Big Ten Blitz: Big names still on the board
It's been a busy week for new Michigan head coach Brady Hoke but a productive one. Can the Wolverines keep it going and reel in Rivals250 prospect Chris Bryant before Signing Day?
We break down recruiting in the Big Ten as National Signing Day nears in a special edition of the Big Ten Blitz.
With several recruits that were expected to sign with Indiana no longer committed to the Hoosiers there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this class just before Signing Day. IU would probably like to add two more offensive linemen and one or two defensive linemen in these last couple of weeks. The Hoosiers lead for offensive lineman Mike McQueen and he will officially visit this weekend. There's a good chance he will commit. Gregory Lewis is another prospect Indiana is high on. The Hoosiers have a good shot at him but he might not commit until after Signing Day. Bobby Richardson out of Tampa (Fla.) Plant might be the defensive tackle they are looking for, and he will also be in town over the weekend. Four-star athlete Raymon Taylor recently flipped from Indiana to Michigan and that's a big blow, but the Hoosiers believe they found a sleeper replacement in Louisiana cornerback Michael Hunter.
The biggest name left on the Iowa board by far is Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, the nation's No. 4 overall player. Kouandjio visited Iowa this past weekend and he had a good trip being hosted by friend and former teammate Marcus Coker. Most still feel he is a strong Alabama lean where his brother, Arie Kouandjio, just finished his freshman season. Iowa is also in the hunt for Kouandjio's teammates, Jordan Lomax (Virginia commitment) and Darian Cooper. Four-star running back Remound Wright, a Stanford commitment, is another big name left on the board and he will visit this upcoming weekend. With Iowa's success with big backs, there is a good chance Wright will flip.
It's been a busy week for new Michigan head coach Brady Hoke but a productive one. The Wolverines added defensive help over the weekend by adding defensive end Keith Heitzman and cornerback Raymon Taylor and continued that with a commitment from linebacker Antonio Poole on Tuesday. But the biggest defensive get was the affirmation of the commitment of four-star cornerback Blake Countess who was torn between Penn State and the Wolverines. On the offensive side of things quarterback Russell Bellomy flipped from Purdue and Michigan is in the mix for two top offensive linemen in Chris Bryant who will decide Friday and Penn State commitment Ryan Nowicki who could visit this weekend.
The Spartans are almost done with a strong class but still have a couple of needs to fill, mainly one more defensive tackle in this class. It looks like it will come down to which tackle, either Darian Cooper from Maryland or Marquise Wright, jumps first. Cooper is down to MSU and Iowa with Michigan sliding into the picture late while Wright has narrowed things down to Rutgers and Michigan State with Pitt and Miami still slightly in the picture. If they strike out on both, it's unlikely they will reach on anyone else at the position. Michigan State is also in the mix for offensive lineman Jacob Fisher who has one visit left to Oregon this upcoming weekend and the former Michigan commitment would be a huge get for the Spartans over the Wolverines, Ducks and Florida Gators. Distance could become a factor which could bode well for the two locals.
Jerry Kill didn't have a lot of time to assemble his first recruiting class at Minnesota but he's making the most of the hand he was dealt. It appears as though the Gophers are going to be able to hold onto just about everyone that is still committed. Three-star Texas cornerback Lloyd Carrington will be visiting Minnesota and Pitt in the days ahead. Expect a decision from him shortly after that. He's one of the Gophers' top remaining targets, along with fellow Texan and defensive end Michael Amaefula. He'll visit Minnesota this weekend and there's a good chance he commits. Kill's staff would love to flip Louisiana safety Cortez Johnson from Southern Miss. Like Carrington, Johnson will visit Minnesota and Pitt in the coming days. Wide receiver Chris Briggs is another major target that will be visiting Minnesota this weekend. The Gophers have room to bring a lot of guys on board late. The question is whether Kill will load up in this class or save scholarships for next year when he will have more time to recruit.
Northwestern has been having a lot of fun at Cincinnati's expense lately. The Wildcats' most recent commitment came from Deonte Gibson, a former Pitt pledge who chose them over the Bearcats. Just prior to that, news broke that outside linebacker and Cincinnati commitment Andrew Smith had flipped to NU. Last week the Wildcats picked up a verbal from talented California running back Jordan Perkins. Northwestern may have one scholarship to work with but no more than that. If they take anyone else it will probably be running back Tevin Williams out of Texas. Williams was once a very highly regarded recruit, but since an ACL injury most schools have backed off. He's a high risk, high reward kind of guy, and if the Wildcats target another position it will probably be running back.
Ohio State only has room for roughly three players in this class and they hope the trio is five-star linebacker Curtis Grant from Virginia, wide receiver Ja'Juan Story from Florida and offensive lineman Aundrey Walker from Ohio. Grant is considered to be an Ohio State lean heading into his last official visit with North Carolina this weekend, many feel that Story will flip from Florida to the Buckeyes by Signing Day and it would be a bit of a surprise if Walker ended up anyplace but Ohio State despite rumors that he is seriously thinking about re-locating to USC or FSU. Maryland athlete Darius Jennings is also in the mix and Ohio State would likely make room if they hit on all four, but many feel Jennings will end up at Wake Forest or Virginia. Finally, there have been rumors about Ohio State signing quarterback Cardale Jones and grayshirting him so keep an eye on that.
The Nittany Lions are pretty much done with the class of 2011 with 15 commitments, but they would still take a cornerback or a defensive tackle if a talented one appeared interested. Penn State lost out in their efforts to lure Michigan cornerback commitment Blake Countess on Tuesday night and have since shown some interest in Maryland safety Adrian Amos who could perhaps be a big corner in college, but it is not clear how hard they are pursuing him. Amos recently visited West Virginia and has Vanderbilt this weekend. Penn State backed off defensive tackle Darian Cooper and never got back involved with former defensive tackle target Marquise Wright as neither fit what they want.
This will be a small class for the Boilermakers but it appears as though they might still be looking for a little help at defensive end. There's a greater need at that position than any other. Tevin Westbrook is a guy Purdue would love to add but they have some stiff competition. Westbrook has visited North Carolina and South Florida in recent weeks but he claims no leader. The recent additions of linebacker Armstead Williams, wide receiver Raheem Mostert and athlete Frankie Williams gave this class a nice late boost. Losing quarterback Russell Bellomy to Michigan so late in the game was tough. It doesn't appear as though Purdue is going to take another quarterback just for the sake of it, so expect them to make the position a big priority in next year's class.
The Badgers would love to secure a commitment from quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The four-star prospect has been high on their board for a long time. Florida, Washington and Miami are the other schools in contention there. His teammate, four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt, is also seriously considering Wisconsin. If the Badgers could add those two they would be thrilled. Wisconsin feels good about Brissett but there may be some pressure to stay closer to home when decision time actually arrives. They probably aren't in quite as strong of a position with Maggitt. Aundrey Walker will take an official visit to Wisconsin but it's tough to see him ending up anywhere other than Ohio State. Spencer Region is slated to visit and his recruitment has seen plenty of twists and turns. It doesn't seem like he will end up at UW either.