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Thursday, December 19, 2013
Big Ten recruiting storylines: Dec. 19

By Tom VanHaaren


As the calendar year winds down, there is still plenty to talk about within recruiting. Big Ten teams have been on a roll on the recruiting trail as of late, and each program is hoping that continues into signing day.

Here are five things for fans to watch as we head into the holiday season.

Under Armour Game

There are six Big Ten teams represented in the Under Armour All-America game this year with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State all having commitments scheduled to play in the game.

The game will be played Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla., but there will be plenty to watch before the big game. The participants will go through tough practices and skill competitions leading up to the event, which always has some interesting storylines.

The practices put the best players in the country against each other, so it’s a good measuring stick of top prospects.

Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Jabrill Peppers
High school and future Michigan teammates Juwann Bushell-Beatty and Jabrill Peppers are headed to the Under Armour All-America Game.
Michigan leads the way with seven committed players in the game: Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City/Highland), Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), Juwann Bushell-Beatty (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate) and Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle).

Penn State is next with four in De’Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro), Thomas Hollley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln), Michael O’Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) and Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown).

Ohio State has two commits in the game with linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) and offensive lineman Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle).

Minnesota commit Jeff Jones (St. Paul, Minn./Washburn) was recently added to the game after an outstanding senior season and Nebraska’s Tanner Farmer (Highland, Ill./Highland) and Michigan State’s kicker, Jake Hartbarger (Whitehouse, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) round out the Big Ten commits in the game.

Early enrollees

Once the holidays and all-star games are finished, early enrollees will almost immediately head to their respective colleges. There isn’t much time left at home.

There are roughly 40 early enrollees in the Big Ten, including junior college prospects.

Illinois announced on Wednesday that nine mid-year enrollees are all set to make their move to Champaign, Ill. That list includes four junior college prospects qho will provide some immediate help to the Fighting Illini team.

Michigan will have seven enroll in January, including quarterback Speight, linebacker Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) and wide receiver Harris.

Many of the prospects enrolling early have already signed financial aid forms, which allows schools to publicly acknowledge them with no penalties. Ohio State will have its two biggest commitments move up in January in McMillan and wide receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer).

For Nebraska, quarterback Zack Darlington (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) and junior college defensive lineman Joe Keels will enroll early, and the Nittany Lions will get Thompkins and O’Connor on campus early as well.

Dead period

We are currently in a dead period, which only means that there is no in-person contact with recruits. They can’t take visits to a school’s campus and coaches can’t do in-home visits or visit high schools.

College coaches are still allowed to make phone calls and send mail during this time, which is a common misconception.

The dead period lasts until Jan. 15, and then we move into another contact period until Feb. 1. That means coaches can resume visits to prospects and give one last sales pitch before signing day on Feb. 5. Another dead period starts on Feb. 3 to give the prospects some sort of sanity as they get ready to sign their national letters of intent.

Closing out classes

The holidays might not produce a ton of commitments, but there is always the chance a prospect will decide to end his recruitment before the new year.

Many Big Ten classes are just about filled, but there are still some big names on the board.

Purdue and Northwestern are really only looking for one more spot. Michigan has two available.

The Wildcats are waiting on ESPN 300 defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook), who could be announcing very soon.

So this period could be a big time for some teams to fill up and close out their classes before signing day, so there are no negative surprises.

Surprises

This is the time when decommits happen, or surprise names pop up to help fill classes. Whether a team has evaluated a new prospect or is targeting a committed prospect, there is always a chance that something new comes up.

Since they are surprises, they aren’t predictable, but if there is ever a time to watch for something unexpected, it’s usually right now leading up to signing day.