Besides battling on the field, Big Ten teams also fought to secure the top recruits. As the dust settles on signing day 2014, how did each team stack up? Who are the players to watch next season and beyond? From five-star recruits to some less-heralded athletes, Sam McKewon breaks down the top 25 overall prospects that the conference landed on Wednesday.
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6-1 • 190 • Quarterback • Purdue
For our money, the Big Ten’s top quarterback commit. Yep — this Texas native. Good mobility, better arm, real moxie. Enrolled early.
6-3 • 215 • Linebacker • Ohio State
Prepped at LeBron James’ old high school. Highlight films show a do-it-all player — track-n-tackle, blitz, cover.
6-3 • 210 • Wide receiver • Penn State
The top recruit of Rutgers’ class flipped to the Nittany Lions once James Franklin showed up. The most upside of any Big Ten receiver recruit.
6-1 • 210 • Defensive athlete • Penn State
Committed to James Franklin late in the process. He’s physical and a little thick in the upper body. Looks like a Penn State-style defender at linebacker or safety.
6-4 • 315 • Guard • Nebraska
In nine months, went from off-the-radar to a top-100 prospect. Benches 440, squats 650. He’s 17 years old.
6-6 • 310 • Offensive tackle • Wisconsin
The Badgers’ top offensive line recruit has an annual spot on this list. Dominant in high school because of his athleticism. Wait until he loses the flour-sack belly.
6-1 • 200 • Linebacker • Rutgers
How do 170 tackles, 14 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2013 sound to you? His high school defense gave up 41 points his entire senior season.
6-4 • 170 • Wide receiver • Michigan
Tall, fast deep threat flipped from Michigan State and enrolled early. He’ll play pronto, in part because he sat out his senior season to heal a hamstring injury.
6-2 • 205 • Wide receiver • Nebraska
Big hands, great leaper. Finds the high point of a deep pass and grabs it. Stretch-the-defense speed. Huskers have to hold off pro baseball.
6-6 • 270 • Defensive end • Wisconsin
Physical, good initial punch, anchors the line well. The usual Badger big boy.
5-11 • 180 • Running back • Northwestern
What a winner. Rushed for 3,171 yards and 38 touchdowns in tough Chicago league. Plus: 4.9 grade-point average.
6-0 • 198 • Running back • Minnesota
Another star running back in the Big Ten class — the best of the bunch. Quick and tough. Lowers the shoulder near the sideline instead of going out of bounds.
6-2 • 242 • Linebacker • Ohio State
This five-star out of Hinesville, Ga., has a defensive tackle’s thighs and good lateral speed. Think Melvin Ingram at linebacker.
6-7 • 290 • Defensive end • Michigan State
Chalk one up for a kid getting his way — the five-star’s parents wanted him to choose Ohio State or Florida State.
6-4 • 328 • Defensive tackle • Michigan
The Wolverines need to carve a few pounds off this Salt Lake City giant. But he dominated during Under Armour All-American practices.
6-8 • 255 • Athlete • Iowa
Could play defensive end, tight end or perhaps tackle. Either way, Nelson’s frame and raw skills are among the best among Big Ten prospects.
6-2 • 202 • Safety • Michigan State
Whether he grows into a linebacker or stays at safety, Nicholson’s great in pass coverage. The Spartans just reload studs on defense.
6-1 • 210 • Athlete • Michigan
The best athlete in Ann Arbor since Charles Woodson and the top Big Ten recruit since Terrelle Pryor in 2008.
6-5 • 290 • Offensive tackle • Maryland
The Terps kept the best in-state prospect at home, a five-star who nearly pledged to Florida.
5-11 • 185 • Running back • Ohio State
Urban Meyer’s annual search for his Percy Harvin took him to Brooklyn to find this speedster. Samuel hits top end speed quickly and he can weave. He’s not big.
6-0 • 206 • Linebacker • Indiana
Needs to add weight, but he’s another of the impressive defensive commits Indiana has added in recent years. Can those guys save Kevin Wilson’s job?
5-11 • 220 • Running back • Iowa
Bowling ball body with good speed. Iowa’s been pining for a complete back; Smith can be that guy.
6-0 • 235 • Linebacker • Nebraska
Forget the three-star ranking; Walton has range, a nose for the ball and an NFL pedigree from his dad, former Alabama star John Copeland. Watch the film.
6-6 • 285 • Defensive end • Illinois
Good frame, good first step. The junior college transfer will be a handful for Big Ten offensive tackles.
6-1 • 185 • Cornerback • Northwestern
Long and lean, Westphal is a true cover corner in the Jimmy Smith-Prince Amukamara mold. The Wildcats beat Michigan State and Ohio State for his services.