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Where Each 2014 Big Ten Football Recruiting Class Stands Before Signing Day

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Where Each 2014 Big Ten Football Recruiting Class Stands Before Signing Day
USA Today

As the offseason crawls along, there's just over two weeks until the next landmark of the offseason—national signing day. That means private planes are in the air, players and coaches are crisscrossing the country and players are making commitments like crazy. 

In Big Ten country, classes are filling up fast, and some will be waiting to hear good news on national signing day. 

Heading in to that pivotal day, the Big Ten currently has just two classes ranked in 247sports.com's Top 25: Ohio State at No. 2 and Michigan at No. 15. There are schools like Penn State and Wisconsin looking to make a late push towards that Top 25 themselves and plenty of intrigue waiting to unfold in the next few weeks.

With so much possible to happen over the next few weeks, let us take stock of where each of the 14 classes stand and what still needs to be done by Feb. 5. 

 

Great Shape:

Ohio State: No. 2-ranked class; No. 1-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 18
Early Enrollees: 7
5-star Players: 1
4-star Players: 15
Player to Watch: 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan

Summary: Urban Meyer and Co. have done a great job of getting what they need already, signing three 4-star offensive linemen to help replenish a line that is losing four starters and getting plenty of help at other positions of need. Right now, it's about keeping the top-level talent on board and picking up a few big fish in defensive end Malik McDowell or defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi. OSU is in position to add these players as luxuries, though, because of the work that's been done already.

Needs: Ohio State has no real needs at this point, but adding a second true safety would be nice. Having added a number of commits as "athletes" could also help add to the safety class, but it all depends on where Meyer and new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash see things going. 

 

Michigan: No. 15-ranked class; No. 2-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 9
Early Enrollees: 7
5-star Players: 1
4-star Players: 7
Player to Watch: 5-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers 

Summary: This class may not be as big as some others, but after rumors of Brady Hoke's demise were put to rest, Michigan was able to keep its biggest target, Jabrill Peppers, in the fold, and the class has largely stayed together. What is really interesting is that nearly half of this class is already on campus as early enrollees

Needs: Michigan is all-in on Malik McDowell, along with Michigan State and Ohio State. The Wolverines would love to get a second 5-star player on the defensive side of the ball, but he won't make or break this class, and overall, Michigan is pretty close to wrapping it up. Stealing away 4-star running back Jeff Jones from Minnesota would be a huge coup, as he was the most surprising player at the Under Armour All-America Game. If Michigan gets both McDowell and Jones, this class will likely jump in to the top 10 of the nation on national signing day. 

 

Wisconsin: No. 30-ranked class; No. 4-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 20
Early Enrollees: 4
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 4
Player to Watch: 4-star quarterback D.J. Gillins

Summary: Wisconsin's 2014 class could very easily be the best in school history, but amazingly it could've been better. The Badgers swung for the fences with 5-star running back Joe Mixon and 4-star wide receiver Jamil Kamara, and both spurned them at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl earlier this month (subscription required). However, those two weren't "needs" for Wisconsin but luxuries, and that should tell you all you need to know about this class.

Needs: Wisconsin has done some very good work across the board, but they still have a glaring need for cornerbacks. As of right now, there isn't a pure cornerback committed to Wisconsin. The Badgers may have to wait to find out if the need is filled until national signing day, but UW has been putting in some hard work with the likes of 4-star Chris Lammons and a number of 3-star corners. There are just a few scholarships left, so it will be first come, first serve for the corners on the Badgers' board.

 

Northwestern: No. 44-ranked class; No. 8-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 14
Early Enrollees: 0
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 4
Player to Watch: 4-star quarterback Clayton Thorson

Summary: If there's one thing we know about Pat Fitzgerald, it is that he is an amazing recruiter. That much was proven again in this 2014 class. Northwestern nailing down four 4-star commitments, think about that for a second. Even more amazing is this class could've been even higher had a few other players not decommitted in the process. This class isn't huge numbers wise, but what it lacks in quantity it has in quality. More importantly, it has some very athletic players on defense, which is a continued work in progress for the Wildcats.

Needs: The one thing this class is lacking is a wide receiver, thanks to the flip of Dareian Watkins (who was a quarterback/wide receiver prospect for NU) to the rival Badgers. So, the question is will Northwestern be able to find one before national signing day? Look for Kameron Uter, a 3-star receiver out of Atlanta, to be priority No. 1 for Fitz and Co. heading into national signing day, as he is the only uncommitted receiver with an offer from the Wildcats.

 

OK Shape:

Michigan State: No. 34-ranked class; No. 5-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 18
Early Enrollees: 2
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 1
Player to Watch: 4-star safety Montae Nicholson

Summary: The Spartans have really upped their game in the past few years on the recruiting trail, but the bread and butter is still finding the great players from the 3-star ranks. Of the 20 verbal commits or enrollees, 19 of them are of the 3-star variety. This class could go from the OK to great category should 5-star Malik McDowell join the Spartans. Of course, adding to an already loaded defensive line would be rather frightening for the rest of the Big Ten East, but McDowell is not a total make-or-break player for this class. 

