth
Spotlight: The Spartans added only one recruit during spring ball but potentially a key piece in quarterback Brian Lewerke from Phoenix. Rated as the No. 9 pocket passer in the 2015 class, Lewerke picked MSU over several Pac-12 schools, Louisville, Florida and others. He's the second quarterback recruit to pick the Spartans, joining Jayru Campbell, who last week reached a plea deal after being charged with assaulting a school security officer.

ILLINOIS
2015 verbal commitments: 3
ESPN 300 prospects: 1
Highest-rated recruit: Offensive tackle Gabe Megginson
Spotlight: Megginson is a big get for coach Tim Beckman, who needs to attract more of the state's best players. Rated as the nation's No. 20 tackle prospect, Megginson had several Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 offers. Illinois' first three 2015 recruits are from the state, a good early sign for the embattled Beckman.

OHIO STATE
2015 verbal commitments: 2
ESPN 300 prospects: 2
Highest-rated recruit: Athlete Eric Glover-Williams
Spotlight: The class is off to a bit of a slow start, and Glover-Williams' status remains shaky because of some off-field issues. But Ohio State hasn't been a fast starter under coach Urban Meyer and still brings in top classes when all is said and done. Safety Ben Edwards changed his commitment last month from Ohio State to Auburn.

MARYLAND
2015 verbal commitments: 1
ESPN 300 prospects: 0
Highest-rated recruit: Offensive tackle E.J. Donahue
Spotlight: Donahue remains the only 2015 prospect on Maryland's board, but the team picked up a nice addition for its secondary in junior-college cornerback Denzel Conyers, who signed with the Terrapins after visiting last month. Conyers boasts nice size at 6-3 and 200 pounds. The Florida native played last season for Butte College in California. He's expected to enroll in June and contribute this season.

PURDUE
2015 verbal commitments: 1
ESPN 300 prospects: 0
Spotlight: Quarterback Elijah Sindelar committed in February and remains the only player on Purdue's 2015 board. Sindelar, a native of Princeton, Ky., is the nation's No. 14 pocket passer. He continues the trend of nice quarterback pickups for coach Darrell Hazell.

INDIANA
2015 verbal commitments: 1
ESPN 300 prospects: 0
Spotlight: Indiana didn't have to wait quite as long for its first recruit as it did in 2013 as offensive lineman Simon Stepaniak picked the Hoosiers this past weekend. A native of Hamilton, Ohio, Stepaniak had several Big Ten offers but picked an IU team that quietly has produced terrific offensive lines under coach Greg Frey.

ESPN 300: Top Big Ten targets 

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
11:45
AM CT
video
The top-ranked prospects tend to wait out the process, so there are still some huge names at the top of Big Ten recruiting boards. The top targets will be fought over by most teams within the conference, which will make for some interesting recruiting battles.

Here is a look at the top five targets within the Big Ten in the 2015 ESPN 300.

DE Jashon Cornell
6-4, 270 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 16


Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
5:00
PM CT
The Big Ten postman always rings twice (a week, at least during the offseason) ...

Rob NitLion from Morristown, N.J. writes: Brian, you made a very good argument in this morning's Take Two -- much better, I feel, than Adam. But you asked a question at the end of your argument, that while rhetorical, I figure I'd provide an answer. "Why not?" Here is why NOT. While some programs like Rutgers and Maryland are used to playing mid-week games, a majority of their fan bases are within a two-hour commuting distance of the stadium (being from Jersey, I have a decent handle on this). It's easy for most fans to leave work and still make an 8 p.m. weekday kickoff. On the other hand, for schools like Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, etc, the fan bases are much more scattered, a large portion of the season-ticket-holder base is not within an easy driving distance of the campus, so for a Thursday night game, essentially you are asking someone like me to take a four-day weekend to see a Thursday night football game. I don't think this is plausible AND considering you guys just ran articles talking about stadium attendance being down, I cannot see some of the larger programs accepting a Thursday night game on their schedule.

