Big Ten Football: Every Team's Dream 2015 Recruit
As summer rolls around, the temperatures and recruiting are about to heat up in the Big Ten. While Penn State may have gotten a wild head start to the 2015 class (16 commitments to date), others are just getting going (see Michigan's empty 2015 commitment list).
Camps and evaluation periods are going to be vitally important in establishing leaders and relationships with hopeful prospects across Big Ten country. Boards will be re-evaluated, and certain players will become bigger targets than others.
However, we all know that there is that one recruit that can make or break a class at each school. So, as we head into the summer, let's take a look at every school's dream recruit.
*All recruiting information courtesy 247Sports.com.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Championship teams in the Big Ten begin and end with the play of the offensive and defensive lines. It's been a lack of stability and quality on those lines that have killed Illinois in the Tim Beckman era.
So, as Beckman prepares for the 2015 class, making the offensive and defensive lines a priority was a wise choice. It's not too often that the Illini have been able to land their dream recruit over the last four years, but it appears they've done just that already in this recruiting cycle.
While wide receiver and running back prospects may be more glamorous to talk about, the Illini have already landed the dream recruit they were after—offensive tackle Gabe Megginson.
Not only is he a 4-star prospect, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, but Megginson is an in-state prospect that was being heavily recruited by other Big Ten schools. Megginson had offers from over half of the Big Ten when he committed to the Illini in late April.
That offer list included offensive line heavyweights like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska. Winning a battle against Wisconsin for an offensive lineman shouldn't be taken lightly, especially when Wisconsin makes that lineman a top priority as well.
Getting Megginson's verbal commitment was a dream come true for Beckman and his staff.
What's the biggest ingredient to success in Kevin Wilson's Indiana Hoosiers offense? He needs pass catchers, and more pass catchers.
Last season, the top three wide receivers in the Hoosiers offense combined for 165 receptions.
Only Shane Wynn returns from that group, and it will be time to reload after Wynn leaves following this upcoming season. So, there isn't a more important position for IU on the recruiting trail than wide receiver.
In the group of wide receivers Indiana is recruiting, there is no bigger name than 4-star prospect Alex Ofodile out of Columbia, Missouri.
Getting Ofodile isn't just a pipe dream for IU.
The nation's No. 7-ranked wide receiver has Indiana up there in a group that includes national powers like Florida State, Alabama and his home-state Missouri Tigers.
Things appear to be trending towards the Tigers in this recruitment, but Indiana's offensive system and the 6'3" speedster would be a match made in football heaven. No doubt about it, the Hoosiers would love to see him on the Bloomington campus in the cream and white come 2015.
Not having Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey or James Morris in the middle of the Iowa Hawkeyes defense anymore will take some getting used to. However, the play of those three has made it possible for Iowa to really compete for some top talent at the position going forward.
For Iowa's 2015 class, there's no bigger dream get than landing 5-star outside linebacker Justin Hilliard.
Hilliard appears to be high on the Hawkeyes, and the feeling is mutual.
However, they will be competing with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and the entire SEC for his commitment down the road.
While there will be more pressing needs on the Iowa roster heading into 2015, adding a player like Hilliard could be a program-changer for Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. The question is, can Iowa pull the linebacker away from in-state power Ohio State?
Maryland has done a good job of adding highly-regarded talent to the skill positions under Randy Edsall, but a move to the Big Ten means quality along the offensive and defensive lines must be a priority too.
It has started to shift that way, especially in this last class, and in 2015 the focus continues.
Maryland have already added a commitment from 4-star in-state guard E.J. Donahue and would love to continue adding high-quality pieces to the puzzle up front.
That's where 4-star offensive tackle Isaiah Prince comes into the picture.
Adding two 4-star offensive lineman from in-state would be a dream come true for Edsall and his staff—especially when you consider how hard schools like Penn State and Wisconsin have hit the state recently.
Maryland may not have all the pieces up front to compete in the rough and tumble Big Ten right away, but Edsall is doing yeoman's work on the recruiting trail to try and stop that. Adding another Prince (Damian was added in the 2014 class) to the mix would go a long way in fixing things up front for the Terps.