247sports
4-star safety Montae Nicholson

Needs: Adding to the secondary with another top-level recruit would be really helpful as the Spartans attempt to replace two starters in that group. Look for 3-star safety T.J. Harrell to be that guy, as he did take a visit to East Lansing in November. It would be a very nice pickup to add to the talented group already on the roster and in the 2014 class. 

 

Nebraska: No. 41-ranked class; No. 6-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 16
Early Enrollees: 3
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 1
Player to Watch: 4-star offensive guard Tanner Farmer

Summary: Nebraska got off to a fairly slow start, something that's happened a lot under Bo Pelini, but once again, it appears the Huskers are going to finish strong. However, losing 4-star JUCO transfer Terrell Clinkscales to Kansas State on Monday puts a bit of a damper on what should've been a great looking class. With all the graduating players along the offensive line, the Huskers did a great job in this class, landing two of the top 40 guards in the country. Tanner Farmer, the 4-star guard out of Illinois, is the key to the class, but there could be more coming. By national signing day, this class could move out of the OK category to great shape with some of the prospects who are still out there. 

Needs: Nebraska thought it had it all figured out along the defensive line, but instead two big-time players (Clinkscales and defensive end Darius Slade, who committed to Big Ten rival Michigan State) backed out of commitments in the past few weeks, and that's sent this coaching staff scrambling to find some numbers along the defensive line. That group is very thin as we speak, and finding some players to add at defensive end would be a massive boost to this class. 

 

Penn State: No. 28-ranked class; No. 3 ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 16
Early Enrollees: 5
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 4
Player to Watch: 4-star wide receiver De'Andre Thompkins 

Summary: The 2014 Nittany Lions class is the first that will be allowed to be more than 15 players deep thanks to the easing of some of the NCAA sanctions, and they've done a great job of putting together a class and keeping it together (for the most part) during the transition to James Franklin as head coach. However, this class went from great to OK shape because it lost out on 5-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley and 4-star cornerback Troy Vincent

Needs: Penn State shouldn't have many needs left at all since it is hovering around the scholarship limit for this class and the program coming into the 2014 season. That said, look for Penn State to work hard on picking up a top-level safety. One name to watch for is Koa Farmer, who also has Cal and Wisconsin high on his list. Adding an athletic safety would be a huge help to this class. 

 

Rutgers: No. 42-ranked class; No. 7-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 21
Early Enrollees: 1
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 1
Player to Watch: 4-star wide receiver Saeed Blacknall

Summary: Rutgers knows it needs to be better along the offensive and defensive lines to compete in the Big Ten, and it hit both sides hard in recruiting for the 2014 class. It also added some nice pieces at the skill positions. Overall, this class has some decent potential, but clearly the move to the Big Ten hasn't taken full affect because it lost three major 4-star recruits in a two-day span in November. It will need to avoid those to keep up with the big boys in the Big Ten. However, just being in the upper half of the conference in its first go-round says something about this program and its potential in the coming years. 

Needs: There needs to be more star-power out of this class, but it isn't likely to come honestly. It appears the Scarlet Knights are just about done and dusted for this recruiting cycle, and after getting inside the top 25 earlier this year, it has to be disappointing to see where it is right now. 

 

Indiana: No. 47-ranked class; No. 9-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 16
Early Enrollees: 6
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 1
Player to Watch: 3-star wide receiver Dominique Booth

247sports
Dominique Booth could be next big WR target at Indiana

Summary: Indiana is going through transition on both sides of the ball, but so far, so good in terms of holding the top commits together on offense and defense. It just received three huge commitments (subscription required), in fact, landing an important commit from running back Tommy Mister (at least that's where he projects) in that group. Head coach Kevin Wilson has really brought the level of recruiting up in Bloomington, and it continues this year. What is key is seeing this program address its needs in an aggressive manner, and it got a lot more athletic on the defensive side of the ball in this class, while also adding quality along the offensive line, too. 

Needs: Indiana is nearly at its limit heading into national signing day, so whatever it picks up will be gravy on top of this class—especially considering all the transition on the staff. With the hire of Brian Knorr on defense, a switch to the 3-4 could be coming, and perhaps a few more bodies at linebacker will help. Look for a name like Demarquis Gates to be atop of the Hoosiers' list heading towards national signing day. 