Brian Bennett: The arguments from both of us were similar, and you echo many of our points, Rob. The programs with super-sized stadiums really don't ever have to think about hosting a weeknight game. (I shudder at the prospect of trying to get to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or wherever after a Thursday night game in State College, for example.) But for programs such as Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue, a weeknight game can provide plenty of good exposure. Their fan bases aren't as spread out, and their stadiums aren't nearly as large. And for some of them, filling the stadium isn't easy on a Saturday, anyway, so why not grab the extra eyeballs and attention a Thursday night game could bring?


Trevor K. from Wis., writes: Say Joel Stave or Bart Houston win Wisconsin's QB battle. Could you see the Badgers utilizing D.J. Gillins' athletic ability at wide receiver? There is a HUGE hole there, and it shouldn't be out of the question if he is really that athletic.

Brian Bennett: There is precedent here, as Tanner McEvoy bowed out of the quarterback competition early last year because of an injury and ended up starting at safety. The difference, though, is that McEvoy was a junior college transfer who had already used his redshirt year at South Carolina, so he wanted to get on the field. Gillins is a true freshman, and if he's not ready at quarterback, the coaching staff might want to redshirt him. On the flip side, though, maybe the coaches see him providing value at receiver, especially if the Badgers' young wideouts don't step up this offseason, and maybe Gillins expresses a desire to play early. There are a lot of factors at play here. I'd be really surprised if Gillins makes much of an impact at quarterback this season, simply because he's so young and Wisconsin has other experienced options.

TN Spartan from Jackson, Tenn., writes: I am excited about the new bowl lineup for this next football season. Not sure if you did this anywhere, as I have not seen it, but could you project what the last bowl season would have looked like if it had the new arrangement, and then compare it to how it actually went? Perhaps you could then comment if the W/L record would have improved, or if the matchups would have been better.

Brian Bennett: It's a little tricky to project, not knowing if you want to include the new playoff system as well. Let's just say for now that the playoff wasn't involved but that the 2014 lineup was somehow superimposed on the 2013 season.

In that case, the top of the order wouldn't look much different. Michigan State would still have gone to the Rose Bowl and Ohio State would still have made a BCS game. Then the next tier would involve the Capital One, Outback and Holiday bowls, with the Big Ten having greater input on matchups. I still think Wisconsin goes to the Cap One and Iowa makes the Outback, based on their records and how they finished the season. The debate would then have come down to whether Michigan or Nebraska should go to the Holiday, much as it did with the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Whoever didn't get picked there would fall to either the Music City or Gator Bowls, and you wonder if the league would step in to avoid placing Nebraska in that rematch with Georgia and giving the Huskers another trip to Florida.

Minnesota could then have found itself in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which is in the third tier of picks along with the Pinstripe Bowl. The opponents wouldn't have been much different for the league at the top, but the Big Ten would have played Pac-12 teams in the Holiday and Hunger bowls. Going by 2013, that would have been Arizona State and Washington, respectively, in what would have been two tough matchups for the league.


James from Akron, Ohio, writes: With the latest position moves on defense (most notably Jake Ryan to MLB) and Greg Mattison's past experience, is there any chance that Michigan switches to a 3-4 defense this year? All of the pieces are in place to make the switch. Desmond Morgan would be the other ILB, James Ross would still be starting on the outside, while one of the current backups (Ben Gedeon/Joe Bolden/Mike McCray) would fill in the other OLB spot. Mix all of that with the fact and Michigan is thin at DT, am I crazy to think the 3-4 will make some sort of appearance this year?

Brian Bennett: It's not a crazy thought, especially because the linebacker group looks like the deepest and most talent-rich position on the Wolverines defense. Michigan hasn't really been dominant at defensive tackle since Mike Martin left town, and Mattison often ran the 3-4 while with the Baltimore Ravens. However, Michigan has run a 4-3 scheme so far under Brady Hoke, and Big Ten teams have been hesitant to go away from four down linemen very often, though Wisconsin used a 3-4 alignment often last season and had success with it. Defensive coordinators often talk about wanting to be multiple and offer different looks to the offense, so Mattison might want to at least explore the idea this spring and see how it goes. That might be the best way to get Michigan's best players on the field.


