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Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Updated ESPN 300: Big Ten analysis

By Tom VanHaaren

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.

Jones continues his rise
Running back Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn) has been rising up everyone’s board for the past month. He was a late entry into the ESPN 300 and now finds himself on the way up once again. Moving up 44 spots to No. 137 overall, Jones recently picked up offers from Florida and Michigan. He is still currently committed to Minnesota, but it looks as though the Wolverines and Gophers will battle it out for the four-star back.

Questions surround Holley
Thomas Holley
Will Thomas Holley remain committed to Penn State?
There is a lot of intrigue surrounding defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) right now as Penn State just hired coach James Franklin as its new coach. Holley moved up 36 spots to No. 87 overall in the ESPN 300. Nittany Lions' fans are waiting to see if Holley remains committed or decides to look at other programs. There is a chance he goes elsewhere now that defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. will not remain on staff. No matter what he decides, Holley had an excellent week of practice at the Under Armour All-America Game and moved up 36 spots in the ESPN 300.

Wildcats have help for the future
Northwestern quarterback commit Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North) finds himself moving up 12 spots to No. 157 overall. Thorson was already a top-10 quarterback in the class, and someone Wildcats’ fans should be excited about. Thorson is listed as a pocket-passer, but has the ability to run when called upon. He should fit right in with Northwestern’s versatile offense and what the coaching staff would like out of their quarterbacks.

Speight sees a drop
Quarterback Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School) had a solid week of practice at the Under Armour All-America Game, but he had some trouble in the actual game. He is an early enrollee at Michigan and is already on campus, but found himself moving down 124 spots to No. 257 overall. Speight is in a unique situation as he had already started to learn the offensive playbook, but will now likely have to forget what he learned with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. The former Alabama offensive coordinator is known for coaching up quarterbacks, something that will benefit current Michigan signal-caller Shane Morris and Speight.