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Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Buckeyes leading the way in Big Ten

By ESPN Recruiting
ESPN.com

Here is a team by team breakdown of the Big Ten.

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1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Top prospect: It's difficult to find ends out of high school with the length, quick get-off and strong hands of DE Steve Miller (Canton, Ohio/McKinley). Name to remember: We feel ILB Ejuan Price (Pittsburgh, Penn./ Woodland Hills) could help OSU's defense in a lot of ways because he's stout at the point, filling downhill and can also create havoc as a blitzer with great burst to the football.
Breakdown: The Buckeyes are back in the top 10 nationally with a very strong class that filled a lot of needs including defensive end, linebacker and quarterback. Linebacker Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) was a great out-of-state land on signing day. The Buckeyes cleaned up in Ohio as well with No. 4-ranked QB Braxton Miller (Huber Heights, Ohio/Wayne), top-six DE Miller, top-three CB Doran Grant (Akron, Ohio/St.Vincent-St. Mary) and top-10 OG Michael Bennett (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville). Braxton Miller fits the mold of a Troy Smith, but Miller is more explosive as a runner. He has a big arm, can make all the throws and just needs a bit more polish as a passer. Steve Miller displays the ability to be tough against the run and pass and still has good upside. Doran Grant is a playmaking corner with great quickness and athleticism, while Bennett is a dominant run-blocker. Jim Tressel and his staff went outside the state as well, plucking two talented four-star defenders out of Florida -- ESPNU 150 OLB Ryan Shazier (Plantation, Fla./Plantation.) and four-star safety Jeremy Cash (Plantation, Fla./Plantation).

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2. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Top prospect: When healthy, RB Aaron Green (San Antonio, Texas/James Madison) is one of the more talented backs in the country with great feet, vision and speed to take it the distance.
Name to remember: Jamal Turner (Arlington, Texas/Sam Houston) is an electrifying athlete who could play quarterback for Nebraska in a similar role as Taylor Martinez or develop at another skill position, perhaps receiver, which is a need.
Breakdown: The Cornhuskers have been resurrected on the field and it's paying dividends on the recruiting trail. This is not a huge class but it's strong from top to bottom and it's filled with a lot of system-fitting prospects, particularly on defense. CB Charles Jackson (Klein, Texas/Klein Collins) is fast, aggressive and closes with great explosiveness; ideal attributes for the Buckeyes. Green is the headline name of this class though. The five-star back is one of the best in the country when healthy and will have a chance to carry the rock early in Lincoln. Turner is simply a playmaker with the ball in his hands and could be used behind center or at another skill position. Bubba Starling (Gardner, Kan./Gardner Edgerton) is a bit raw, but has arguably the best pure arm strength in this class to develop -- if he does not choose to play professional baseball. Nebraska put an emphasis up front as well and picked up in-state center Ryne Reeves (Crete, Neb./Crete), who holds the No. 2 spot nationally, as well as massive Florida tackle Tyler Moore (Clearwater, Fla./Countryside).

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3. Michigan State Spartans

Top prospect: LB Lawrence Thomas (Detroit, Mich./Renaissance) slid a bit in our last rankings but still has great size, strength and deceptive athleticism to remain at linebacker or grow into a defensive end.
Name to remember: A.J. Sims (Snellville, Ga./Brookwood) has minute measurables but is extremely quick, fluid and we see good future production as a returner, corner or in the slot.
Breakdown: Success on the field has helped Mark Dantonio and the Spartans put together another strong class. Overall, this is a strong class on defense with needs met up front and in the back seven. They have also signed two players on both sides of the ball that could contribute early. Thomas, the top-rated defensive prospect in Michigan, has the size and strength to hold his own in the middle and receiver Juwan Caesar (Miami, Fla./Miami Coral park) is a tall and athletic, not to mention a potential deep-ball nightmare for smaller Big Ten corners.

