Best in Class: The Top Recruiting Classes in the Big Ten by Position
Earlier in the week, we graded each class on its own merit. How each team addressed its pressing needs, filled out depth across the roster and turned its on-field product into momentum on the recruiting trail.
Today, it's time to get a little more in depth and look at what team did the best job in what areas. Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern all graded out well, but is it fair to compare those classes against the recruiting hauls that Ohio State and Michigan brought in?
A better way to understand how each coach did on the trail this year is to break down who did the best job at each position group.
As you can imagine this list is dominated by two teams in particular, but such is life when two schools pull in top-10 caliber classes while the rest are barely crack the top 25.
Recruits: Robert Gregory 5.7, Aloysius Gray 5.6, Bilal Marshall 5.6, Austin Appleby 5.5
Purdue wins by virtue of being the only team that really did any serious quarterback recruiting on the year. It doesn't hurt that serious quarterback recruiting equals four players.
Purdue tried the ever effective strategy of "throw crap at the wall and see what sticks." Not to imply that any of these quarterbacks are bad players, but simply that, you don't recruit four quarterbacks with the idea that all four are going to be "the guy."
Purdue will lose two quarterbacks to graduation this year, and last year, Brady Hoke poached a Purdue commit before signing day that was slated to play quarterback. Purdue needs numbers.
Thankfully, all four seem well suited for the Purdue offense. All four are lithe mobile passers who aren't going to bomb it 70 yards downfield but can pick up a few yards when teams over commit on the zone read. It is a solid class that should produce at least one competent starter.
Honorable Mention: Tie, Wisconsin (Bart Houston 5.7) Michigan State (Tyler O'Conner 5.7)
The Badgers and the Spartans both grabbed well thought of passers that have the tools to develop into solid Big Ten starters in a couple years.
Running Back: Ohio State
Recruits: Bri'onte Dunn 5.8, Warren Ball 5.8
The Buckeyes have been sitting on the best running back class in the conference for over a year, but it wasn't always so certain.
Bri'onte Dunn is a big bruising running back who originally committed when Tressel was still coaching Ohio State, but he stayed interested in Michigan for most of his recruitment. Once Meyer was hired Dunn finally solidified his commitment.
Both Dunn and Warren Ball are big running backs who aren't prototypical spread players but should find plenty of work as Meyer has shown himself adept at tailoring his offense to his players and using a great deal of power (remember Tim Tebow running inside power plays behind a running back and two H-backs in Florida).
Honorable Mention: Iowa (Greg Garmon 5.8, Barkley Hill 5.5)
Iowa does a good job filling in its running back depth chart with Garmon—a talented runner who could see early playing time and Hill who will be a valuable depth player and could develop into a starter down the road—you know, when strange fates befall everyone above him on the depth chart.
Wide Receiver: Michigan State
Recruits: Aaron Burbridge 5.9, Macgarrett Kings Jr. 5.7, Monty Madaris 5.7, Kyle Kerrick 5.5
The Spartans are losing three very good receivers to graduation this year, but that shouldn't be a concern with the level of talent coming into East Lansing.
Burbridge leads the way and has the potential to be a great receiver for the Spartans. He will be joined by transfer De'Anthony Arnett, and both are the kind of smooth athletes who can play the outside and stretch the field.
Kings Jr. is more slated to a role in the slot—a potential replacement for the departed Keshawn Martin— and could help out in the return game as well. Kerrick is another outside receiver who should have plenty of time to develop behind Burbridge, Arnett and the young receivers already in the program.
Honorable Mention: Ohio State (Michael Thomas 5.8, Ricquan Southward 5.7, Frank Epitropoulos 5.7)
Ohio State gets three bigger outside receivers who all come in well regarded by the recruiting services. If Stefon Diggs commits, this group jumps MSU without a doubt.
Tight End: Purdue
Recruits: Carlos Carvajal 5.8, Jonathan Curry 5.6, Ryan Morris 5.5
Purdue's tight end class is very good and very rangy. Carvajal is probably at least a year in a college weight program away from getting playing time on the line, but his athleticism is intriguing and could get him on the field in an H-back or split end role this fall.
Curry lacks ideal height for a tight end but also could slide into an H-back role as his size (6'2", 224 lbs) is more akin to that of a fullback. Morris seems to be the closest to playing a role on the line for the Boilermakers as he is within size range of prototypical tight ends (6'6", 241 lbs).
