February 7, 2013

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big Ten

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Urban Meyer again proved to be one of college football's top closers, helping Ohio State land the top class in the Big Ten on National Signing Day.

We break down and rank the classes in the Big Ten.

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Nebraska | Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big Ten
1. Ohio State

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Headliner: Five-Star safety Vonn Bell capped an outstanding class for the Buckeyes, announcing on National Signing Day.
Sleeper: Athlete Darron Lee was not well known coming out of his junior year, but he impressed Ohio State coaches at their summer camp.
Overview: Ohio State was one of the signing day success stories, landing Bell and four-star wide receiver James Clark out of Florida on Wednesday. Those pickups had the Buckeyes in the top spot of the national team rankings for a short while before Alabama rallied later in the day and overtook the Buckeyes. However, with the additions also came attrition. Explosive slot wide receiver Taivon Jacobs of Washington D.C., had been committed to Ohio State since the summer, but he flipped to Maryland on National Signing Day. The Buckeyes should be fine at that position with the nation's top-rated athlete prospect, Jalin Marshall also in the fold.
2. Michigan

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Headliner: 6-foot, 220-pound five-star Derrick Green is the feature back Michigan has been looking for.
Sleeper: The Wolverines are looking for a big-play receiver, and 6-foot-2, 185-pound Da'Mario Jones could prove to be that guy.
Overview: Michigan started its class early and finished it early. A total of 21 of the eventual 27 prospects the Wolverines signed committed before the start of their senior seasons. Michigan also was not afraid to pursue prospects committed to conference foes. Four of its commits had been committed to other Big Ten programs. Green was neither an early commitment nor a commitment to another school, but he may be the most important pickup for the Wolverines in 2013. The Wolverines shored up needs at running back and quarterback, and they brought in one of the nation's top offensive line classes.
3. Nebraska

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Headliner: Four-star Terrell Newby is a big-play running back with exceptional outside running abilities.
Sleeper: Canadian offensive tackle David Knevel is raw but intriguing at 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds.
Overview: While Ohio State and Michigan were attracting all the recruiting attention from national pundits in the Big Ten, Bo Pelini quietly put together a strong class. Headlining the group are a pair of four-star running backs in Newby and Adam Taylor, who each provide a little something different to the Cornhuskers backfield. The eventual MVP of this class may turn out to be four-star linebacker Josh Banderas. The Lincoln native is a Nebraska legacy recruit who understands the Blackshirts tradition and will be a great addition to the locker room as well as the front seven.
4. Michigan State

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Headliner: Linebacker Jon Reschke is one of the top all-around prospects at his position in the country.
Sleeper: Green Bay, Wis., tight end Dylan Chmura is the son of former Packers great Mark Chmura.
Overview: After missing on several of its top targets early in the process, Michigan State rallied to pull in a top-half Big Ten class led by a pair of linebackers in Reschke and fellow four-star Shane Jones, who will bolster an already stout Spartans front seven. Head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff identified Erie, Pa.'s Damion Terry early as their quarterback in this class and were rewarded with rapid progression from the 6-foot-4, 210-pound passer as a senior. Running back Le'Veon Bell's early entrance into the NFL draft is mitigated by the additions of 6-foot, 205-pound Gerald Holmes and 5-foot-11, 185-pound R.J. Shelton.
5. Penn State

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Headliner: Quarterback Christian Hackenberg proved five-star-worthy at the Under Armour All-America Game in January.
Sleeper: Listed as an all-purpose back, 5-foot-11, 180-pound Richy Anderson could play running back or wide receiver in college.
Overview: There were several impressive recruiting efforts by Big Ten coaches, but no one had to overcome the adversity that Bill O'Brien and his staff did during the 2013 recruiting cycle. When the NCAA handed down unprecedented sanctions against the Nittany Lions that included no postseason appearances for four years, expectations were that their recruiting class would fall apart. While several prospects backed out of their verbal commitments in the aftermath, more stayed, including Hackenberg and four-stars Adam Breneman, Brendan Mahon and Garrett Sickels. That example helped Penn State improbably sign a top-half-of-the-conference class despite low numbers.
6. Indiana

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Headliner: Safety Antonio Allen started the four-star movement toward Bloomington in the 2013 class.
Sleeper: Linebacker Marcus Oliver averaged better than 18 tackles per game during his senior season.
Overview: In its previous 11 classes combined, Indiana had signed just one four-star prospect. It signed four in 2013. Head coach Kevin Wilson is used to recruiting elite talent from his days at Oklahoma, and he brought that knowledge of how to attract the nation's top players with him to Bloomington. Allen, defensive end David Kenney and defensive tackle Darius Latham are four-star Indianapolis-area prospects who jumped at the chance to play close to home. Four-star athlete Rashard Fant hails from Georgia and is the only out-of-state four-star commitment for the Hoosiers.
7. Illinois