Tyrone Wheatley, Mike Hart and a cast of great running backs have to be scratching their heads at what has become of the position that they made famous for the Michigan Wolverines. But it hasn't been for a lack of trying, and the jury is still out on the last 5-star prospect, Derrick Green.
However, this is Michigan, and 5-star players are supposed to be the norm in Ann Arbor, Mich. Next in line could be 5-star running back Damien Harris, who verbally committed and decommitted already in this cycle.
At 5'11" and 205 pounds, he's the exact opposite of Green in many ways. Harris has more speed, more cutback ability and still plenty of power.
If Michigan wants to get back to a great pro-style offense under new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, then adding Harris to the mix would be the perfect fit for that.
The question is, will the nation's No. 1-ranked running back leave SEC territory for the Big Ten? Despite the decommitment, Harris has insisted the Wolverines are at the top of the heap, including them in a revised top 10 list he tweeted out.
We won't know if the Wolverines can land him again until national signing day, so this could be an interesting next nine months or so.
Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State knows how it wants to win football games—by playing physical on both sides of the ball. That includes a punishing running game, and after 2014 there will be no more Jeremy Langford in the Spartans backfield.
It just so happens that the answer to who takes over could be in the 2015 class, and that answer could be 4-star running back Michael Weber out of the famed Cass Tech High School in Detroit.
Not only is Weber a talented back, but making another significant dent in the once automatic pipeline from Cass Tech to in-state rival Michigan would be a dream come true for most Spartans fans.
Weber won't be an automatic pull for the Spartans with Michigan and Wisconsin both heavily in the mix. However, there are few players Michigan State would like to have over Weber in the 2015 class.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota has had trouble keeping the top state-talent from leaving over the last decade or so. Wisconsin has done a number on them and, as of late, the SEC has come calling for the top talent in the state as well.
Outside of landing the signature of Jeff Jones in the last recruiting class, Minnesota hasn't had much luck in keeping the No. 1-ranked player around. In fact, just twice in the last five years has that happened (Tommy Olson in 2011 and Jones last year).
So, there's no bigger prospect in the 2015 recruiting cycle that Gophers coaches and fans would love to see stay home than 4-star defensive end Jashon Cornell.
But that may only be a dream.
Cornell appears to have a lot more interest in schools named Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
At some point, Minnesota needs to become the default option for the top talent on both sides of the ball in the state. Without it, Jerry Kill's program could be stuck in the mid-level bowl limbo for a while. Pulling a rabbit out of the hat and landing Cornell would be a heck of a start in reversing that trend.
Nebraska had the best cornerback duo in the Big Ten over the past few years with Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans. That won't be the case in 2014 with both off to the NFL, and it means that recruiting new stars for the position is a focus for the class of 2015.
Just like a few other coaches, Bo Pelini has done a great job of targeting and getting some of the best players on his wish list. And no other player was a bigger dream get for Pelini more than 4-star cornerback Eric Lee—the No. 11 player at his position on the 247Sports composite rankings.
At 6'0", 175 pounds, Lee possesses the size that Nebraska likes to see out of its cornerbacks.
Most importantly, Lee was one of the earliest commits to the Huskers class.
Having him on board since the beginning of February has helped the Huskers be able to focus on other needs both in the class and at the position. They've added another 4-star player to the backfield at safety (Avery Anderson), and a 3-star cornerback as well (Aaron Williams).
Northwestern is competing with Alabama and Tennessee for a quarterback, and actually has a shot—that's how far the Wildcats have come in recruiting under head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
A quick look at the tape and some may have visions of Kain Colter with a bigger frame, and that comparison is exactly why Northwestern is hoping to land the Anaheim, Ca. product.
Northwestern's chances of landing Waller could hinge on what happens at places like Oregon and Ohio State, where interest is high, but no offer has been extended. But there's little question Waller isn't on the top of the current wish list for the Wildcats.
