National Signing Day Checklist: Big Ten

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer
Penn State QB commit Christian Hackenberg is the highest rated recruit in the Big Ten. (247Sports.com)

Fax machines across the country will be used on Wednesday for the first time in 365 days as recruits from all over send in their letters of intent to their new schools. It's the culmination of a lot of work by coaching staffs, as they spend a lot of time travelling the country trying to fill their teams needs.

With that in mind, let's look at the 12 schools of the Big Ten, their needs and what their coaches are doing to help fill them in the 2013 recruiting class.

Leaders Division

Illinois -- Needs: DB, WR, DL. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 53 -- After going 2-10 in 2012, the Illini obviously have a lot of needs to fill, but the biggest are defensive backs, wide receivers and defensive linemen. Tim Beckman has actually done a pretty good job recruiting, despite the lack of success on the field. The Illini are bringing in five junior college players, and four of them play one of those positions. In fact, of the 26 players currently committed to Illinois, 16 fill one of those spots. The prize of this class, though, may be quarterback Aaron Bailey. 247Sports.com considers Bailey the fifth-best dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 class.

Indiana -- Needs: DL, LB, DB. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 56 -- Indiana needs defense, plain and simple. If it was a major defensive statistic in 2012, the Hoosiers were finishing eleventh or last in the Big Ten in it. Which is why 12 of the 19 players in this class are on the defensive side of the ball. Junior college LB Steven Funderburk and DT Jordan Heiderman could make an immediate impact in 2013, as could safety Antonio Allen. And Kevin Wilson didn't ignore his offense, as Indiana's 2013 haul also includes four-star offensive tackle Darius Latham.

Ohio State -- Needs: LB, WR, DB. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 5 -- Not surprisingly, Ohio State has what's considered the best class in the Big Ten coming off a 12-0 season. While there aren't a lot of glaring weaknesses with the Buckeyes, improvement can still be made. When you have a player like Braxton Miller, you want to give him weapons, and he gets two new ones in four-star receivers Corey Smith and Jalin Marshall. On defense Ohio State could use some help in the secondary, and there are four four-star defensive backs in the class. Oh, and there may be another Braxton Miller in dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett. Really, when it comes to Ohio State, whatever Urban Meyer needs he goes out and gets.

Penn State -- Needs: QB, LB, DB. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 23 -- Bill O'Brien has some restrictions to work under thanks to the NCAA, but he's doing a pretty good job of working his way around it. The biggest need for Penn State is at quarterback, where O'Brien worked wonders with Matt McGloin in 2012. Quarterback prospects see that and want to work with O'Brien, which is why the top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country, Christian Hackenberg, should be sending in his letter of intent on Wednesday. And in case Hackenberg's not ready for 2013, it's OK -- because Penn State got a commit from four-star junior college quarterback Tyler Ferguson as well.

Purdue -- Needs: DL, OL, WR. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 67 -- Purdue needs more help in the trenches, and the class Darrell Hazell has inherited has certainly tried to address those needs on the defensive side. Nine of the 21 commits in this class are listed as defensive linemen. The problem is that there's only one offensive lineman in the class, and that's two-star tackle Jason Tretter. The highest-rated player in Purdue's class would be quarterback Danny Etling.

Wisconsin -- Needs: WR, DB, OL. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 31 --Wisconsin loses three starters from its secondary, so that's an obvious area of need for Gary Andersen's first class. So it's a good thing four of Wisconsin's 20 commits are in the secondary, and some other athletes in the class could be moved. The Badgers could also use playmakers at receiver, and there's hope that three-star Rob Wheelwright could be that guy. What is a bit surprising about Wisconsin's class is that, for a school known to churn out NFL-ready offensive linemen, there's only one offensive lineman in the entire class. Still, there's a lot of strong talent, including its newest member, dual-thread quarterback Tanner McEvoy. Other names to get familiar with are running back Corey Clement -- -- Wisconsin is good at RBs, too -- and defensive end Chikwe Obasih.

Legends Division

Iowa -- Needs: WR, DL, DB. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 55 -- If you watched an Iowa game last season, then you know that this team desperately needs help at wide receiver. Whether it's Damond Powell, Anjeus Jones, Derrick Willies or Derrick Mitchell Jr., that quartet of receiver prospects will all get a chance to earn playing time in 2013. The Hawkeyes could also use an infusion of talent on defense, particularly on a defensive line that finished dead-last in the Big Ten with only 13 sacks last season. I'm not sure there's a great pass-rusher in this bunch, but defensive tackles Brant Gressel and Nathan Bazata, along with linebacker John Kenny could help. All in all, this class is like a lot of Kirk Ferentz's recruiting classes, nothing spectacular but pretty solid from top to bottom.

Michigan -- Needs: WR, RB, DL. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 7 -- Brady Hoke has a lot of talent coming to Ann Arbor, particularly on the offensive line, where the Wolverines currently have commits from six players. Seven if you count long-snapper Scott Sypniewski. It's obvious that Hoke is of the mindset that a really good offensive line makes your offense better no matter what. Still, there's plenty of other top talent, including running back Derrick Green, quarterback Shane Morris and a group of defensive linemen that includes the awesomely named Taco Charlton. Much like Ohio State, this is a class that is lining up to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Big Ten. The more things change...

Michigan State -- Needs: RB, DL, DB. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 38 -- Realistically you could just list "offense" as a need for Michigan State, as a huge chunk of its offense has left in Le'Veon Bell. With Bell's departure, it's not surprising to see that the Spartans could have three new running backs on the roster if all goes as planned on Wednesday. Michigan State will also have more holes to fill in the defense come 2014, which is why seven of its 18 commits are either defensive linemen or defensive backs. Delton Williams is a four-star athlete and could wind up as either a running back or a defensive back in East Lansing. The other headliner in this class is dual-threat quarterback Damion Terry, and it's also possible that four-star corner Darian Hicks could make an immediate impact in 2013.

Minnesota -- Needs: WR, LB, DB. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 77 --Minnesota could really use playmakers at wide receiver to give quarterback Phillip Nelson weapons, so it's no surprise that two of the top prospects in its 2013 class are receivers Drew Wolitarsky and De'Niro Laster. The Gophers also lose two starting corners and need difference makers on defense. It's uncertain that those players are in this class, as the Gophers class is considered the worst in the Big Ten this season. Also of some concern, owning your home state is something every school wants to do in recruiting, and, of the 17 players currently in the class, only one comes from Minnesota.

Nebraska -- Needs: DL, OL, TE. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 17 --Nebraska has a lot of holes to fill, so it's a good thing Bo Pelini has put together one of the best classes in the Big Ten. Nebraska loses three starters from its defensive line and will likely lose three starters from its offensive line after the 2013 season. So big bodies are needed for the trenches, and the Huskers have those. There are four offensive tackles in this class, and Pelini went up to Canada to get the best one in David Knevel. There are also six defensive linemen, including junior college prospect Randy Gregory, who will likely find playing time right away. And since this is Nebraska we're talking about, four-star running backs Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor are names you should remember.

Northwestern -- Needs: DB, RB, OL. 247Sports Team Class Rank: 54 --Pat Fitzgerald has been known to get the most out of players who aren't considered top talents, but with each year that goes by, he starts bringing more of that talent into Evanston. This year's talent includes four-star center Tyler Lancaster, who could help replace the three offensive line starters the Wildcats lost in 2012. There's also four-star quarterback Matt Alviti. However, Northwestern could use some help in its secondary, particularly at cornerback, and there aren't many in this class. Matt Harris is listed as an athlete, but he will play corner in Evanston, as could fellow athlete Godwin Igwebuike.

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