February 1, 2011

Midwest region top storylines

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Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell looks at the top story lines in the Midwest Region heading into National Signing Day on Wednesday. The buzz in Ann Arbor sits atop the list.

1. Michigan drama

Michigan got off to a 5-0 start in 2010, Denard Robinson was a Heisman candidate and Rich Rodriguez looked like a man with solid job security. However, losing five of his last seven games with a defense that gave up more than 30 points in six of those games doomed his fate. But Michigan wasn't quick to put Rodriguez out of his misery and when it did, the Wolverines pursued Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles before hiring Brady Hoke. Despite the late start, Hoke and his staff landed some key late commitments in athlete Raymon Taylor and offensive lineman Chris Bryant, while holding off Penn State for Blake Countess. The efforts pushed the Wolverines to as high as third in the Big Ten rankings at one point.

2. Buckeye State dominance

Last year, five of the top six prospects in the Rivals.com Ohio state rankings went to programs other than Ohio State for different reasons. Some the Buckeyes didn't really pursue (Spencer Ware, Braylon Heard), others they couldn't decide on (Latwan Anderson) and on some they just got beat (Jordan Hicks, the late Matt James). No matter how you spin it, 2010 wasn't a good year in state for the Buckeyes. However, 2011 was the opposite story. Braxton Miller, Doran Grant and Michael Bennett lead a very strong group of natives in the 2011 Ohio State class. Few schools took players that the Buckeyes coveted this time around.

3. Irish finish strong

Notre Dame started slow, picked up steam a bit, took a few hits with de-commitments and finished strong. The re-commitments of stud defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch, as well as the pledge from end/linebacker Ishaq Williams, gives Notre Dame one of the strongest defensive line classes in the country. Add in athletes such as George Atkinson III, Davaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy and Ben Koyack, and Brian Kelly has a very strong first recruiting class with quite a bit of balance.

4. Zettel, Arnett leave state

At the beginning of the recruiting process, most fans and experts were sure that Michigan studs Anthony Zettel and DeAnthony Arnett would stay home and play at Michigan and Michigan State, respectively. However, Zettel, the Rivals100 defensive end shocked everyone and chose Penn State over his childhood favorite. Meanwhile, Arnett, the Rivals100 receiver committed to Tennessee over the Spartans, leaving both in-state programs without two of the best three home-grown talents in the class of 2011.

5. Glenville drama

There are five prominent prospects from Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville still undecided heading into signing day, led by the nation's No. 1 offensive guard, Aundrey Walker. Walker is joined by defensive end Andre Sturdivant, quarterback Cardale Jones, linebacker Frank Clark and wide receiver Shane Wynn. Walker is set to choose among USC, Ohio State and Michigan State, while Clark is thought to be a lock for Michigan. The others have to decide whether they want to play right away at Toledo or choose a different route. For Sturdivant and Wynn, it could be Indiana and for Jones it could be a delayed enrollment at Ohio State. Either way, many will be watching, especially watching Walker, to see what happens.

6. Who's No. 3

Ohio State is clearly No. 1 in the Big Ten and Nebraska is the new kid on the block checking in at No. 2. However, who will finish third behind the two powers? Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State are all battling for that spot, as well as for a slot in the national top 25. Each is hoping to close strong on signing day. There are many players expected to announce on signing day that will impact this such as defensive tackle Darian Cooper, offensive lineman Jacob Fisher, linebacker Leilon Willingham, linebacker Frank Clark, Marquise Wright and others that will impact this race.




 

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