Now, it’s time to take a look at what happen amid a Signing Day frenzy, with schools stocking their rosters for the future. Here’s a spin around Big Ten Signing Day 2013.
TOP CLASS: Ohio State
The Buckeyes inked a boffo class on the heels of last year’s impressive haul, with defense being an emphasis. In fact, no Big Ten school signed more defensive players than the Buckeyes’ 15. And OSU inked the top collection of defensive backs in the nation, according to Scout.com. Ohio State’s collection of talent is headlined by LB Mike Mitchell, who joins RB Dontre Wilson as top talents from Texas. Wilson was a last-minute get who was headed to Oregon. WR Jalin Marshall and DE Joey Bosa also are highly regarded. Urban Meyer has pushed the Buckeyes deep into Florida, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman is opening doors in Texas.
BEST OF THE REST: Michigan
Michigan was right on the heels of Ohio State, signing more players than any Big Ten school (27). The cream of the class is the guy who committed last: Derrick Green, a 5-11, 220-pound smasher with speed from Richmond, Va., who is considered the top running back in the nation by Scout.com. Green picked Michigan over Auburn and Tennessee and solves a gnawing need at running back for the Wolverines. Touted QB Shane Morris was the first commit and played a big role as a recruiter along the way. The other top catches are S Dymonte Thomas and G Patrick Kugler, as Michigan signed the top collection of offensive linemen and top group of running backs in the nation, according to Scout.com.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Penn State
Because of the NCAA sanctions because of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Bill O’Brien and the Nittany Lions assembled the smallest class in the league (17). But it’s a strong class that is anchored by a total of six linemen on both sides of the ball. O’Brien hung on to early commitments from Christian Hackenberg (the No. 2 QB in the nation) and TE Adam Breneman (the No. 2 tight end in the nation). OLB Zayd Issah and DE Garrett Sickels also come with fat scrapbooks. Keep an eye on DE Curtis Cothran, who could be a real sleeper. The departure of defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who is well-connected in the south, didn’t have an impact that some may have anticipated. This class will be bolstered by at least 20 walk-ons—or, as O’Brien likes to call them, “run-ons.” Whatever.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, No. 2: Wisconsin.
New coach Gary Andersen got off to a slow start upon arriving in Madison from Utah State in late-December. And RB Alex Collins, who some think is the top running back in the nation, opted to join Bret Bielema in Arkansas. But Andersen made up some ground and finished with a strong collection of talent, highlighted by a late commitment from top JC QB Tanner McEvoy, who picked the Badgers over Florida. RB Corey Clement comes highly touted, as do DE Chikwe Obasih, WR Rob Wheelwright and FB Austin Ramesh. Andersen signed one of the best collections of running backs in the nation.
THE RISING: Indiana
Kevin Wilson’s third class is a nice one and shows that he is breathing life into the program. The Hoosiers beat the likes of Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Tennessee for players in this class. The top gets: S Antonio Allen; DT Darius Latham; TE Danny Friend; DE David Kenney. The future in Bloomington is bright. Latham is a true stud who could be a force on the interior of the line for a class that is heavy (12) on defensive help. Wilson signed one of the country’s top sets of running backs, with four coming on board.
THE UNKNOWN: Iowa
Coming off the program’s worst season since 2000, it’s difficult to get a read on this class. There are no five- or four-star players in a class that is heavy on offensive players. In fact, only one Big Ten school signed more than Iowa’s 12. (Michigan has 15.) It’s a good thing, too, because the Hawkeyes struggled mightily on that side of the ball in 2012. Colin Goebel and Sean Welsh are building blocks for the offensive line. TE Jon Wisnieski may be the best prospect for a program that traditionally churns out top tight ends. Solomon Warfield and Malik Rucker could be special safeties. JC WR Damond Powell needs to impact now for what largely was a flightless passing game in 2012.
THE DISAPPOINTMENT: Minnesota
Coming off their first bowl since 2009 and entering their third season under Jerry Kill, a last-place finish in Big Ten recruiting ranks is a bit of a disappointment. The fact this was a small class played a role in that low ranking. But just know this: Kill never signed top classes at Northern Illinois, and that program just went to the Orange Bowl with a core of players he recruited. Berkley Edwards, the brother of Jets receiver Braylon, is a strong, speedy running back who can help right away. Chris Streveler is a dual-threat quarterback with skills. Nate Wozniak is one of the nation’s biggest tight ends, at 6-9.
