Top 3 position recruiting needs for each Big Ten football team
Signing Day 2017
Signing Day is Feb. 1, and that date is quickly approaching. What exactly are the recruiting needs for each Big Ten school?
Leading up to BTN’s Signing Day Special on the first Wednesday of February, here are the top three position priorities from what I uncovered from those who cover their schools.
Illinois: Defensive end. Offensive line. Receiver.
The Illini lose some big-time defensive ends in Carroll Phillips and Dawuane Smoot. And the offensive line seemingly has been an issue for years, as the best blocker is gone (Joe Spencer).
Indiana: Offensive line. Defensive line. Linebackers.
Games are won in the trenches, and the Hoosiers need some talent up front on both sides of the ball. The offensive line has been a strong spot for several seasons. The linebacking corps has become a strength of late, too. The team also can use a quarterback, along with some wideouts and defensive backs.
Iowa: Receivers. Running backs. Defensive backs.
The Hawkeyes are transitioning coaches at running back and receiver, so that may complicate the acquisition of talent at those spots. Getting good running backs typically isn’t an issue in Iowa City. But getting top-end receivers always is a challenge.
Maryland: Defensive line. Defensive backs. Quarterback.
There has been no bigger surprise in Big Ten recruiting this winter than the Terrapins, who are doing a boffo job under DJ Durkin. Most of his efforts have been focused on defense, where help is needed in the back and front ends. And no program is more starved for top QB play than Maryland. It will be fun to see where Maryland is in two-three years.
Michigan: Offensive line. Receivers. Defensive line.
The bad news: No school is losing more talent than the Wolverines. The good news: No coach is a better recruiter than Jim Harbaugh. The offensive line needs to become more dominant. And the d-line was the team strength last season. Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson leave massive voids at wideout.
Michigan State: Defensive line. Linebackers. Receivers.
This was one of the most underrated linebacking corps in the Big Ten last year. The wideout corps needs more oomph, and it loses R.J. Shelton. The d-line has been the bellwether of this program under Mark Dantonio. Difference-makers are needed. The search for the next great QB continues.
Minnesota: Defensive backs. Receivers. Quarterback.
The Gophers have a nice core of talent. Now, with the arrival of P.J. Fleck, expect that talent level to go even higher. Fleck needs to get more playmakers on offense. And a top QB is needed, too. It will be fun to see what Fleck can do now that he’s selling a Big Ten program. He regularly out recruited Big Ten schools while at Western Michigan.
Nebraska: Receivers, Defensive line. Offensive tackles.
It’s no secret that offensive line play hasn’t been up to par for a few seasons. The unit still needs to improve. The defense is switching to a 3-4 scheme, so the staff will be looking for a different type of defensive lineman. The “Black Shirt” defensive tradition needs to reemerge, as more speed and athletic ability are always needed on that side of the ball.
Northwestern: Safety. Defensive ends. Receivers.
Pat Fitzgerald has done a great job beefing up and enhancing the overall talent and athletic ability to the point where it may be at its highest level ever in Evanston. But there is a need for explosive playmakers at wideout, always hard to come by for schools like Northwestern. And you never can have enough edge rushers.
Ohio State: Secondary. Offensive line. Receivers.
With the departures of DBs Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Malik Hooker, the Buckeyes need reinforcements in the secondary. Given the failure to develop some game-breaking wideouts, that’s an area of need there, too. And offensive line is an issue.
Penn State. Defensive back. Defensive tackle. Linebackers.
James Franklin has recruited at a high level since arriving in State College. He needs to keep the play up front on both sides of the ball at a high level. The interior of the defensive line is a priority this season. Run-stuffers and pocket-pushers are needed. Linebacker U needs its next star, as this is a position that almost recruits itself for Penn State. This was one of the most underrated secondaries in the Big Ten last year. A talent infusion is needed.
Purdue: Receivers. Defensive line. Offensive line.
This roster is talent poor across the board. In fact, it’s the least talented team in the Big Ten, so new coach Jeff Brohm has his work cut out for him. He has had to do a deep dive into the JC ranks for immediate help at wideout and along the lines, which have been atrocious. The secondary also is a major concern that is being addressed via the JC ranks, too.
Rutgers: Receivers. Quarterback. Linebackers.
The real need is team speed and playmakers, regardless of position. This offense struggled in 2016 for big plays, as the lack of difference-makers was evident. And the defense also needs some athletic ability along the front seven. Chris Ash is doing a quietly effective job, as he rehabs a roster that needs a talent infusion.
Wisconsin: Quarterback. Offensive line. Receivers.
The offensive line took a dip during the Gary Andersen regime. Paul Chryst is still trying to recover and bolster a position that has been the bellwether of the program for years. The need for difference-makers at receiver remains prime. Depth and competition are needed at quarterback, an area of specialty for Chryst.
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