Posted by Bryan Fischer
Signing Day is over and now that there’s been a little time to reflect, we’re ranking the Big Ten recruiting classes (all 12 of them) and breaking them down at the same time.
1. Ohio State
Overview: Bringing in the top class in the Big Ten is nothing new for the Buckeyes. This group is filled with impact players, especially on defense. Linebackers Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant and corner Doran Grant should be terrorizing opposing offenses for years to come.
Hidden gem: Offensive guard Michael Bennett is someone who could develop into an all-league type of lineman.
Pencil in for the fall: Quarterback Braxton Miller has enrolled early in order to compete for the starting job and could be the guy that fills in for Terrelle Pryor given his skill set.
Overview: The transition class to the Big Ten should have no problem coming in and helping the Cornhuskers win a bunch of games over the next few years. It will be interesting to see if star quarterback Bubba Starling chooses to actually enroll in Lincoln and not play professional baseball but for now, he’s part of this talented class.
Hidden gem: Athlete Jamal Turner can play all over the field but he could be best utilized as a game-breaking receiver.
Pencil in for the fall: Running back Aaron Green is one of the best backs in the country and should provide a nice complement to Rex Burkhead in Nebraska’s rushing attack.
Overview: Head coach Ron Zook is known as a terrific recruiter and once again he delivered with a very solid class after rumors swirled early that it would be his last season in Champaign. There’s a good number of players who can compete for playing time right away and the Illini did well in grabbing several out of state players.
Hidden gem: Dondi Kirby is a great athlete who was wanted by several powerhouse programs. He has the tools to become a great safety in college.
Pencil in for the fall: With the departure of Mikel LeShoure to the NFL, running back Donovonn Young could come in right away and get some playing time.
4. Michigan State
Overview: This class is headlined by Lawrence Thomas but there are several other very good players coming in. Wide receiver Juwan Caesar should be a favorite target of whoever is under center and Darien Harris has the tools to play special teams right away while eventually taking over at linebacker.
Hidden gem: Offensive tackle Donavon Clark has the frame to develop into a top flight lineman and is already very good in blocking for the run game.
Pencil in for the fall: Linebacker Lawrence Thomas is one of the best defensive players to head to East Lansing out of high school. He could play at defensive end and be a nice speed rusher or at linebacker.
Overview: The news of several Iowa players being sent to the hospital and the negative reaction to how Kirk Ferentz handled the situation didn’t seem to have any effect on this class. There were not a ton of highly rated guys but the ones they did get will fit in very nicely.
Hidden gem: Quarterback Jake Rudock is likely not going to start right away but he could develop into the signal caller of the future.
Pencil in for the fall: Given the attrition at running back, Rodney Coe should vie for early playing time as the next in the line of impressive freshmen running backs.
Overview: This class was hurt all year long by the rumors that Rich Rodriguez would be fired. Once the coach eventually was fired, several key commits went out the door as well, such as running back Dee Hart to Alabama. Nevertheless, new head coach Brady Hoke did a great job of keeping most of the class in the fold and even picking up a few kids.
Hidden gem: Corner Delonte Hollowell isn’t as highly regarded as fellow defensive back Blake Countess but he could still turn out to be a very good player in a secondary that needs all the help it can get.
Pencil in for the fall: The loss of Dee Hart and the lack of a big time tailback could mean Justice Hayes gets to line up next to Denard Robinson early in his career.
Overview: Another solid but not spectacular class for Wisconsin. Not getting quarterback Jacoby Brissett was a big loss but there are other pieces to build around. The coaching staff did do a good job of putting up a wall around the state and keeping the best players home.
Hidden gem: Jake Keefer is a very athletic player who should slide in at outside linebacker for the Badgers. He can put his hand on the ground if needed but should be a terror standing up and making plays.
Pencil in for the fall: A.J. Jordan is probably the most talented player in the class and should be able to provide a boost in the passing because he has terrific hands.
8. Penn State
Overview: Not expected to be a big class, the Nittany Lions still should have done better in terms of quality. They fill needs at offensive line with some great players but there just are not the athletes on defense that Joe Paterno needed to bring in.
Hidden gem: Bill Belton isn’t the biggest guy on the field but he can play a few different positions on offense and can be a threat just about anywhere.
Pencil in for the fall: Don’t be surprised if Angelo Mangiro is a quality backup who gets playing time early next season along the interior line. A few injuries could easily lead to a few starts down the road.
Overview: Like Penn State, not a large class but there’s some good underlying talent for the Wildcats. Linemen make up the bulk of the class but there are some talented skill position players mixed in as well.
Hidden gem: Quarterback Zach Oliver might have been a bit overlooked on the recruiting trail but he has all the tools to develop into a very good Big Ten signal caller based on his highlight reel.
Pencil in for the fall: Wide out Christian Jones would be a starter at a lot of programs and it wouldn’t be surprising if he makes an immediate impact in the Northwestern passing game once he steps on campus.
Overview: All things considered, new head coach Jerry Kill did a pretty good job making the recruiting transition from the MAC to the Big Ten. He kept most of the class intact and managed to fill several needs for the Gophers. They may not be four-stars but they’re solid nevertheless.
Hidden gem: Joe Bjorklund not only has a fitting name for a Big Ten offensive lineman but he could turn out to be a good one. A little on the skinny side for an interior lineman, Bjorklund has a very solid frame to add weight, which should only help his physical run-blocking style.
Pencil in for the fall: Tommy Olson is rated by many as the top lineman from the state of Minnesota so he should be somewhere on the two deep pretty quickly.
Overview: A very small class but one that should find a few contributors for the Boilermakers over the next few years.
Hidden gem: Tight end Robert Kugler is the son of Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler and you figure that acumen that comes from being the son of a coach will translate well in college, especially with the younger Kugler’s physical skills.
Pencil in for the fall: Linebacker Armstead Williams is one of the best defensive recruits to head to Purdue and it would surprise no one to see him playing significant time on defense by the end of the year.
Overview: Not exactly a huge surprise to see the Hoosiers on this list given their past recruiting history and the added burden of a staff change. Although they’re last in 2011, don’t be surprised if they make a climb on the rankings once Kevin Wilson has a full year to bring in recruits.
Hidden gem: Linebacker Kyle Kennedy does a good job reading a developing play and wrapping up when making a tackle. He’s also pretty good at shedding a block and seems like a very solid player going forward.
Pencil in for the fall: Athlete Shane Wynn is a playmaker and should be able to contribute at multiple positions on offense.