Kurt from Winter Wonderland, Ill., writes: Can we all finally acknowledge that the NU vs. "NU" rivalry has been one of the conference's best through the first three seasons of its incarnation? An underdog winning against a Top 10 Nebraska team in Lincoln, a comeback Nebraska win by one at a strong Northwestern in Ryan Field, and then a Nebraska victory on a Hail Mary last season! What will the next season bring?!

Brian Bennett: Maybe it's a budding rivalry. I also think Nebraska and Northwestern are the two most unpredictable teams on a week-to-week basis in the Big Ten, with both capable of wild swings of momentum at any time. So no wonder crazy things happen when the two get together.

B1G spring position breakdown: WR/TE

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
11:00
AM CT
We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. The wide receivers and tight ends are up next.

Illinois: The Illini are looking for more from this group after losing top target Steve Hull, who exploded late in the season to finish just shy of 1,000 receiving yards. While running back Josh Ferguson (50 catches in 2013) will continue to contribute, Illinois could use a boost from Martize Barr, who arrived with high expectations but only had 26 receptions last fall. Another junior-college transfer, Geronimo Allison, could make an impact beginning this spring, but there's some mystery at wideout. Illinois looks more solid at tight end with seniors Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse.

Indiana: Despite the somewhat surprising early departure of All-Big Ten selection Cody Latimer, Indiana should be fine here. Shane Wynn is the veteran of the group after recording 633 receiving yards on 46 catches last season. Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson also depart, so Indiana will be leaning more on Nick Stoner and Isaiah Roundtree. The Hoosiers have high hopes for early enrollee Dominique Booth, a decorated recruit who could fill Latimer's spot on the outside. Productive tight end Ted Bolser departs and several players will compete, including early enrollee Jordan Fuchs.

Iowa: Almost all the wide receivers are back from a group in which none eclipsed more than 400 receiving yards in 2013. Balance is nice, but separation could be nicer for the Hawkeyes this spring. Kevonte Martin-Manley is the most experienced wideout and has 122 career receptions. Tevaun Smith also returns, and Iowa fans are excited about big-play threat Damond Powell, who averaged 24.2 yards on only 12 receptions last season. Iowa loses its top red-zone target in tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and will need Jake Duzey to deliver more Ohio State-like performances.

Maryland: When the Terrapins get healthy, they might have the Big Ten's best wide receiving corps. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, both of whom sustained broken legs against Wake Forest last season, have the ability to stretch the field as both averaged more than 15 yards per reception before the injuries struck. Leading receiver Levern Jacobs also returns, alongside junior Nigel King and sophomore Amba Etta-Tawo, who averaged more than 16 yards per catch in 2013. Marcus Leak, who started seven games in 2012, rejoins the team after a year away. The Terps are unproven at tight end after losing Dave Stinebaugh.

Michigan: There's a reason why some Michigan fans want Devin Gardner to return to wide receiver for his final season. The Wolverines are thin on the perimeter after losing Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo. Redshirt sophomores Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh are both candidates to start, and Dennis Norfleet could be the answer in the slot. But there's plenty of opportunity for younger players like Drake Harris, an early enrollee. Michigan's best pass-catching option, Devin Funchess, is listed as a tight end but plays more like a receiver. The Wolverines will be without their second-string tight end, Jake Butt, who suffered an ACL tear in winter conditioning.

Michigan State: Remember all the justified angst about this group a year ago? It has pretty much gone away as the Spartans wideouts rebounded nicely in 2013. Bennie Fowler departs, but MSU brings back its top two receivers in Tony Lippett and Macgarrett Kings, who showed explosiveness down the stretch last fall. Aaron Burbridge had a bit of a sophomore slump but provides another option alongside veteran Keith Mumphery, who averaged 16.6 yards per catch in 2013. Josiah Price leads the tight end group after a solid freshman season.

