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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Under Armour game storylines: Big Ten

By Tom VanHaaren

The Under Armour All-America game is fast approaching and plenty of participants still have questions surrounding their recruitment.

The Big Ten has quite a few of those recruits in the game, so here is a look at five of the bigger storylines heading into the prestigious game.

Will Jabrill Peppers take visits?

The No. 2-ranked prospect in the class has said he will take official visits after his season. He cited instability with Michigan coach Brady Hoke as the reason for wanting to take visits.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has since written an article publicly backing Hoke and squashing any rumors of his departure.

Peppers will likely be taking an official visit to Michigan on Dec. 13 with the other 2014 commitments, so that visit would be big for the Wolverines. If the coaches can convince the cornerback that there is no reason to take visits, it would be a huge win for the U-M program.

Peppers will get the chance to bond with his future Michigan teammates at the Under Armour game as well. Six other Michigan commits will be participating in the game.

Jones a late addition

Jeff Jones
Fast-rising Minnesota running back commit Jeff Jones was a late addition to the Under Armour All-America Game.
Running back Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn) was a late addition to the Under Armour game and the ESPN 300. He is currently the No. 181 prospect in the country after an outstanding senior season with over 40 rushing touchdowns.

Jones is a Minnesota commit, but has been hearing from schools across the country. The Gophers have done a lot of positive things with Jones during the season, including having a winning record.

But being around prospects committed to other schools at the Under Armour game might be putting Jones in front of a few more recruiters for their respective schools. There isn’t a reason for Minnesota fans to fret just yet, but it’s safe to say Jones will be a target for other prospects during the week.

McMillan’s decision fast approaching

The No. 1 ranked linebacker in the 2014 class, Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) is set to make his announcement on Dec. 16. His top three consists of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, but Auburn might be in that mix, too.

The Under Armour All-American would be a huge addition to the Ohio State class as the Buckeyes have a big need for linebackers.

McMillan recently took a trip to Auburn and keeps everything close to the vest, so it is still unknown as to what he plans on doing.

Big Ten could land big defender

Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) is the No. 87 prospect and an Under Armour All-American. The 6-foot-4, 309-pound defensive tackle took a visit to Florida at the end of November, but he doesn’t have any other visits planned.

He is heavily considering Penn State. He doesn't have announcement date set, but Holley has said he would like to make his choice sometime in December.

If he doesn’t take any other visits, Penn State likely has a very good shot at landing the big defender.

Bonding experience

Only five Big Ten schools are represented in the Under Armour All-America game this year.

Michigan leads the way with seven commitments, followed by Penn State with three. Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State each have one.

The Michigan commits are all on one team and the Penn State commits on another, which will allow those prospects to get some early practice time in as teammates. The game is meant to be fun, but having the opportunity to practice next to your future teammates can only be a positive.

Penn State quarterback commit Michael O’Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) will get the chance to run an offense with his future wide receivers De’Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro) and Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown).

Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate) will get that same opportunity with receiver Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) and offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic).

Michigan defensive commits Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville), Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle), Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City/Highland) and Peppers will get that same chance to bond as well.