The World-Herald's Sam McKewon, Rich Kaipust and Jon Nyatawa rank the Big Ten's 2014 recruiting classes.
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1. Ohio State
247Sports national rank: 3
ESPN national rank: 7
Rivals national rank: 3
Scout national rank: 5
Head of the class: Raekwon McMillan, 6-2, 242, linebacker, Hinesville, Ga.
The Buckeyes need immediate help at linebacker, and the five-star recruit is a January enrollee who already looks the part of a college player.
Hidden gem: Sam Hubbard, 6-6, 230, linebacker, Cincinnati
Interesting prospect because of his height and the fact that he initially planned to play lacrosse at Notre Dame.
Immediate impact: Curtis Samuel, 5-11, 185, receiver, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Perhaps he will make the quick splash at the “pivot” position that was expected of Dontre Wilson last season.
Big miss: Deshaun Watson, 6-3, 188, quarterback, Gainesville, Ga. (signed with Clemson)
The recruiting gap between the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten continues to grow as they score another marquee class. Decent number of in-state signees (nine), but head coach Urban Meyer also showing his obvious plan to recruit nationally. McMillan, ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker nationally by Rivals.com, leads a solid corps of linebacker recruits. Did take a punch in the gut, though, when five-star defensive end Malik McDowell signed with Michigan State.
2. Penn State
247Sports national rank: 24
ESPN national rank: 24
Rivals national rank: 24
Scout national rank: 25
Head of the class: Chris Godwin, 6-2, 205, receiver, Middletown, Del.
Four-star prospect heads a solid list of receiver recruits as Penn State prepares to move on without Allen Robinson.
Hidden gem: Chasz Wright, 6-7, 310, offensive lineman, Woodbridge, Va.
Wright committed to Connecticut a year ago before heading to prep school to improve his grades.
Immediate impact: Koa Farmer, 6-1, 205, athlete, Lake View Terrace, Calif.
Went from being California recruit to picking between Nittany Lions and Wisconsin.
Big miss: Thomas Holley, 6-4, 295, defensive tackle, Brooklyn, N.Y. (signed with Florida)
The departure of assistant Larry Johnson (for Ohio State) and his recruiting prowess is going to hurt. It had an immediate impact with Holley decommitting, costing the Nittany Lions a five-star prospect. New coach James Franklin flipped six of his commits from Vanderbilt, but already has talked about Penn State's need to dominate the region in the future. Still an impressive class despite the transition from Bill O'Brien to Franklin, and given that the program is still dealing with bowl and scholarship sanctions.
3. Michigan State
247Sports national rank: 25
ESPN national rank: 29
Rivals national rank: 21
Scout national rank: 19
Head of the class: Montae Nicholson, 6-3, 210 pounds, safety, Monroeville, Pa.
The Spartans hit the jackpot with one of the nation's tallest, best defensive back prospects. Over time, Nicholson will develop into another Michigan State stud on the back end.
Hidden gem: David Beetle, 6-5, 280 pounds, defensive tackle, Clarkston, Mich.
Beetle has the kind of frame that translates well to college, even if he only received mostly MAC offers. Again, two or three years inside the Michigan State system should make him a key contributor.
Immediate impact: David Hedelin, 6-5, 285 pounds, offensive tackle, City College of San Francisco
The Spartans don't exactly do “immediate impact” with freshman players — development is the mantra in East Lansing — so it falls to the junior college transfer.
Big miss: Drake Harris, 6-4, 180 pounds, wide receiver, Grand Rapids, Mich. (signed with Michigan)
Michigan State will be poised in 2015 to reap the full recruiting rewards of its big Rose Bowl season. This year, it's still pretty good. A look at the class shows that coach Mark Dantonio likes big frames at every position, with the speed/skill development to come in college. There's a method to Michigan State's recruiting approach, and a Rose Bowl ring to prove it.
247Sports national rank: 33
ESPN national rank: 34
Rivals national rank: 33
Scout national rank: 29
Head of the class: D.J. Gillins, 6-3, 185, quarterback, Jacksonville, Fla.
An ACL tear as a high school junior may have limited Gillins' exposure, but he is a legitimate run threat that could add a new dimension to the Wisconsin offense. Plus, Gillins is already enrolled.
Hidden gem: George Rushing, 6-1, 180, wide receiver, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Jared Abbrederis is gone. And he's difficult for one guy to replace. Which means Wisconsin will have more targets to spread around the receiving corps. Maybe that creates a chance for Rushing.
Immediate impact: Taiwan Deal, 6-1, 225 pounds, running back, Capitol Heights, Md.