Minnesota: Here's a group to watch during spring practice, particularly the wide receivers. Minnesota has proven it can run the ball and defend under Jerry Kill, but the passing game was putrid in 2013, ranking last in the Big Ten and 115th nationally. Youth is partly to blame, and while the Gophers still lack experience, they can expect more from promising players like Drew Wolitarsky and Donovahn Jones. Senior Isaac Fruechte provides a veteran presence. Minnesota looks solid at tight end with sophomore Maxx Williams, the team's receiving yards leader (417) in 2013.

Nebraska: The Huskers lose a significant piece in Quincy Enunwa, who led the team in receiving yards (753) and had three times as many receiving touchdowns (12) as anyone else in 2013. Kenny Bell is set to recapture the No. 1 receiver role, which he had in 2012, and comes off of a 52-catch season as a junior. Nebraska must build around Bell this spring with players like the mustachioed Jordan Westerkamp, who had 20 catches as a freshman, including a rather memorable one to beat Northwestern. Will Jamal Turner turn the corner this offseason? Juniors Sam Burtch and Taariq Allen also return. Cethan Carter started six games at tight end last fall and should take over the top spot there as Jake Long departs.

Northwestern: The passing game fell short of expectations in 2013, but there's reason for optimism as Northwestern returns its top three pass-catchers in Tony Jones, Christian Jones and Dan Vitale. The two Joneses (no relation), who combined for 109 catches in 2013, lead the receiving corps along with junior Cameron Dickerson. Speedy Rutgers transfer Miles Shuler provides a playmaking spark, possibly at slot receiver. Vitale, who had a somewhat disappointing sophomore season, has All-Big Ten potential at the superback (tight end) spot. Although Northwestern rarely plays true freshmen, superback Garrett Dickerson, Cameron's brother, could see the field right away.

Ohio State: A group that drew heavy criticism from coach Urban Meyer two springs ago is stockpiling talent. Devin Smith is the familiar name, a big-play senior who has started each of the past two seasons and boasts 18 career touchdowns. Ohio State must replace top wideout Corey Brown and will look for more from Evan Spencer. Michael Thomas has stood out in practices but must translate his performance to games. This could be a breakout year for H-back Dontre Wilson, who averaged nine yards per touch as a freshman. Buckeyes fans are eager to see redshirt freshmen Jalin Marshall and James Clark, and incoming players like Johnnie Dixon could make a splash right away. Ohio State returns an elite tight end in Jeff Heuerman.

Penn State: The Lions have very different depth situations at receiver and tight end. They're looking for contributors on the perimeter after losing Allen Robinson, the Big Ten's top wide receiver the past two seasons, who accounted for 46 percent of the team's receiving production in 2013. Brandon Felder also departs, leaving Geno Lewis as the likeliest candidate to move into a featured role. Richy Anderson also returns, but there will be plenty of competition/opportunity at receiver, a position new coach James Franklin targeted in recruiting with players like Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall. Things are much more stable at tight end as the Lions return three talented players in Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman.

Purdue: If you're looking for hope at Purdue, these spots aren't bad places to start. There are several promising young players like receiver DeAngelo Yancey, who recorded a team-leading 546 receiving yards as a freshman. Cameron Posey also had a decent freshman year (26 catches, 297 yards), and Danny Anthrop averaged 18.4 yards as a sophomore. A full offseason with quarterbacks Danny Etling and Austin Appleby should help the group. Tight end also should be a strength as Justin Sinz, who led Purdue with 41 catches last season, is back along with Gabe Holmes, who returns after missing most of 2013 with a wrist injury.

Rutgers: The good news is tight end Tyler Kroft returns after leading Rutgers in both receptions (43) and receiving yards (573) last season. Kroft will immediately contend for All-Big Ten honors. Things are murkier at wide receiver, where top contributors Brandon Coleman and Quron Pratt both depart. Leonte Carroo took a nice step as a sophomore, averaging 17.1 yards per catch and enters the spring as the frontrunner to become the team's No. 1 wideout. Ruhann Peele is another promising young receiver for the Scarlet Knights, who boast size with Carlton Agudosi (6-foot-6) and Andre Patton (6-4).