Landing a top five player at any position is a game changer for a school attempting to become a year in, year out competitor for the Big Ten West division title.
Ohio State Buckeyes
We're talking about 5-star dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. of course.
Gibson is a rare athlete at the quarterback position—one that some schools are recruiting more as an athlete than a quarterback. That could be the Buckeyes' biggest advantage in his recruitment—an open spot at quarterback and allowing him to compete for that job.
He has the raw skills and intangibles that you can't teach, and if Ohio State lands his commitment over the likes of Tennessee and Auburn it could be trouble for Big Ten defenses in the future.
The question is, will Ohio State have a quarterback commitment already in the fold by the time Gibson takes a visit in the fall? If so, that could be the end of Ohio State's dreams of landing the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country.
Penn State Nittany Lions
When you've landed 16 verbal commitments and it's not even summer of the last year of the recruiting cycle, it's safe to say you're doing something right. That's what is going on for James Franklin in his first full class at Penn State.
It also means that they've landed a lot of the "dream" targets on the list already. However, there is one name that Penn State has its eyes on—cornerback John Reid out of Philadelphia, Pa.
Franklin has put a priority on locking down the state, and landing the No. 9-ranked cornerback in the country would certainly help in that area.
Reid would also fill a position of need in a class that has already filled most of the biggest needs.
Look for Reid to be priority No. 1 for Franklin and the Penn State recruiting staff this summer. Can the staff keep him in-state, or will Notre Dame be too much of a pull for his services?
This should be one of the more interesting recruitments left for Penn State.
A 1-11 season that included exactly zero wins against FBS opponents means recruiting is priority No. 1, and quickly turning things around depends on hitting on a few bigger targets.
In the 2015 season, one of the biggest names that Purdue is after is 4-star inside linebacker Josh Smith from Tennessee. Smith is a "dream" addition to Purdue's roster because he could bring instant toughness and speed to a position that got repeatedly hammered on last season.
Starting over from scratch on defense could be attractive to a top-level player who's looking for immediate playing time.
According to 247Sports info, Smith's interest level is at least "warm" towards the Boilermakers.
That's a good starting point, and landing his signature on national signing day would be a great get for head coach Darrell Hazell's long-term future at Purdue. However, pulling him away from SEC offers like Alabama, Auburn and Vanderbilt may be asking a bit much this early in the rebuilding process.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
One thing is true of a Ralph Friedgen-coached offense—you better have wide receivers. Rutgers needs to stockpile top-level talent at the position if the new offensive scheme in place is going to work.
In 2015, there is no more important recruit than 4-star athlete Daiquan Kelly, whom the Scarlet Knights see as a wide receiver.
At 6'3", 200 pounds, it's easy to see why Rutgers would want the youngster in a bad way. Add in the fact that he's got a reported 4.60 40-yard dash time and a crazy vertical jump and one could see a future possession receiver for the Scarlet Knights.
Plus, Kelly is a native of Union City, N.J. Finding a way to keep some of the best talent in-state has to be a priority for Rutgers.
Kelly is and should be one of the top priorities for the Rutgers staff this summer. However, they'll have competition from ACC schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse for his signature.
Last recruiting cycle Wisconsin missed out on 4-star defensive tackle Craig Evans from its own backyard.
In the 2015 recruiting cycle, they are hoping to strike it rich with a different 4-star defensive tackle—Kahlil McKenzie.
Having lived in the state until his dad, Reggie McKenzie, moved the family to Oakland as the Raiders general manager in 2013, McKenzie is plenty familiar with the state of Wisconsin and the Badgers program.
There is some doubt as to how the 6'4", 309-pound tackle would fit the 3-4 scheme UW runs, but there's little denying his raw athletic ability. When you have a chance at an athlete along the defensive line, you go hard for him.
McKenzie is one of the best defensive tackles in the class, and Wisconsin will have to fight with the big boys like Tennessee (where his father went) and Oklahoma for his signature on national signing day.
Winning this battle would more than make up for the loss of Evans last cycle.