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4. Illinois Fighting Illini

Top prospect: ESPNU 150 prospect Jon Davis (Louisville, Kent./Eastern) was a great steal from Kentucky on signing day. He is a jumbo-athlete who could play linebacker, tight end or H-back.
Name to remember: Donovonn Young (Katy, Texas/Katy) is a powerful downhill back rushed for 2,309 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior and has the strength to carry the load and wear down defenses.
Breakdown: Not a great sign for the Fighting Illini when they sign only a few of the top prospects in the state, but they did well elsewhere. This class is deep and filled with a lot of good developmental prospects and a few on defense, who could contribute right away. We like athlete Dondi Kirby's (Monroeville, Penn./Gateway) range and athleticism as a future safety, and powerful, 300-pound DT Clint Tucker (East Saint Louis, Ill./East Saint Louis) is a handful in the trenches. DE Darrius Caldwell (Atlanta, Ga./Benjamin E. Mays) may take a bit of time to develop but has a lot of physical tools to mold into a good one at the position. Inside linebacker Ralph Cooper (Winnsboro, S.C./Fairfield) is as stout as they come filling downhill between the tackles and fills a need at linebacker. Not signing a top-level quarterback is a drawback.

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5. Penn State Nittany Lions

Top prospect: Angelo Mangiro (Succasunna, N.J./Roxbury) is a tough finisher and strong inside run blocker that PSU can build its future line around.
Name to remember: Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock Secondary) is not overly fast or flashy, but he does a lot of little things right and has a great pair of hands.
Breakdown: The Nittany Lions went into this recruiting season knowing they were going to sign a smaller class, but were likely expecting more high-end talent. Mangiro, the No. 2 offensive guard in the country, is a dominant run blocker and as tough and physical as they come. Overall, PSU did a good job signing quality prospects for the offensive line, which was a position in need of young depth, the Nittany Lions fail to land any corners, which we felt was also a need. Dynamic athlete Bill Belton (Atco, N.J./Winslow) could get a look at corner, but we like his potential at running back or wide receiver.

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6. Iowa Hawkeyes

Top prospect: We project Jordan Walsh (Geln Ellyn, Ill./Glenbard West) will slide inside to guard at Iowa and take advantage of his powerful frame and explosive run blocking skill.
Name to remember: Jake Rudock (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), a three-star quarterback, has some of the better field awareness and accuracy in this quarterback class.
Breakdown: Iowa may not have signed a lot of four-star prospects but this is another strong, balanced class for coach Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes built it with tough, blue-collar prospects on the offensive side of the ball, including a pair of top-20 guards highlighted by the explosive Walsh. Punishing running back Rodney Coe (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville) is physically ready to make the jump to the college level and they needed that depth in this class. We really feel like Rudock, a fundamentally sound quarterback, is a great fit for Iowa because he plays within the offense and makes smart decisions. One of his top targets and another great pro-style fit is No. 12 tight end Ray Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio/Strongsville).

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7. Michigan Wolverines

Top prospect: Blake Countess (Olney, Md./Good Counsel), a well-rounded top-15 corner, is very quick and fluid with the instincts coaches covet at the position.
Name to remember: RB Justice Hayes (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc) could become more involved as an every-down back, now that Michigan lost out on star running back Demetrius Hart (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) to Alabama.
Breakdown: Brady Hoke did not have a lot of time to improve this class that is less than stellar by Michigan standards, but came on down the stretch. Two of the Wolverines' top-rated prospects are cornerbacks, which was a need. Countess and fellow top-15 CB Delonte Hollowell (Detroit, Michigan/Cass Tech) really bring some good young talent to their future secondary. Defensive end was also a position of focus and Hoke did land three-star Keith Heitzman (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) down the stretch and inherited Brennen Beyer (Canton, Mich./Plymouth).

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8. Wisconsin Badgers

Top prospect: WR A.J. Jordan (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison), one of the Midwest's better receivers, is a very good intermediate-to-deep pass catcher and difficult jump-ball matchup.
Name to remember: Terrance Floyd (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces Community), a likely college corner, is an extremely athletic sleeper overlooked in our eyes out of the fertile state of Florida.
Breakdown: The Badgers had one of the top teams in 2010 with a roster full of system-fitting players without a lot of national regard coming out of high school. This balanced class is solid with three-star quality and met a lot of needs. They upgraded their receiving corps with Jordan and retained the majority of the state's best players including athlete Melvin Gordon (Kenosha, Wis./Mary D. Bradford), who has a promising blend of size and speed. Wisconsin also loaded up at tight end and signed a solid group of front seven prospects on defense, highlighted by talented pass rusher Jesse Hayes (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller).