Wisconsin: The quarterback competition will gain more attention this spring, but Wisconsin's receiver/tight end situation could be more critical. The Badgers lose Jared Abbrederis, their only major threat at receiver the past two seasons, as well as top tight end Jacob Pedersen. Players like Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe must translate their experience into greater production, and Wisconsin will look for more from young receivers like Alex Erickson and Robert Wheelwright. Help is on the way as Wisconsin signed five receivers in the 2014 class, but wideout definitely is a position of concern right now. Sam Arneson is the logical candidate to step in for Pedersen, but there should be competition as the Badgers lose a lot at the position.
Tags:

Northwestern Wildcats, Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan State Spartans, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Purdue Boilermakers, Big Ten Conference, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Maryland Terrapins, Football recruiting, Josh Ferguson, Christian Jones, Matt LaCosse, Jon Davis, Jordan Westerkamp, Jeremy Gallon, Devin Smith, Tony Lippett, Michael Thomas, Tony Jones, Steve Hull, Cameron Dickerson, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Cody Latimer, Corey Brown, Duwyce Wilson, Isaac Fruechte, Jacob Pedersen, Jamal Turner, Jared Abbrederis, Keith Mumphery, Kenny Bell, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Kofi Hughes, Quincy Enunwa, Shane Wynn, Ted Bolser, Martize Barr, Devin Funchess, Allen Robinson, Kenzel Doe, Aaron Burbridge, Isaiah Roundtree, Drew Dileo, Dan Vitale, Kyle Carter, James Clark, Adam Breneman, Austin Appleby, Danny Etling, Donovahn Jones, Gabe Holmes, Dontre Wilson, Cameron Posey, Damond Powell, Evan Spencer, Johnnie Dixon, MacGarrett Kings, Garrett Dickerson, Jake Duzey, Maxx Williams, Sam Burtch, DeAngelo Yancey, Josiah Price, Dominique Booth, Geronimo Allison, Saeed Blacknall, Drew Wolitarsky, Robert Wheelwright, Tevaun Smith, B1G spring positions 14, Miles Shuler, Alex Erickson, Amara Darboh, Amba Etta-Tawo, Andre Patton, Brandon Coleman, Brandon Felder, Carlton Agudosi, Cethan Carter, Chris Godwin, Danny Anthrop, Dave Stinebaugh, Deon Long, Drake Harris, Geno Lewis, Jalin Marshall, Jehu Chesson, Jesse James, Jordan Fredrick, Jordan Fuchs, Justin Sinz, Leonte Carroo, Levern Jacobs, Marcus Leak, Nick Stoner, Nigel King, Quron Pratt, Richy Anderson, Ruhann Peele, Sam Arneson, Stefon Diggs, Taariq Allen, Tyler Kroft

The 2014 B1G recruiting All-Name Team

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
1:30
PM CT
Now that signing day is in the books, we have a whole lot of new names to learn when it comes to Big Ten football players. Some names, however, are more interesting than others.

While the league might not have gained a moniker as great as new Eastern Michigan defensive lineman Lion King, there are still some players whose names will make us smile -- and/or make us double- and triple-check the spelling.

We've got a Madre and a Mister, a Freedom and a Geronimo, a linebacker who shares a first name with a Wu-Tang Clan member and an offensive lineman whose name should fit perfectly in Nebraska. And if you don't like it, an Illinois defensive lineman might just declare his first name on you.

