Signing Day: 12 teams look to fill needs

The Feb. 6 National Signing Day for football is a less than a week away, and it’s the first day recruits can ink letters of intent. It’s also the day when every fan dreams big while studying the list of players their school signed and wondering which players will be stars and which ones might be busts. But, honestly, they all look like studs on Signing Day, right?

As a primer for the Signing Day frenzy, here’s a look at the top three priorities for each Big Ten team. Be sure to check out my list of football names who have enrolled early at their Big Ten schools. Also, because it’s never too early to look ahead, I present my 2013 Big Ten Football Power Rankings.

BTN airs a 90-minute “BTN Football Report: Signing Day Special” next Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. ET. The show will break down all of the official Signing Day lists and talks to coaches from around the conference.

Illinois.

1. Defensive backs
2. Receivers
3. Defensive line

The Illini need some playmakers on the edge of the offense to stretch defenses. The defensive line saw Akeem Spence bolt early and Michael Buchanan graduate from what has been a strong unit in recent years. And underrated Glenn Foster also is gone. Corners Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green also have left the building.

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Indiana
1. Defensive line.
2. Linebacker
3. Secondary

The Hoosiers continue to search for playmakers on a defense that still springs too many leaks. Speed and athleticism are priorities at end, as pass rushers are needed. Inside, more big bodies are in demand. Playmakers in the secondary also are in demand, as smarts, positioning and hard work can only take a player so far.

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Iowa
1. Receiver
2. Defensive line
3. Defensive backs

The Hawkeyes never really did adequately replace Marvin McNutt at receiver last season, and the passing game struggled because of it. The Hawkeyes also need some playmakers up front, an aspect that has been missing since Adrian Clayborn left.

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Michigan
1. Receiver
2. Cornerback
3. Defensive line

More difference makers are needed on the edge of the offense. Losing wideout Roy Roundtree only exasperates the matter. The d-line needs to be reinforced, especially with massive William Campbell gone. There is some good young talent at corner, but more is needed.

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Michigan State
1. Running backs
2. Defensive line
3. Linebacker

The Spartans will be starting two seniors at linebacker and two more in the secondary in 2013. So, look for some defensive backs, too. In addition to running backs, expect Michigan State to look for receivers and a quarterback, too.

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Minnesota
1. Linebacker
2. Receivers
3. Cornerbacks

Jerry Kill has decent depth at linebacker, but needs more difference makers. The Gophers lost two good senior cornerbacks from last season. Juice is needed at receiver; A.J. Barker never really was adequately replaced after he quit last season.

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Nebraska
1. Defensive line
2. Offensive line
3. Tight end

Three seniors are gone from last year’s d-line, that got over run at times. Tight ends Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed are gone, leaving big holes. The offensive line figures to start three seniors in 2013. The staff also will be looking for safeties.

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Northwestern
1. Cornerback
2. Running back
3. Offensive line

Without a doubt, cornerback is the biggest priority for Pat Fitzgerald’s crew. Running backs Venric Mark and Mike Trumpy will be seniors next season. Three senior starters are gone from the 2012 offensive line.

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Ohio State
1. Linebacker
2. Receiver
3. Safety

Urban Meyer-led teams are known for having explosive offensive weapons and that was not something Ohio State had a lot of last season and on the roster, as the offense continues to move away from the I-formation days to more of a power spread. The departure of two starters from a linebacker position that was a mess in 2012 is a must. Defensive backs are needed based upon the numbers gone, including Travis Howard and Orhian Johnson.

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Penn State
1. Quarterback
2. Defensive back
3. Linebackers

Linebacker U needs fortifying with Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges gone. And Glenn Carson will be a senior this fall. The staff also wants to bolster the numbers up front on defense. The numbers at quarterback are dangerously low. Look for a few signees.

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Purdue
1. Receivers
2. Defensive line
3. Offensive line

New coach Darrell Hazell has work to do—which is why he has the job. The offense needs more firepower at receiver. And the offensive line was a liability last season and needs fortification. The line needs some pass rushers. Don’t be shocked to see help at running back, too.

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Wisconsin
1. Receiver
2. Defensive back
3. Offensive line

Gary Andersen is looking for playmakers on both sides of the ball. The offense needs some big-play bunch at the receiver slot. The Badgers lost three senior starters from the secondary. And the staff is always looking for depth at o-line, typically an area of strength each season.

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About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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3 Comments

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Mikey on 1/31/2013 @ 3:18pm EDT Said:

Good analysis. Better analysis would include assessment of current commits vs. need.

    BTN.com staff on 1/31/2013 @ 3:40pm EDT Said:

    Thanks, Mikey. As we have every year we’ve been on the air and online, we generally defer to the discussion of specific recruits to the places that track this stuff far more closely, such as Fox Sports’ Scout.com.

huskerred on 2/2/2013 @ 12:44pm EDT Said:

Looks like Nebraska has a few verbal commits that address these areas. The largest concern is the defensive coaching staff. Anyone with one blind eye and that could barely see out the other could see that the two gap is to complicated for the college level with all the other responsibilities that athletes have (such as classes). Go to playing the single gap and put their speed on the field Nebraska will be a force to be reckoned with. Just look at Alabama….