THE CONTENDER: Nebraska
Bo Pelini and company did a good job, bringing in a big class (26) that lacks a superstar but has a lot of high-quality signees. There’s a strong collection of players on defense, paced by DT Maliek Collins, DE A.J. Natter, OLB Josh Banderas, and S D.J. Singleton of Jersey City, N.J. The offense welcomes two touted running backs in Adam Taylor of Katy, Texas, and Terrell Newby of West Hills, Calif. Johnny Stanton is a ballyhooed quarterback from Santa Margarita, Calif. JC transfers Randy Gregory (DE) and Matt Finnin (OT) will help right now in the trenches. Only one school (Illinois with five) signed more JC players than Nebraska’s three.
THE BIG CLASS: Illinois
Despite coming off a 2-10 season (0-8 in the Big Ten), Illinois still reeled in an impressive 25-man class in Tim Beckman’s second season in Champaign. And the group includes 10 early enrollees (five junior-college transfers and five prep players). The star catch is QB Aaron Bailey, a four-star gem from Bolingbrook, Ill., who committed back in April. The staff also is excited about CB Caleb Day. It hurt to lose LB Reggie Spearman to Iowa in the 11th hour.
TOP PLAYERS BY POSITION
Top QB: Christian Hackenberg, Fork Union, Va.—Penn State
Top RB: Derrick Green, Richmond, Va.—Michigan
Top FB: Wyatt Shallman, Novi, Mich.–Michigan
Top WR: Jalin Marshall, Middletown, Ohio—Ohio State
Top TE: Adam Breneman, Camp Hill, Pa.—Penn State
Top G: Patrick Kugler, Wexford, Pa.—Michigan
Top OT: Kyle Bosch, Wheaton, Ill.—Michigan
Top DE: Joey Bosa, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.—Ohio State
Top linebacker: Mike Mitchell, Plano, Texas—Ohio State
Top S: Dymonte Thomas, Alliance, Ohio—Michigan
Top CB: Jourdan Lewis, Detroit–Michigan
Top K: Ryan Santoso, Pace, Fla.—Minnesota
Top P: Johnny Townsend, Orlando, Fla.—Ohio State*
* — Denotes player who has yet to officially sign National Letter of Intent
TOP SCHOOLS BY POSITION
1. Penn State
1. Ohio State
1. Ohio State
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
1. Ohio State
NOTES: Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy began his career at South Carolina before transferring to a JC. He will have three years of eligibility. The Badgers also signed TE T.J. Watt, the younger brother of former Badger and current NFL star J.J. Watt and current Badger Derek Watt. … Minnesota RB Berkley Edwards is the brother of former Michigan star Braylon Edwards and son of former NFLer Stan Edwards. Berkeley is short, compact and very fast. Look for him to help right now. … Purdue signed Keith Byars, III, the son of the former Ohio State running back, in addition to Jake Replogle, the first of the four Replogle boys not to play at Indiana. … Illinois inked just three players from the Chicagoland area in QB Aaron Bailey, DT Bryce Douglas and DB Jaylen Dunlap. Illinois was stung late by the de-commitment of LB Reggie Spearmen, who opted for Iowa. … Michigan continued to stock an offensive line that lacked numbers and talent when Brady Hoke took over. The big fellas must excel as the team shifts to a pro-style attack that features down-field passing and power running … Ohio State DE Joey Bosa is the nephew of former Buckeye Erik Kumerow. … Penn State has five early enrollees, which is good. Why? Under NCAA rules, early enrollees do not count toward the incoming recruiting class, as Bill O’Brien faced the first season with scholarship restrictions because of NCAA sanctions. So, these commits don’t count toward the 2013 class limit of 15 scholarships. … Ohio State and Michigan each inked four, five-star Scout.com players. Penn State landed two. No other Big Ten school landed any. … The only schools that failed to land a Scout.com four-star were Iowa and Minnesota. … Iowa had a four-star commit in David Kenney, a defensive end from Indianapolis. Alas, Kenney’s dad got a job in football administration with the Hoosiers. So, well, you know, David Kenney committed to Indiana. … New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell kept most of the commitments of former coach Danny Hope. And none was bigger than four-star quarterback Danny Etling. Also, Hazell landed a talented crop of running backs.