Dienhart: Team-by-team recruiting needs

With Wednesday’s Football Signing Day right around the corner, it’s time to focus on the areas of need for each Big Ten team. Should your team be eying offensive linemen? Wide receivers? Defensive backs? BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart offers his top three recruiting needs for all 12 Big Ten teams in this post.

Don’t forget: BTN will air a live 90-minute Signing Day show at 4:30 p.m. ET Wednesday.

ILLINOIS
1. Defensive line
2. Running back
3. Defensive back
New coach Tim Beckman has hit the ground running, but he has work to do. The defensive front has lost some big-time playmakers the past two seasons with end Whitney Mercilus and tackle Corey Liuget each turning pro early. The ground game never developed a go-to guy in 2011.

INDIANA
1. Defensive backs
2. Linebacker
3. Offensive line
Kevin Wilson is slowly making strides as he enters his second season in Bloomington. Defense will be an area of focus, as Wilson looks for speed over size. And athletic ability is a must. The Hoosiers also are in need of help at defensive end.

IOWA
1. Defensive line
2. Receiver
3. Defensive backs
The Hawkeyes lost all four starters on the defensive line from last year’s team, and this was a unit that struggled in 2011. With Marvin McNutt gone and depth limited, Iowa needs some wideouts. Like receiver, the defensive back corps lacks bodies with Shaun Prater and Jordan Bernstine departed.

MICHIGAN
1. Offensive line
2. Defensive line
3. Receiver
There is still a need for a difference maker at receiver, but that may have to wait until 2013 because the current commitments are considered more possession receivers. The Wolverines also need help at linebacker and tight end. Brady Hoke is looking for a different type of offensive lineman—bigger, more physical–than predecessor Rich Rodriguez.

MICHIGAN STATE
1. Defensive tackle
2. Defensive backs
3. Receivers/tight ends
The Spartans have had some attrition at wideout. MSU also could use a running back or two with Le’Veon Bell perhaps leaving early after 2012. The Spartans also could use a quarterback. Two tight ends are needed with three seniors graduating, and there also is a need for two cornerbacks with depth a little thin.

MINNESOTA
1. Defensive backs
2. Defensive line
3. Receivers
The Gophers have myriad needs as Jerry Kill enters his second season. The defensive side of the ball will be a big emphasis. Minnesota also has a need at running back to make Kill’s attack go.

NEBRASKA
1. Linebacker
2. Cornerback
3. Quarterback
This won’t be a big class, but look for the Cornhuskers to ink four linebackers. Bo Pelini needs to replace CB Alfonzo Dennard and hopes touted JC Mohammed Seisay—who already is enrolled–is an instant answer. Nebraska has just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster with Jamal Turner moving to receiver last year. Staffers also want some tight ends, likely signing two with Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton both being seniors in 2012.

NORTHWESTERN
1. Cornerback
2. Defensive end
3. Running back
In addition to the above, the Wildcats also need help on the offensive line and at safety. There also is a need for a difference maker at running back. The Wildcats are doing well with defensive line recruits and have a commitment from a touted running back.

PENN STATE
1. Quarterback
2. Defensive back
3. Running back
The Nits need cornerbacks and safeties, as losses to Wisconsin and Houston at the end of 2011 were telling. But getting a top quarterback is key for a program that has struggled at the spot in recent years. New coach Bill O’Brien also will look for offensive tackles, defensive ends and tight ends.

PURDUE
1. Kicker
2. Defensive end
3. Offensive line
The Boilermakers need some pass rushers off the edge to continue their legacy of producing great ends. In the past, Danny Hope signed “linemen” he would either develop for offense or defense. But now, Hope is signing true offensive linemen.

OHIO STATE
1. Receiver
2. Offensive line
3. Linebacker
With DeVier Posey gone and the fact no young wideouts emerged last season as legit No. 1 options, Ohio State needs receivers. The Buckeyes need offensive tackles, and strong-side, weak-side and middle linebackers all are needed for the defense under new coach Urban Meyer, who from all reports is doing a great job.

WISCONSIN
1. Offensive line
2. Safety
3. Receiver
The Badgers don’t have any glaring weaknesses. Look for Bret Bielema to take as many as five offensive linemen, and two safeties. Wisconsin needs some pass catchers, but may take just one. The Badgers also could stand to bolster running back and ink a quarterback.

Find all of BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart’s work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and  subscribe to his RSS feed.

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2 Comments

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Doug on 1/30/2012 @ 11:23pm EST Said:

MSU has 3 stud QB’s and 3 stud wide receivers coming in 2012…

huskerred on 1/31/2012 @ 2:37am EST Said:

With Wisconsin losing 19 or 20 seniors with players like Toon, Wilson, Ewing, Byrne, Zeitler and Oglesby on offense; Nzegwu, Butrym, Claxton, Fenelus and Henry on the defensive side you see no glaring problem? Maybe you should take off the sunglasses? Lots of holes to fill for smooth sailing would be my guess.