Sign on the dotted line.
That’s perhaps the most often muttered phrase on College Football’s National Signing Day.
In college football, fans must realize that nothing is official until the player seals the deal in ink—that until this day, it’s simply a verbal commitment.
As what occurs during every season, players move on—via graduation or perhaps leaving a year early for the NFL. In a Big Ten conference that is desperately fighting for respect in a game that continues to push towards a Sunbelt-like phenomenon, it’s important to reload.
Here are a few ways in which the Big Ten has reloaded and added significant depth (where needed the most) heading into the 2010 season.
Five Ways the Big Ten’s Elite Schools Reloaded on National Signing Day
Penn State: Defensive Front Seven
The Nittany Lions suffered significant losses from last year’s talented defense, including the entire starting linebacker trio of Navorro Bowman, Sean Lee, and Josh Hull. On top of that, Jared Odrick graduated and will likely be a first-round draft pick in the NFL. Others such as Jerome Hayes have also moved on.
Still, this class, the best overall on paper in the Big Ten, provided some significant additions to the depth chart—including four four-star recruits (via rivals.com) to help replenish the depth of the front seven, including LB Mike Hull, LB Khairi Fortt, DE Dakota Royer and DE C.J.Olaniyan.
On top of these additions, Penn State should also see the return of talented LB Michael Mauti, who suffered a knee injury during the 2009 preseason.
Michigan: Secondary and Overall Defense
We know the Wolverines were a young team adjusting to Rich Rod’s system, but let’s face it, the defense struggled more often than not in 2009. In fact, the Wolverines were 66th in the nation against the pass (yards per game) and 92nd against the run. On top of all of this, the team’s defensive star, Brandon Graham, is moving on to the NFL.
But with this year’s class, Michigan addressed its need for new life and depth on the defensive side of the ball—in the form of five four-star recruits (via rivals.com), headlined by class gem Demar Dorsey. The rest of the highly rated players include LB Marvin Robinson, DE Ken Wilkins, DB Cullen Christian, and DT Richard Ash.
Iowa: Offensive Line / Tight End
The Hawkeyes will need a few players to step it up if they want to match last season’s BCS bowl berth—a victory in the Orange Bowl over Georgia Tech. In particular, Iowa returns 13 starters but only five on offense. In particular, they lost OL talent Bryan Bulaga to the NFL a year early, as well as OT Kyle Calloway. Talented TE Tony Moeaki also has moved on.
There’s a glaring need to add depth on the offensive line, and in this year’s class, the Hawkeyes bring in four-star recruit Andrew Donnal. On top of that, Iowa adds four-star talent and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who many feel could be an instant offensive impact for the Hawkeyes. How much he plays will depend on how well he can improve his blocking skillset.
Ohio State: Depth in the Secondary
Let’s face it, for years the Buckeyes have been a model for consistency in the Big Ten, and Ohio State has very few weaknesses. However, the 2009 Buckeyes team did have two seniors start in the safety positions—specifically SS Kurt Coleman (who has received an NFL combine invite) and FS Anderson Russell.
On top of that, upperclassmen also manned the corner spots more often than not during the season. So if one was to look where Ohio State may need to add some depth, the secondary could very well be the spot.
The Buckeyes put up another solid class—nothing that will blow anyone’s doors off, but another group of solid talents. Christian Bryant, a four-star recruit, is projected as a DB for the Buckeyes.
Corey Brown, a four-star multi-talented athlete, could also end up seeing time in the secondary when ready. All in all, the Buckeyes have added another arsenal of talent, and it’s safe to say that the Ohio State will be in the thick of the Big Ten chase once again.
Wisconsin: Defensive Front Depth
The Badgers finished the year strong, surprising many critics with a bowl win over Miami. Wisconsin had three seniors start the season on the defensive line, headlined by O’Brien Schofield, who easily could have been listed as the most underrated player in the Big Ten last season.
Schofield himself had 12 sacks in 2009 (tied for fifth in nation) and 24.5 tackles for a loss (second in nation). With these losses from a team that was eighth in the country in sacks, there was a need to add depth to the defensive front in Madison.
This year’s recruiting class by the Badgers has taken a few hits from critics, with many not listing any top-of-the-board talents. Still, there are a number of potential defensive-line talents added to this team, specifically Beau Allen, Bryce Gilbert, Warren Herring, Jake Irwin, and Konrad Zagzebski—who are all listed as three-star recruits according to rivals.com.
Don’t be surprised to see one or more of these players emerge as a force for the Badgers' defense.