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Headliner: Aaron Bailey is the heir apparent at quarterback.
Sleeper: Safety Jaylen Dunlap has great size -- and the experience of covering five-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell every day in practice.
Overview: Any questions regarding Tim Beckman's ability to recruit the state of Illinois were answered in this class. Eight of the Illini's commitments are from within their own borders, including Bailey, whom they nabbed despite the four-star quarterback holding offers from top teams throughout the Midwest. While all eyes will be on Bailey early in his career, Hilliard (Ohio) Darby athlete Caleb Day is just as likely to be the star of this class. The 6-foot, 188-pounder could project on either side of the ball but likely will start in the defensive backfield when he arrives in Champaign.
8 (tie). Northwestern

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Headliner: Dual-threat quarterback Matt Alviti is a gritty leader who fits what the Wildcats want to do on offense.
Sleeper: Cornerback Marcus McShepard should immediately become one of the fastest players on the roster.
Overview: Northwestern is known for signing smaller classes year in and year out, but head coach Pat Fitzgerald made the most out of this class by bringing in a collection of prospects that can project to multiple positions at the college level. Two great examples are Ohio athletes Godwin Igwebuike and Keith Watkins, who were standout running backs at the high school level but could end up in the defensive backfield. Alviti is undoubtedly the headliner of the group, but he'll come in with several playmakers around him and a solid group of offensive linemen to play behind.
8 (tie). Iowa

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Headliner: 6-foot-2, 219-pound Reggie Spearman has superior athleticism for the linebacker position.
Sleeper: Detroit cornerback Desmond King set the Michigan state record with 29 career interceptions.
Overview: Iowa fans have seen more impressive classes than the one the Hawkeyes are bringing in this year, but they ended on a high note by stealing three-star Chicago Simeon linebacker Spearman from Illinois on the eve of signing day. Although the class lacks star power, it meets needs at several positions, particularly on the defensive side of the football. Malik Rucker, Solomon Warfield and King comprise a solid defensive back class, and Spearman teams with three-star John Kenny to give the Hawkeyes two capable linebacker additions.
10. Purdue

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Headliner: Quarterback Danny Etling has the physical tools and leadership qualities to be an outstanding Big Ten quarterback.
Sleeper: Already standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 210 pounds, linebacker Dezwan Polk could grow into a defensive end.
Overview: Purdue was struggling to gain momentum on the recruiting trail under Danny Hope, so when he was replaced by Darrell Hazell in December, there was not a lot to build upon. Etling was a bona fide blue-chipper, but Hazell needed to address several needs across the board in the final two months before National Signing Day. He did so by adding 12 new commits -- six on offense and six on defense -- to finish the class at 22 signees. The Boilermakers' final two commits -- Keith Byars II and Dalyn Dawkins -- come in at the running back position and give Purdue three backs in the class.
11. Wisconsin

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Headliner: Four-star running back Corey Clement never wavered in his commitment through the Badgers' coaching change.
Sleeper: In-state wide receiver Jazz Peavy is a combine star who is starting to round into a good player.
Overview: The excitement of National Signing Day was tempered for Wisconsin when three-star athlete Marcus Ball, whose brother plays for the Badgers, switched his commitment to Arizona State in a surprising move. There was bound to be some attrition in the class following Bret Bielema's sudden departure to Arkansas, but the coaching staff that stayed in Madison, and new head coach Gary Andersen, did a good job of keeping the bulk of the class intact. Defensive end was certainly upgraded with the additions of four-star Chikwe Obasih and three-star Alec James.
12. Minnesota

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Headliner: Running back Berkley Edwards has NFL bloodlines and 4.3 40-yard dash speed.
Sleeper: Minnesota found 6-foot-6, 235-pound defensive end Owen Salzwedel at its summer camp.
Overview: Minnesota put together its entire class in less than eight months, waiting to grab its first commitment that stuck until June. That and the lack of depth with in-state talent put the Gophers behind the field and forced them to play catch-up. As the fall went on, however, head coach Jerry Kill and staff did a good job of identifying undervalued talent. Linebacker was a particular area of need, and they addressed that with four additions, including Cleveland Heights, Ohio, three-star De'Niro Laster. People in Minneapolis are also excited about quarterback Chris Streveler, who is a two-time player of the year in Northwest Illinois.

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