Deal doesn't shy away from contact and he should fit in well with the downhill-style attack of Wisconsin. Plus, the best Badger running backs don't usually redshirt. He'll get reps.
Big miss: Craig Evans, 6-2, 313, defensive tackle, Sun Prairie, Wis. (signed with Michigan State)
The Badgers pursued several top-tier targets. They whiffed on a couple of key guys. But this class is huge. And there's still plenty of talent. Maybe more than a program like Wisconsin, which typically leans on its ability to develop underrated players, is used to. Gary Andersen, who just completed his first year with the Badgers, lured five prospects from Florida — and he wants to recruit that state more heavily going forward.
247Sports national rank: 35
ESPN national rank: 39
Rivals national rank: 32
Scout national rank: 34
Head of the class: Monte Harrison, 6-2, 205, wide receiver, Lee's Summit, Mo.
The Huskers have to battle pro baseball for Harrison, but if they win it, what a get for at least three years. Harrison's not a project, a guy-on-the-come or any of that. He has Quincy Enunwa's size and Niles Paul's speed.
Hidden gem: Jaevon Walton, 6-0, 235, linebacker, New Orleans
His middling star rankings — based, almost certainly, on LSU thinking he was too short to play — are immaterial to his actual potential and production. He knows the game and plays like it.
Immediate impact Byerson Cockrell, 6-0, 180 pounds, cornerback, E. Mississippi CC
With Nebraska's paper-thin depth chart at DB, Nebraska didn't recruit Cockrell to cover the water cooler. Cockrell enrolled early and will contend to start at corner. He's versatile enough to back up at safety or nickel, too.
Big miss: Parrker Westphal, 6-1, 185, cornerback, Bolingbrook, Ill. (signed with Northwestern)
Once again, the mad scramble paid off with key, late commits. The offensive line class is one of the Big Ten's best — and perhaps the best — while Nebraska appears ready to commit to more passing with a large group of wide receivers. The defensive recruiting could have been better, especially at corner and defensive end. The players NU landed at those spots have potential — especially corner Trai Mosley.
247Sports national rank: 20
ESPN national rank: 18
Rivals national rank: 21
Scout national rank: 27
Head of the class: Jabrill Peppers, 6-1, 205, athlete, Paramus, N.J.
Do-it-all player in high school who projects to corner or safety at Michigan. The best Big Ten recruit in years, Peppers plays loud, but backs it up. Michigan needs to put him on the field right away.
Hidden gem: Wilton Speight, 6-6, 215, quarterback, Richmond, Va.
Insomuch that any Michigan recruit can be hidden, Speight doesn't carry half the expectations of 2013 signee Shane Morris. But Speight is taller and more accurate.
Immediate impact: Drake Harris, 6-4, 180, wide receiver, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Peppers would be the top player here, as well. But while Harris missed his senior year with a hamstring injury, he enrolled early and gives Michigan a tall, fast target for deep throws. The Wolverines' top deep threat in 2013 was Jeremy Gallon. He's 5-9. And he's gone.
Big miss: Da'Shawn Hand, 6-4, 260, defensive end, Woodbridge, Va. (signed with Alabama)
Michigan had to sign a smaller class — coach Brady Hoke signed 25 and 27 players in the previous two years — so the rating must drop. But Peppers and Harris have a chance to make an impact no freshman in the 2012 or 2013 classes did. And watch the giant Bryan Mone, a 6-foot-4, 330-pound nose tackle who has to drop weight, but is better than the Michigan writers think.
247Sports national rank: 51
ESPN national rank: 55
Rivals national rank: 37
Scout national rank: 44
Head of the class: Dominique Booth, 6-1, 200, receiver, Indianapolis
All kinds of big-time offers for the four-star prospect, an important get with Cody Latimer leaving early for NFL.
Hidden gem: Wes Martin, 6-3, 295, offensive guard, West Milton, Ohio
Only a two star, but has size, toughness and a passion for football that the Indiana staff craves.
Immediate impact: Tony Fields, 5-11, 210, safety, Tallahassee, Fla.
The worst defense in the Big Ten can use his speed and athleticism. He picked the Hoosiers over Auburn and Missouri.
Big miss: Lukayus McNeil, 6-6, 278, offensive tackle, Indianapolis (signed with Louisville)
The Hoosiers' class touches on a variety of offensive needs (line, receiver, tight end, quarterback), but the top priority was defense — and, at least on paper, they appear to have addressed it. Among those to watch will be Fields and linebacker Tegray Scales, who had offers from Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Louisville. Booth and Iowa Western offensive lineman DeAndre Herron were among six who signed early. All in all, a solid follow-up to last year's class, which was No. 38 in Rivals.com's rankings.
