This is it, schools around the Big Ten have just one last chance to impress recruits with official visits this weekend and in-home visits too. We're just six days away from national signing day, and by now you should have your call-in-sick plans in motion.
As for the 14 teams looking to start 2014 off on a high note, this weekend is all about finishing strong. For some, it's putting the final touches on classes nearly finished, and for others it’s about scrambling to fill last-minute needs in the 2014 class.
That's where we're concentrating today, on those needs that have yet to be filled across the Big Ten. However, that list is becoming shorter by the hour as we close in to national signing day.
In fact, there is arguably just one team with a major need to fill—Minnesota.
Minnesota Needs 4-star Prospects
The Gophers have done a great job of finding under-recruited talent in the past, but back-to-back seasons of bowl appearances have them recruiting on a different level this cycle. To that end, Minnesota is high on the lists of two 4-star players that could make this class go from good to great.
Most importantly, both of the targets are in-state prospects, and keeping them at home would be a huge swing in momentum for a program that has been losing its best talent to other schools way too frequently in recent years.
Offensive tackle Frank Ragnow, who will announce his decision on Friday afternoon, is the biggest unknown of the group. His 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions are pretty close between the home-state Gophers and Arkansas.
Keeping him in state would be a huge boost of confidence to a good collection of talent already committed to the Gophers.
UPDATE: Ragnow announced his decision on Friday afternoon, choosing to attend Arkansas over the Gophers and Florida State.
As it was speculated all day, 4-star Chanhassen OT Frank Ragnow picks Arkansas over #Gophers. Now it's up to Jeff Jones to pick up the class— Marcus R. Fuller (@GophersNow) January 31, 2014
On the other side of things, Minnesota has long held the soft commitment of 247Sports composite 4-star running back Jeff Jones. His name got hot following a standout performance in the Under Armour All-American Game, but the likes of Michigan and Florida have come and gone over the past month.
That's good news for a program in need of some attention-grabbing names in its recruiting classes.
Jones appears likely to stick with his commitment, given the attention he received and the lack of a decommitment at any point.
If Minnesota can land both of the best prospects in its own state, there could be a lot of momentum for that trend to continue. No doubt, the Gophers need both players to stay home.
Other Teams' Wants
Illinois: DT Daniel Cage—The 4-star player out of Ohio would be a major get along a defense that lacks any real stars outside of linebacker Mason Monheim. He'd really appreciate some help up front this year, and Cage could be an immediate impact player. However the Illini are fighting with Notre Dame and Michigan State for his services.
Indiana: WR Kenny Jones—With the early departure of Cody Latimer, the Hoosiers need bodies at the wide receiver position, and while they've added a few nice pieces, it never hurts to load up at a position of need. Jones possesses great height, weight and the speed IU is looking for. Additionally, hitting on another Indianapolis-area prospect can never hurt.
Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State: DE Malik McDowell—It seems like we can't go a day without talking about the 5-star prospect and his potential to land in the Big Ten. That's just how important of a player he could be in changing the fortunes of one of three programs in the league. Landing at Michigan State would be a huge deal, but McDowell landing at Michigan or Ohio State would just be a case of the rich getting richer. He's the ultimate feather in the cap to someone's recruiting class on Wednesday.
Maryland and Penn State: OT Damian Prince—Transition is the name of the game for both programs, one to a new league and another in its coaching staff. Both classes are nearly full already, but any time you are in the hunt for a 5-star offensive lineman, it's a game changer. Right now the 247Sports Crystal Ball is leaning towards the Terps, and if it holds up, they've got a tackle that can be a huge help in making this offense Big Ten ready. If Penn State pulls off the upset in his recruitment, the rest of the Big Ten better be very worried about what kind of damage James Franklin can do with a full year to recruit in 2015.
Wisconsin: OT Kaleb McGary—The Badgers have four offensive tackles already in the fold, but McGary, a 4-star prospect, would be just the second 4-star on the offensive line in this class. UW struggled with depth issues this past season due to attrition and injuries, so adding one of the best linemen still out there would be a huge way to finish off what is already the school's highest-ranked class ever. It will be a difficult fight to move McGary out of the state of Washington, but if it happens, the Badgers coaching staff will have a great national signing day.
Kaleb McGary just texted http://t.co/1hK4XX3doR: "My finalists are UW, Wisconsin and WSU."— COUGFANcom (@COUGFANcom) January 29, 2014
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.