Without further ado, our 2014 Big Ten recruiting All-Name Team:

Offense

QB Dimonic Roden-McKinzy, Minnesota
RB Madre London, Michigan State
RB Tommy Mister, Indiana
WR Geronimo Allison, Illinois
WR J-Shun Harris, Indiana
WR Solomon Vault, Northwestern
TE Freedom Akinmoladun, Nebraska
OL Tanner Farmer, Nebraska
OL Bearooz Yacoobi, Purdue
OL Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin
OL Chase Gianacakos, Michigan State

Defense

DL Jihad Ward, Illinois
DL Montez Sweat, Michigan State
DL Otitodilinna “Tito” Odenigbo, Illinois
LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
LB Cody Poock, Minnesota
LB Tegray Scales, Indiana
LB Carroll Phillips, Illinois
DB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
DB Byerson Cockrell, Nebraska
DB Serge Trezy, Wisconsin
DB Amani Oruwariye, PSU

Specialists

K Rafael Gaglianone, Wisconsin
P Logan McElfresh, Minnesota

Recruiting Q&A: N'western's Pat Fitzgerald

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
3:00
PM CT
Northwestern completed its recruiting class of 15 signees on Wednesday and added a three prospects from the ESPN 300. I recently caught up with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald to discuss his 2014 class and the recruiting process:

Northwestern obviously isn't the easiest school to get into. What kind of extra challenges does that provide on the recruiting front, that maybe other schools don't have to worry about?

[+] EnlargePat Fitzgerald
AP Photo/Jeff HaynesCoach Pat Fitzgerald's 2014 Northwestern recruiting class ranked 41st in the country.
Pat Fitzgerald: I can't say for anyone else, but from our standpoint, we got to get kids to fit our program academically first. And, if they do, then we're usually going to be a pretty good fit for them. So we're looking for that combination for that young man who's a great student and is going to help us compete for championships. We want to find guys that have that balance; it's critical to have both.

What's the easiest high school position to project to the next level -- and what's the hardest?

PF: There's none. None are easy, none are easy. And I think the hardest is quarterback because you typically take one per year. So none are easy. It's all a challenge.

Since you mention QB, ESPN 300 prospect Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North) is a big signee. What'd you see from him and, looking ahead, is he a guy you definitely anticipate competing for the 2015 job?

PF: Sure. Every kid we sign, we expect to come here to compete to start regardless of position -- or else we wouldn't have signed him. That being said, we felt really strongly about his arm strength, his ability to make all the throws and his athleticism. The tape speaks for itself and, more importantly, it's the way he is as a person. He comes from a great family, and he's an upstanding young man.

If you could change on recruiting rule -- just one -- what would it be?

PF: [Laughs] I think the biggest thing that we've got to look at is the third-party involvement in recruiting. And that's a very general statement, but we really have to look hard at those who are connected to a prospective student-athlete and what benefits we're providing them. We really need to look hard at that. We need to see if there's impropriety and eliminate any patronage that's going on in the process.

You picked up four signees from your home state of Illinois, and you picked up three from Texas. How are you guys able to reach that far, and how do you find out about some of these prospects? Safety Jared McGee wasn't exactly a household name; you jumped on him early.

PF: Our recruiting staff in-house does a terrific job, and our coaches have areas throughout the country. We're a national-in-scope recruiting team, and we go out in those areas that have been productive for us in the past. It's really Chicago, the state of Texas, Ohio and the Eastern seaboard. They've been very productive for us. And we have three coaches down there [in Texas], that spend time there -- Randy Bates, Matt MacPherson and Dennis Springer.

I would just wish that as [recruits] go through this process that kids would look at this as a 40- or 50-year decision and not just a hashtag.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald on the recruiting process.
Does your pitch change at all when you're going after recruits from Texas? You did have two decommits from the Lone Star State, after all, so I'd imagine there's a different dynamic.

PF: Yeah, anytime distance is a factor, it's definitely a variable. You try to make sure you explain that to kids up-front and that they understand it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't -- but that's just the nature of recruiting.

You went through the recruiting process as a player yourself back in the early '90s. What's changed the most about recruiting since then?

PF: Oh, it's totally different. Night and day. First of all, you weren't offered a scholarship until after your senior year. Back when I was playing, a handful of guys were maybe offered during their junior year. This kid named Peyton -- who played in that game the other week -- he ended up being one of those guys who was offered early. Now, all these guys are offered early. So the acceleration of the process is probably the biggest change.