247Sports national rank: 44
ESPN national rank: 41
Rivals national rank: 69
Scout national rank: 56
Head of the class: Clayton Thorson, 6-4, 200, quarterback, Wheaton, Ill.
He's not known as a burner, but he has enough agility to run Northwestern's spread system. Excellent build, too. He was named one of the MVPs at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in January.
Hidden gem: Xavier Washington, 6-1, 235, defensive end, Cedar Hill, Texas
He had been overlooked until he earned defensive MVP honors in Texas' Class 5A Division II state title game. The last-hour addition has potential to develop. Plus, there's a chip on his shoulder.
Immediate impact: Parrker Westphal, 6-1, 190, defensive back, Bolingbrook, Ill.
He's already enrolled — which is a first at Northwestern. Westphal had plenty of big-time offers, but he's now getting acclimated with the Wildcats.
Big miss: Dareian Watkins, 6-1, 200, athlete, Galion, Ohio (signed with Wisconsin)
It's one of the smaller classes in the Big Ten (by design), but there's probably more high-profile talent in this group than what has been typical for Northwestern. Is that a trend to watch going forward? Maybe. The Wildcats did recruit well in the Chicago region. And since many traditional Big Ten rivals are rebuilding, now's the best time to keep building momentum.
247Sports national rank: 53
ESPN national rank: 49
Rivals national rank: 60
Scout national rank: 41
Head of the class Jay Scheel, 6-1, 180, athlete, Mount Union, Iowa
Praise be, the Hawkeyes finally recruited a true dual-threat quarterback. Of course, he'll now move to wide receiver. Ah, Iowa.
Hidden gem: Torey Hendrick, 6-4, 225, defensive end, Dawsonville, Ga. (ASA College)
Academic tangles will force Hendrick to redshirt his first year at Iowa — it kept other schools from offering at all — but he'll be a big factor when he's eligible.
Immediate impact: Mick Ellis, 5-10, 180, kicker, Allen, Texas
Iowa's kicker, Mike Meyer, was a senior last year. Enter Ellis. Dillon Kidd, a junior college punting signee, can also kick field goals if need be.
Big miss: Ross Pierschbacher, 6-4, 295, offensive line, Cedar Falls, Iowa (signed with Alabama)
The best lineman (Pierschbacher to 'Bama) and skill player (Allen Lazard to Iowa State) in the state spurned the Hawkeyes. But the class is otherwise decent by Iowa standards. Good running backs in Markel Smith and C.J. Hilliard. A number of long, raw defensive back prospects. A pro-style quarterback from Detroit in Tyler Wiegers. A little thin on the lines.
247Sports national rank: 57
ESPN national rank: 58
Rivals national rank: 53
Scout national rank: 51
Head of the class: Jeff Jones, 6-0, 198, running back, Minneapolis
A strong performance at the Under Armour All-America Game caught the attention of several big-time programs, but Jones stayed with his hometown school. And that's huge for Minnesota's run-oriented attack.
Hidden gem: Jared Weyler, 6-4, 280, offensive lineman, Dayton, Ohio
Most of the MAC schools offered and he had been committed to Bowling Green. But Minnesota made a late push and may have found a lineman who could grow into a role in its offense.
Immediate impact: Melvin Holland Jr., 6-3, 190, wide receiver, Ashburn, Va.
The Gophers could use playmakers on the outside. Maybe Holland's that guy. He caught just two passes as a high school junior, but set several school records last fall.
Big miss Frank Ragnow, 6-6, 291, offensive lineman, Chanhassen, Minn. (signed with Arkansas)
Optimism is growing at Minnesota after a strong finish to the 2013 regular season. It seems like the Gophers took advantage, adding eight commits after Jan. 1. They found three linebackers and even added a couple tight ends. Not an overly impressive haul on paper, though. And Minnesota might regret not taking a true quarterback in this class, despite what athlete Dimonic Roden-McKinzy may bring.
247Sports national rank: 60
ESPN national rank: 56
Rivals national rank: 57
Scout national rank: 55
Head of the class: Marcus Applefield, 6-6, 285, offensive tackle, Weeki Wachee, Fla.
A January enrollee with almost 20 offers who projects as a future starter at left tackle.
Hidden gem: Josh Hicks, 5-10, 205, running back, Palmetto, Fla.
Committed back in October 2012 when he was 16, then stayed with his Rutgers pledge despite Miami and Florida State being among those with late interest after his big senior season.
