Playing the hat game on National Signing Day
Now that bowl season is over, Big Ten football coaches are putting the finishing touches on the 2013 recruiting classes. Although some groundwork for 2014 and beyond is also taking place, the next three weeks are all about guaranteeing those signed letters of intent from recruits on February 6.
College football junkies love to follow recruiting class rankings all year long, but the rankings do not settle completely until January and early February. Following each team's appearance in a bowl, the likelihood of recruits switching commitments tends to go down significantly.
In other words, players verbally committed at this point are probably headed where they say they are.
This list has been compiled using the recruiting rankings of places that make their living from such prognostications, including the Rivals 250 and the ESPN 150. But this is also an inexact science, so the following 10 players were also chosen based on where the players can make an immediate impact and on highlight videos available on YouTube.
It can be debated which team has the best total recruiting class, but sometimes seasons are defined by the stars of a team, not the depth of good players. Is there a Cam Newton or Johnny Manziel waiting in the wings of one of these 2013 recruiting classes? Let's take a look at 10 recruits verbally committed to Big Ten schools who will be the next stars in two or three years.
Get ready to see this face a lot in the coming years. Morris (De La Salle HS, Warren, Mich.) is the only consistent five-star recruit currently coming to the Big Ten in the 2013 season (more on this in a moment).
Better than that, he will play quarterback at Michigan. Which means, this young man holds the hopes and dreams for Wolverines fans everywhere who hope that the Urban Meyer train does not run away with the conference like Jim Tressel did in the 2000s.
One of the more entertaining interviews of Morris was conducted by Sarah over at Hoke's Mad Magicians early last year. In that interview, Morris revealed that he really looks up to Tom Brady and would like to have similar success. This pro-style quarterback has the talent to do just that, assuming he continues to develop in Ann Arbor.
The emergence of Devin Gardner at quarterback may give Morris a year to learn the ropes without taking all the hits and criticism of being the starter. While Morris likely will show up in 2013, he will be the superstar of the conference in 2014 and beyond.
You can follow Shane Morris on Twitter (@S_Morris12) and enjoy the bits of wisdom. His profile says "I play quarterback, but that doesn't define me." Bad news for Shane: once he gets to Ann Arbor, that will define him, and hopefully for the better.
While Deon Long may not be playing in the Big Ten in 2013, this junior college player is the only five-star junior college recruit and has three years of eligibility left. That means the future Maryland receiver will be burning Big Ten defenses for possibly two seasons in 2014 and 2015.
Nothing makes for a superstar like an explosive wide receiver, and Long has proven he will be just that in his one year of play at Iowa Western Community College. Long broke junior college records by catching 100 passes for over 1,600 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Randy Edsall has to be thrilled to be bringing this talent straight out of the heart of the Midwest with the upcoming move to that region's premier football conference. Long could make the difference between mediocrity and competitiveness for the Terrapins, especially if his commitment leads to other big-name offensive recruits.
This will be the best player to watch from the new teams coming in 2014. For 2013, Big Ten fans can enjoy watching Long tear up ACC defenses before he comes to star in this conference.
Mike Mitchell is known as "The Abusement Park" as shown in the video. With a nickname like that, how could he be anything but a future big name in the Big Ten conference?
Mitchell played high school football at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, which means he was tested against some of the best high school teams in the country. Mitchell likely chose Ohio State because he knows that he will be featured right away on a team that went 12-0 this past year despite running most of the season without a full complement of linebackers.
In addition, the Buckeyes will be focused on improving defense first next year. Players like Mitchell will have time to develop and become high-level professional prospects in the bright spotlight of Columbus.
Mitchell has brought "Abusement" to the Big Ten. Will other Big Ten programs enjoy the punishment that is being doled out on every play from this linebacker? Only time will tell.
Cameron Burrows was the first recruit in the 2013 recruiting class for Ohio State, and he is also one of seven who have enrolled early this winter so that he can participate in spring drills. He also happens to be one of the best recruits in the class, an anchor that has watched the talent roll in around him.
Since his commitment to the Buckeyes, Burrows led his high school Trotwood Madison to their third state championship game appearance in four seasons, a remarkable achievement in the state of Ohio. Burrows has been a champion as long as he's played football, and he will immediately contribute to a rebuilding defense.
Look for Burrows to also get a small look as an athlete on the offense, but he will likely stay as a full-time defender. Opposing quarterbacks need to be very careful throwing in his direction, as Burrows has proven that he can pull down tough interceptions at critical times.
Eli Apple comes to Ohio State from Eastern High School in Vorhees, N.J. Apple has been ranked as high as the sixth-best prospect in the country overall and has always wanted to play for the Buckeyes.