Overall, how do you feel about this class? And is there anything you wish you would've done differently?

PF: I feel great about the class. It's a group that we've had mostly committed for a long time. Terrific group of people, dynamic group of guys athletically. And what would you wish? I don't know if I would wish anything different. I would just wish that as [recruits] go through this process that kids would look at this as a 40- or 50-year decision and not just a hashtag.

Kelly, Irish get class they need

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
9:30
AM CT
Brian Kelly spoke like Brian Kelly for much of his Wednesday press conference, touting the distinctions of his program by stressing 40-year life decisions (not four) and by mentioning the different (though not necessarily better) shopping aisle that is Notre Dame football.

For the first time in what felt like a long time, the fifth-year Irish coach enjoyed a relatively drama-free signing day. His 22 verbal commitments going into the day all delivered on their word without any extracurriculars, and he even added an early-morning surprise from four-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage, giving the Irish their second win over Michigan State since September and further beefing up a class that finished with more linemen (12) than every other position combined (11).

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsThis may not have been Notre Dame's highest-ranked recruiting class, but fifth-year coach Brian Kelly has developed a recruiting identity for the Irish.
But Kelly hit on another theme rather decisively early on, one that struck his program fairly hard in the weeks following last season's 9-4 campaign: the pros, and where they fit into the plans of his program.

"When we were having this opportunity to recruit a young man, they had to have a passion for wanting to get a degree from Notre Dame and winning a national championship," he said. "If they want to come here just to hang their hat to play football and go to the NFL, we passed on some pretty good players because I don't want guys to come here and not finish their degree. I want guys to come to Notre Dame, get their degree, help us win a national championship and be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. That's what I want, if that's what they want."

No, this is likely not a coincidence in light of the early NFL departures of Stephon Tuitt, Troy Niklas and George Atkinson III, the first Irish underclassmen in the Kelly era to leave school without their degrees since Kyle Rudolph back in Year 1. And this does not exactly vibe smoothly with the program's "Pot of Gold" initiative that made headlines recently when Notre Dame sent packages to recruits containing 477 letters -- one for every draft pick to come out of Notre Dame.

But Kelly was deliberate from the get-go. He was cocksure. His was a seasoned voice speaking after four years at one place, having weathered the sleeplessness that accompanies a national title game appearance, four underclassman departures, and a number of defections and suspensions in what is quickly turning into a long Irish tenure.

And on a day when positivity and hyperbole reigned across the college football world, Kelly allowed for some genuine self-evaluation. He said he had to do a better job of educating his players on the NFL. He conceded that he had not initially cast a wide enough net when evaluating prospects on the defensive line, the unit that took the biggest hit after the 2013 season. He might have cut the sales job short for the sake of simply coaching his football team, comfortable and confident in what he wants and what it takes to win big at Notre Dame.

This Irish recruiting class, ranked 11th by ESPN RecruitingNation, is not his best. It's not nearly as good as last year's, which was ranked fourth before losing a top-10 player in the country. Nor is it as good as consecutive ninth-ranked classes in 2012 and 2011, which ended up seeing five of its top players move on to different schools.

The ranking mattered little to Kelly or his staff. They had already taken their third Irish team to a perfect regular season two years ago with somewhat of a hodgepodge cast of characters still finding their way on their respective sides of the ball. They likely believe that, if not for a gross academic oversight by Everett Golson, they could have been bound for potentially bigger and better things this past fall.

So what if this year's haul lacks a five-star phenom. So what if it features eight three-star prospects.

"I just was a little bit too narrow-focused on where we were with our defensive line, and I needed to just be a little bit more -- I needed to change my view of how we recruited defensive linemen and open it up a little bit more," Kelly said. "It was strictly a decision that I needed to make. We did it a little late, and we were fortunate that we were able to get two very quality defensive linemen late in the cycle here, but we've made that adjustment in our profile."