Immediate impact: Alan Lucy, 6-0, 230, long snapper, Dinwiddie, Va.
The Knights use a scholarship on the long snapper after the graduation of three-year starter Robert Jones.
Big miss: Saeed Blacknall, 6-3, 205, receiver, Manalapan, N.J. (signed with Penn State)
Blacknall was one of 11 decommits from a Rutgers class that looked to be in the middle of the Big Ten but now drops down. The reason for the losses? An uncertain future for coach Kyle Flood (third year of a five-year contract, with no extension talks started), the loss of offensive coordinator Ron Prince to the NFL and the firing of defensive coordinator Dave Cohen. A step back for the Knights after back-to-back classes that ranked among the best in school history.
247Sports national rank: 43
ESPN national rank: 50
Rivals national rank: 54
Scout national rank: 60
Head of the class: Damian Prince, 6-5, 300, offensive tackle, Washington, D.C.
The Terps held on and filled a huge need with Prince, ranked No. 20 in the Rivals 250 and as the No. 3 OT by 247Sports.
Hidden gem: Josh Woods, 6-2, 180, safety/receiver, Baltimore
Only a three-star and ranked No. 26 in Maryland by Rivals.com, but long, rangy and possibly full of upside. And maybe reminiscent of the Terps grabbing unheralded receiver LaQuan Williams a few years back.
Immediate impact: Larry Mazyck, 6-8, 340, offensive tackle, Washington, D.C.
Iowa Western product enrolled last month and fits a need after a rash of Maryland recruiting misses on the offensive line.
Big miss: Jalen Tabor, 6-1, 186, cornerback, Washington, D.C. (signed with Florida)
A so-so class for the Terrapins as they come off their first bowl appearance under Randy Edsall. Helped themselves with key pickups on the offensive line — led by Prince, Mazyck and four-star Derwin Gray — especially heading into the Big Ten. Not only lost out on Tabor, but missed on a bunch of top DB targets. The struggle also continues for the Terps to lock up the top Baltimore prospects. The move to the Big Ten will make restocking the depth on the lines a priority.
247Sports national rank: 70
ESPN national rank: 69
Rivals national rank: 75
Scout national rank: 67
Head of the class: Gelen Robinson, 6-2, 230, linebacker, St. John, Ind.
Purdue's traditionally had success identifying talent at the D-end spot. Robinson could be the next star. He's the son of former Boilermaker hoops legend Glenn Robinson.
Hidden gem: Cedric Dale, 5-8, 168, defensive back, Carrollton, Texas
The former BYU commit spent significant time at running back while in high school, so fully committing to one position should allow for increased development. He could also return kicks.
Immediate impact: Tim Cason, 6-1, 185, defensive back, Clarkston, Mich.
There will be plenty of chances for playing time in a Purdue secondary that will lack proven depth next year. Cason seems to have the athleticism and the physicality to play right away.
Big miss: A.J. Allen, 6-7, 315, juco offensive tackle, El Cajon, Calif. (signed with Kansas State)
Darrell Hazell had just one victory in the 2013 season to sell to prospects after his first year. Not ideal. Still, the Boilermakers went after several junior college offensive tackles while also focusing on adding talent to their secondary. But did Purdue snag enough game-changers for an offense that lacked big-play ability last season? Probably not.
247Sports national rank: 71
ESPN national rank: 66
Rivals national rank: 72
Scout national rank: 70
Head of the class: Matt Domer, 5-11, 190, running back, Chicago
He averaged 7.8 yards per carry and ran for 16 touchdowns for a back-to-back state champion Mount Carmel squad. Domer's a do-it-all back who has potential to be the focal point for an offense.
Hidden gem: Nick Allegretti, 6-4, 300, offensive lineman, Frankfort, Ill.
Illinois locked him up a year ago, which might be why other Big Ten schools didn't take a closer look at Allegretti. His stock's been rising lately. He'll likely find a home at center.
Immediate impact: Jihad Ward, 6-6, 285, juco defensive tackle, New York
Ward's size is what's most appealing. There aren't many guys that tall clogging up the middle and filling passing lanes. Illinois could use his help up front, too.
Big miss: Jordan Frazier, 6-5, 245, tight end, Springfield, Mo. (signed with Oklahoma State)
Illinois has attracted star talent before. But there may not be enough here. It didn't help that there was speculation surrounding Tim Beckman's job status after the 2013 season. That's put to rest. For now. The Illini still did manage to get several receivers and defensive linemen, positions of need. But much of this class, it appears, will need a couple of years to develop.
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