Thus, it was an easy job for Meyer to finish recruiting Apple to join the Silver Bullets defense. Thanks to the return of CB Bradley Roby in 2013, Apple and Burrows will have a chance to learn from one of the best defensive backs in the country before leading the backfield themselves in 2014.
However, don't think these two freshman will sit on the bench in 2013. Apple, like Burress, has graduated and enrolled early to participate in spring practice in Columbus. The talent may be raw in Columbus, but there is a ton of talent thanks to guys like Eli Apple to reload the Buckeye defense.
Apple played on both sides of the ball in high school, which will serve him well when trying to read the actions of receivers and make good plays on defense. Plus, there is no excuse for dropping interceptions when you play so well at receiver as well.
This list could be dominated by Buckeyes, but let's move to another school for a moment.
It only took one season of having Bill O'Brien at the helm to turn Matthew McGloin from a regular goat to a great quarterback. That did not go unnoticed by great quarterback recruits, and O'Brien has likely roped in the fourth-best quarterback prospect in the country with Hackenberg.
Hackenberg comes in from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, so he will come in with tons of leadership experience and toughness. Although there is no guarantee that he will start for the Nittany Lions right away, it would be shocking if he does not at least get a few looks this season.
Then with a year of coaching up by O'Brien, he could exceed the likes of Shane Morris and become the best quarterback in the conference. Earlier this season, I asked where had all the good pro-style gunslinging quarterbacks gone in the Big Ten, but the answer may be coming with the likes of Morris and Hackenberg.
This era of Penn State players will also be cherished forever for coming in during the darkest days of the program and keeping things rolling. This is the future, and if the video above is any proof, the future in Happy Valley is bright.
Although Nebraska did not win the game in the Rose Bowl against UCLA this past September, the Huskers may have stolen the more important prize by wooing California RB Terrell Newby away from his home-state Bruins.
Newby is rated as the eighth-best prospect for his position and that will keep Nebraska loaded up with running backs in the future. Rex Burkhead might be gone, but Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Newby will be the triple threat this season for Bo Pelini's offense. That will keep Newby fresh while allowing him to get involved right away.
If Newby can be a tough runner like Burkhead was, then he may see significant playing time in 2013. Look for at least a few explosive plays from what will likely be the best running back in the conference in two years.
Although the Big Ten will not officially break into the Maryland and Washington D.C. market until 2014, Michigan helped itself to one of the best athletes in the state by recruiting Henry Poggi from Gilman School in Baltimore. Poggi will be a huge contributor to provide depth on the Michigan defensive line, which has been good under Brady Hoke but could still improve.
Poggi put together a great senior season with 17 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. That is just the type of dominant defensive play Michigan saw from an opponent in the bowl game, when Jadeveon Clowney dominated the second half against the Michigan offensive line.
The Wolverines want a difference-maker just like that. They might have found one in Poggi, and Maryland will not be pleased to see how good this player is when he plays against the Terrapins in a few years.
Watching Poggi in the highlight video, he looks a lot like a young J.J. Watt. If he can translate his dominance to the next level of college play, then he will be a huge star and all over the NFL radar in 2014 and 2015.
Joey Bosa has been in the Ohio State class for quite some time. However, there was at least a short period of time when he and other good recruits like Alex Anzalone were reconsidering after the publicity of a bad-news superfan Charles Waugh being associated with the Ohio State football program. Unlike Anzalone, who bounced from OSU to Notre Dame to Florida, Bosa kept his commitment and will be in Columbus this fall.
Bosa played for St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and was right in Urban Meyer's old wheelhouse for recruits. He is rated as high as the third- or fourth-best defensive end in this recruiting class, and that is just the type of speed and talent needed for Ohio State to compete with the likes of Alabama in the next few years.
Bosa missed a significant amount of his senior season with injuries, but that did not keep him from being a leader of a great defense at St. Thomas Aquinas. When he had a full season as a junior, Bosa collected 18 tackles for loss and 8 sacks.
Look for Bosa to contribute in the two-deep immediately, just like Noah Spence did for the 2012 Buckeyes. Bosa could be the next John Simon, which would be a coup for Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Breneman is yet another player who missed significant time his senior season, as a knee injury sidelined him all year. However, he has remained in the class for his home-state Nittany Lions. Breneman was a star as a junior at Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Pa.
Breneman also will be happy to be under the tutelage of coaches like Bill O'Brien, who helped Tom Brady maximize his tight ends to a ridiculous level in the NFL. With a 6'5" frame and a chance to participate in spring practices, he will be ready to contribute right away alongside new quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Penn State may not be on the bowl stage or national stage in future seasons, but that does not mean the Nittany Lions are ineligible for division titles. Ohio State won such a title this year, and Penn State would love to do the same in the next three years.
With playmakers like Breneman, the Nittany Lions will have a chance at finishing on top of the standings. He will be the best tight end in the conference by 2015.
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