The adjustment paid dividends through the signing day fax from Cage and through a trio of three-star newcomers who committed in the previous three months: Jhonathon Williams (November), Kolin Hill (December) and Peter Mokwuah (January).

These were hardly highly sought-after prospects, at least by Notre Dame's usual standards. There probably isn't a Tuitt walking through that door. But Kelly has learned better than to allow a departure like that one change a season's outlook, showing enough faith in his player-development process -- and in an oh-so-close-to-being-filled roster, now at 84 scholarships -- to secure a foundation for years to come.

"I think if you really boil it down, it's about the front seven and the offensive line," he said. "Yeah, there's some great skill players that I'll talk about, but you're winning up front, and building that depth in the front seven and the offensive line really stands out in this class, and then having some really good players across the board for us."

If that's not going to jump out on brochures, so be it. Notre Dame has an identity, and its leaders show enough resolve to push the envelope with a class that's smaller in stars but tailored in fit.

Kelly talks class, fifth-year players

February, 5, 2014
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Brian Kelly spent the first 37 minutes of his national signing day press conference talking about the 23 players who signed with Notre Dame. Whether that will be it for the Irish remains to be seen.

"We're open to going beyond the 23," Kelly said Wednesday.

The answer will likely come at 4 ET, when ESPN four-star athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) announces his college decision live on ESPNU.

Notre Dame currently stands at 84 scholarships, as it welcomed back 56 players from last season's team, 23 recruits from the 2014 class and, as Kelly said, five fifth-year players: Austin Collinsworth, Christian Lombard, Kendall Moore, Justin Utupo and Luke Massa, whose return had not been previously reported.

Kelly stressed the education process at Notre Dame more than usual, as he was dealing with three underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft early after the 2013 season.

He said he would have a serious problem recruiting a kid who said that his intentions were to stay for just three years.

"If they want to come here just to hang their hat to play football and go to the NFL, we passed on some pretty good players," he said.

Kelly, who gave an honest assessment of not casting a wide enough net on the defensive line, also made a pretty definitive statement that four-star offensive guard recruit Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel) would be staying on the offensive line.

Bold predictions: Big Ten 

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
10:30
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National signing day is less than 24 hours away and there's still plenty of recruiting action that could take place in the final hours. The Big Ten still has some big questions and storylines leading up to the big day.

College decisions are often unpredictable, but here are five signing day predictions for the Big Ten.


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Key recruiting visits - Big Ten 

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
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The last visit weekend before signing day and there are some big visits scheduled within the Big Ten.

Here is a look at some of the more important trips scheduled within the conference.

1. OL Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle)
Visiting: Michigan State



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Most important targets: Big Ten 

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
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There is limited time left for programs to secure their top targets before signing day. With last efforts being finalized, Big Ten teams are still scrambling to finish out the classes.

Here is a look at some of the most important targets remaining within the conference.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
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There is only one weekend left for visits before signing day. Things are getting down to the wire, which means we are set to see a lot of activity in a short amount of time.

Here is a look at what happened within the Big Ten this past week.


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Updated ESPN 300: Big Ten analysis 

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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The ESPN 300 has been updated and the Big Ten saw plenty of movement for its commits, both up and down the list. Here is a look at the five biggest movers within the ESPN 300.

Smith shoots up the rankings
Defensive back Erick Smith (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) recently committed to Ohio State to join teammates Marcelys Jones and Marshon Lattimore as future Buckeyes. Previously ranked No. 228 overall, Smith moved up 45 spots to 183 in the new rankings. He is a big safety who will add a lot to the Ohio State defense in the future. Smith was an Army All-American and had an outstanding week of practice. His rise in the rankings was earned on the field and should make Buckeyes fans happy he will be in Columbus next season.


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Irish TE commit Luatua wants to see USC 

December, 28, 2013
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ORLANDO -- Let the season of indecision begin.

Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), the No. 1-rated tight end nationally who committed to Notre Dame on Dec. 16, said he’s interested in looking more closely at hometown USC.


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