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9. Northwestern Wildcats

Top prospect: WR Christian Jones (Spring, Texas/Westfield) was a major signing, considering he is one of the top-rated receivers out of the state of Texas with very good size-to-speed measureables.
Name to remember: Tight end Mark Szott (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie) will not wow you on film with elite tools, but he's a very good football player who gets the job done; similar to a lot of guys on the Wildcats' roster.
Breakdown: While Jones could be a future playmaker at receiver and QB, this class is built around the trenches and very solid, despite not being very large. Offensive tackles Jack Konopka (Palatine, Ill./Fremd) and Shane Mertz (Hazlet, N.J./ Raritan) fill a need for young talent to develop on the edge. Both rank in the top 25 at the position and are lean, athletic and possess a lot of upside. In the trenches on defense, defensive end Max Chapman's (Pointe Vedra, Fla./Nease) quickness off the ball and high-motor are what they were looking for.

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10. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Top prospect: OG Tommy Olson (Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi), the top-rated player in the state, will be a quick and explosive run blocker in the Big Ten.
Name to remember: Max Shortell (Shawnee Missions, Kan./Bishop Miege) is more of a pro-style QB and not an ideal fit for new head coach Jerry Kill's scheme, but has a very strong arm and it will be interesting to watch his development.
Breakdown: Kill is regarded as a good recruiter and developer of talent, but he didn't have a lot of time to make an impact with this top-heavy Minnesota class. The Golden Gophers still have to be pleased with what they retained in the coaching turnover and signed at offensive line and linebacker. Olsen and tackle Kyle McAvoy (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) are two very promising prospects on the offensive line. Kill will try to keep the inroads with Florida and has a linebacker who can make plays in three-star Jephette Matilus (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic Community).

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11. Purdue Boilermakers

Top Prospect: Armstead Williams (Monroe, Pa./Gateway), a top-25 outside linebacker, is very athletic and versatile because he can stack the downhill run, drop in coverage or come off the edge and rush the passer.
Name to remember: DB Taylor Richards (Lake Mary, Fla./Lake Mary) should be more coveted nationally in our opinion with his great quickness, hip fluidity and overall cover-corner skills.
Breakdown: Not a large or deep class for the Boilermakers, but there are still a few significant signings that could help in the rebuilding process. While all are in the three-star range, we feel like the offensive additions of big-play receiver and returner Frankie Williams (Tampa, Fla./Robinson), explosive athlete Raheem Mostert (New Smyna Beach, Fla./New Smyrna Beach) and No. 21 ranked tight end Robert Kugler (Wexford, Pa./ North Allegheny Sr.) are promising. Purdue went into Florida for some athletes in this class highlighted by OLB Williams, Mostert and Richards at corner. However, losing out on ultra-competitive quarterback Russell Bellomy (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) a week before signing day to Michigan stings.

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12. Indiana Hoosiers

Top prospect: Athlete Shane Wynn (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) is a small, but explosive and shifty skills prospect who could contribute as a multi-purpose back for Indiana.
Name to remember: Athlete Tre Roberson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central) is a quick and speedy dual-threat quarterback and has a chance to stay behind center or develop into a playmaker at a skills position.
Breakdown: A once very strong class compiled by Bill Lynch before his firing is still pretty solid and filled with a few good in-state prospects. The Hoosiers were able to sign both the top-ranked running back and tight end in the state. Running back D'Angelo Roberts (Bloomington, Ind./North) is a real sleeper, in our eyes. He lacks some size but is a well-rounded back with natural vision, balance and overall skill set. Jake Reed (Columbus, Ind./North) is a good in-line blocker with some developmental upside.