 

Maryland: No. 55-ranked class; No. 11-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 12
Early Enrollees: 2
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 3
Player to Watch: 4-star offensive tackle Derwin Gray

Summary: Of all the "OK" classes out there in the Big Ten, this is the one that could surprise people on the field when it's all said and done. Maryland has addressed some needs on the offensive line and gotten one of the more underrated dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Will Ulmer. Getting a player of Derwin Gray's caliber was also huge, both literally (he's 6'6" and 291lbs.) and figuratively. The Terps clearly know they need to get better along both lines and looked to address that in this class with four offensive and defensive linemen. 

Needs: Maryland doesn't have a ton of "needs" so to speak right now, but they could be shooting up the rankings quickly as long as another 4-star offensive lineman, Damian Prince, is solidly in the mix for the Terps. The one missing aspect in this class for me is a bit more athletic ability at cornerback. Sure, Maryland has some younger talent in the mix there, but corners come and go fast, and not having a single one in a recruiting class could be a mistake. 

 

Work To Do: 

Iowa: No. 48-ranked class; No. 10-ranked Big Ten class  

Verbal Commits: 19
Early Enrollees: 0
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 0
Player to Watch: 3-star running back Markel Smith

Summary: Outside of running back Markel Smith, who was named the Offensive Player of the Year in St. Louis by Stltoday.com, the 2014 class is devoid of any real star power. Only seven of the 19 players committed are ranked in the 247sports composite rankings. That would give me pause for concern—so too would losing out on the best kids in state, namely wide receiver Allen Lazard and offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher. Those two are off to Iowa State and LSU, respectively. There are some nice pieces to the puzzle in the class, but overall it has been a giant swing and miss from Iowa in the 2014 recruiting cycle. 

Needs: For a program that just lost three of the most productive linebackers in Hawkeyes history, there is a significant lack of linebackers in this recruiting class. Only two players come in at the linebacker spot in this class, and neither of them jump off the page at you as anything special. It appears Iowa will need to work its coaching magic at this position for a few years to come. 

 

Minnesota: No. 67-ranked class; No. 14-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 10
Early Enrollees: 2
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 1
Player to Watch: 4-star running back Jeff Jones (soft commit)

Summary: The only way this class is a winner is if Jones stays true to his commitment to the hometown Golden Gophers. His stock shot up big time during the Under Armour All-America Game, where he was named MVP, and big-name programs like Michigan and Florida came up with offers because of it. He hasn't flipped yet, so that is good news for Minnesota. Overall, though, this group is low on quantity and missing any sort of real flash—and that should be music to the ears of Gopher fans everywhere, because that's how head coach Jerry Kill has made his living throughout the years. 

Needs: This class was always going to be small thanks to the scholarship numbers game, but at the same point, there isn't a single wide receiver in the group. Yes, there were five members of the freshman class last year, but only Drew Wolitarsky emerged as a threat. It would've been nice to see them go after a bigger name and try to land a big fish at a position of clear need. 

 

Purdue: No. 61-ranked class; No. 13-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 16
Early Enrollees: 2
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 0
Player to Watch: 3-star defensive end Gelen Robinson

247sports
Watch for Robinson to make an impact his freshman season

Summary: This class is all about setting the tone for Purdue football going forward, and it was clear as day last year that this team needed a lot of parts to be able to play the style of football head coach Darrell Hazell wants to play. So, to his credit, he has gone out and got guys who fit his system first and foremost. While there aren't names that will wow you all over the place, this class has some very nice parts to it, and getting a power run game was a clear goal, one Purdue appears to have accomplished for the future.

Needs: Hazell has done a great job of going out and attempting to address the major issues on his team, and he also did a good job of distributing his scholarships in this class. But there is one hole in this class, and that's a lack of a solid tight end option. Offensive coordinator John Shoop loves him some tight ends, and while there is one in this class, a 2-star prospect isn't exactly going to jump off the page at you. 

 

Illinois: No. 60-ranked class; No. 12-ranked Big Ten class

Verbal Commits: 13
Early Enrollees: 4
5-star Players: 0
4-star Players: 0
Player to Watch: 3-star defensive tackle Jihad Ward

Summary: Illinois needed some serious help on defense and to replace some talent at wide receiver. That's exactly what the top of this class accomplished for head coach Tim Beckman and the Illini. Jihad Ward is a versatile defensive lineman, ranked as a 4-star by 247sports, who could be an immediate difference maker, and brothers Tyree and Tyrin Stone-Davis out of the JUCO ranks also helps those goals. Tyree is a 6'3" cornerback, and Tyrin is an explosive receiver who can help make life easier for either Aaron Bailey or Wes Lunt come fall. 

Needs: Outside of Tyree, there is zero help in the secondary, and while the group was young a season ago, it wasn't very good for most of the year. It would've been nice to see one or two more recruits at safety or corner to be added to this class. Right now, it appears as though they are waiting on a few names like Zavoir Hoxie and Isaiah Wharton at corner, and if they can land one of them, that would make this class a pretty nice one with all things considered. 

 

*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten lead writer. All recruiting information courtesy 247sports. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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