Honorable Mention: Michigan (Devin Funchess 5.7, AJ Williams 5.7)
Michigan gets a great receiving tight end in Funchess to go along with a solid blocker in Williams who already has the size and strength to play on the line.
Offensive Line: Michigan
Recruits: Kyle Kalis 6.1, Erik Magnuson 5.9, Blake Bars 5.8, Ben Braden 5.7
Another place that Michigan needs quality depth is along the offensive line, and the haul of linemen coming in should help in both the short and long terms.
Kyle Kalis is perhaps the biggest get of the Wolverine class. He is as college ready as high school linemen come, and he is almost certain to be in the two-deep come this fall. Magnuson will hopefully have the luxury of developing at tackle behind upperclassmen Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, but Magnuson has the size and athleticism to be an All-Big Ten level starter down the road.
Both Bars and Braden provide interesting developmental prospects that could grow into either the tackle or guard position as they put on weight and develop technique.
Honorable Mention: Ohio State (Joey O'Connor 5.9, Taylor Decker 5.8, Kyle Dodson 5.8, Jacoby Boren 5.6, Pat Elflein 5.5)
Ohio State loses three starters from an offensive line that was already young and thin in 2011, but this group should help provide depth and a couple players could contribute early.
Defensive Line: Ohio State
Recruits: Adolphus Washington 6.1, Noah Spence 6.1, Tommy Schutt 5.9, Se'von Pittman 5.9
Ohio State might actually have the best defensive line class in the nation, and if not, they're certainly at least in the discussion.
Spence and Washington are two of the best defensive end prospects in the nation. Both are consensus 5-star recruits and could easily find a way on the field as situational players as freshman. In any other defensive line haul Pittman would be considered a star, but behind two 5-star players, he gets overlooked. Despite the fact that he's a very good prospect who will be just another bullet in the chamber for the Buckeye pass rush in the next few years.
Schutt comes in as the only defensive tackle, but he is a big body who was one of the better tackle prospects in the midwest.
Honorable Mention: Michigan (Ondre Pipkins 6.1, Tom Strobel 5.8, Christopher Wormley 5.7, Matthew Godin 5.7, Mario Ojemudia 5.7, Willie Henry 5.6)
Michigan is hoping to get some immediate help on its thin defensive line, and with Pipkins, Stroble and Wormley, the Wolverines have found three possible early contributors. The other three are solid projects who have the potential to develop into solid Big Ten players.
Recruits: Joe Bolden 5.8, Royce Jenkins-Stone 5.8, James Ross 5.8, Kaleb Ringer 5.7
The Wolverines cleaned up early on linebacking talent this year.
The headliner of the class is Joe Bolden who received rave reviews from scouts and coaches at the Under Armor game in January. Bolden, who is enrolling early, has a chance to earn immediate playing time for Michigan and has both the physical tools and nose for the ball that should make him be dangerous for years to come.
Both Michigan linebackers have promise down the road but will likely take a year or two to develop. Ross is a smaller player slotted for the weakside who needs to put on weight and strength.
Jenkins-Stone is more of a physically raw prospect that needs to work on technique and decision making. Ringer, who is recovering from an injury that sidelined him as a senior in high school, will also need time to develop.
Honorable Mention: Ohio State (Josh Perry 5.8, Camren Williams 5.8, Jamal Marcus 5.7, Luke Roberts 5.5)
The Buckeyes have a solid class of linebackers who should provide solid depth over the next couple years before becoming better than average Big Ten starters.
Defensive Secondary: Ohio State
Recruits: Armani Reeves 5.8, Najee Murray 5.8, De'van Bogard 5.8, Tyvis Powell 5.7
The Buckeye secondary class is headlined by a former Penn State commit in Armani Reeves who chose Ohio State over Michigan in his final decision. Joining him are two other solid 4-star players in Murray and Bogard, and all three are more slated for cornerback. Powell, on the other hand is a big, lanky safety type.
This class has a high ceiling in terms of development, and with a good amount of the defense ahead of them returning, they should have time to grow into starting roles down the road.
Honorable Mention: Michigan (Terry Richardson 5.8, Jarrod Wilson 5.8, Jeremy Clark 5.7, Allen Gant 5.6)
Michigan's defensive back class is strong in this area of need—safety. The Wolverines need athleticism and size at safety, and the trio of Wilson (an early enrollee), Clark, and Gany should deliver that while Richardson will work at corner.
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