football Edit

Big Ten Blitz: Looking to close strong

The Ohio State Buckeyes currently sit outside of the national top 20 in the team recruiting rankings, but could be in line for a big boost as they remain in the mix for five-star prospects Seantrel Henderson, Jordan Hicks and Latwan Anderson.
We break down recruiting in the Big Ten and Notre Dame as National Signing Day nears in a special edition of the Big Ten Blitz.
Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin
Notre Dame
Indiana's highest rated commitment, Andre Kates, could end up elsewhere on Signing Day. The three-star JUCO cornerback out of Brooklyn, N.Y., has visited Oregon Sate and New Mexico, and will also check out the Miami Hurricanes this weekend. The Hoosiers have a chance at adding three-star running back Miles Simpson to the class. He will choose between Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Indiana needed to sign a big defensive class, and 14 of their 25 current commitments project to play on defense.
The Hawkeyes are just about done, with 20 commitments expected to sign next Wednesday. The most recent commitment came last weekend from Lorain, Ohio, running back Anthony Hitchens. Iowa could add quarterback Mark Alt as a grey-shirt, the son of former Iowa great John Alt. Mark Alt would have been a more heavily recruited prospect, but he is also a top hockey prospect. In fact, the NHL draft and a pro hockey career is a distinct possibility. Linebacker was a big need in this class, and the Hawkeyes filled the void nicely with pledges from Austin Gray, James Morris, and Jim Poggi. Three-star athlete Christian Kirksey is also a standout linebacker, and Rivals250 prospect A.J. Derby can fill that need as well.
Michigan is closing strong again. This month, the Wolverines have bolstered their defensive haul with a trio of solid Ohio prospects - OLB Davion Rogers, ILB Jake Ryan, and DE Jibreel Black. Rogers is a former West Virginia commit, Black is a former Indiana commit. Michigan is on the outside looking in for Demar Dorsey, but they have a good shot at landing safety Sean Parker and cornerback Rashad Knight - a pair of four-star prospects from California and Florida, respectively. Those commitments would guarantee a top three class in the Big Ten, and likely a top-20 class in the nation.
Michigan State
The Spartans are set to sign another solid class, led by five-star defensive end prospect William Gholston - the No. 1 prospect in Michigan. Currently, Michigan State stands at No. 24 in the team recruiting rankings. They hope to close with Mike Dorsey and Rashad Frazier. Dorsey visited East Lansing on Jan. 15, and West Virginia the following week. The Spartans staff will have an in-home visit with Rashad Frazier later this week. Another top Ohio prospect, Eric Franklin, remains on Michigan State's radar. Franklin could help the Spartans finish with one of the Big Ten's better classes.
When Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's star Earnest Thomas decommitted from UCLA earlier this month, the Gophers quickly got into the mix. Minnesota hosted the three-star prospect for an official visit last weekend. Thomas brought much of his family, and enjoyed the visit. He will check out Illinois and Wisconsin this weekend, and make a decision around Signing Day. The Gophers also have a shot at landing Southlake (Texas) Carroll defensive end Ben Perry.
The Wildcats landed three-star running back Adonis Smith last weekend. The San Mateo (Calif.) Junipero Serra star was previously committed to Washington State. Smith fills a major need in this class. He is the only running back commitment so far. Smith is Northwestern's third commitment this month, following Venric Mark and Kain Colter. The Wildcats' 17 commitments come from 10 states.
Ohio State
The Buckeyes picked up a huge commitment from Rivals250 prospect Christian Bryant on Tuesday, which moved Ohio State into the top 25 team recruiting rankings. Ohio State does not have much room left in the class, but the Buckeyes have an opportunity to close out big with a commitment from Seantrel Henderson. Five-star Jordan Hicks has been keeping things quiet, and has had his eyes set on Texas and Florida for some time. However, OSU is still holding out hope for the five-star linebacker. Bryant's five-star teammate, Latwan Anderson, would listen to Ohio State if they re-approached him next week with a scholarship opening. Four-star tackle Matt James also remains a possibility for the Buckeyes.
Penn State
The Nittany Lions are just about done in the class of 2010. Despite having just 18 commitments, Penn State is sitting at ninth in the team recruiting rankings. Their 3.76 star average per commitment is tied for fourth in the nation. This class could reach 20 commitments with pledges from four-star DT Mike Thornton and three-star defensive back Shyquawn Pullium. Unless Ohio State finds a way to land Henderson, Hicks, and maybe even Anderson, the Nittany Lions will land the Big Ten's best recruiting class on National Signing Day.
Three-star defensive end Bruce Gaston Jr. committed to Purdue on Tuesday night, giving the Boilermakers two of Illinois' top 10 players for the first time since Rivals.com started compiling state rankings in 2003. The 6-foot-2, 290 pound prospect from Chicago St. Rita High School chose Purdue over Boston College, Michigan State and Wisconsin among others. Purdue also added an under-the-radar cornerback from Miami (Fla.) Monsignor Pace, Normondo Harris. The Boilermakers have room to take a few more players. Middletown, Ohio, defensive end Rashad Frazier visited earlier this month, and has yet to make a decision. Look for Purdue to add another under-the radar prospect from fertile recruiting areas in Texas or Florida.
With Bruce Gaston's commitment to Purdue, the Badgers will shift their focus to Weston (Fla.) product Joe McNamara to round out a group of defensive tackle commits that includes Beau Allen and Bryce Gilbert. Former UCLA commitment Earnest Thomas is visiting Wisconsin this weekend. In addition, Wisconsin has recently offered Rashad Frazier, a fast-rising defensive end from Middletown, Ohio. They hope to get him on campus this weekend as well. The Badgers filled their needs at safety with commitments from Michael Trotter and Frank Tamakloe.
Notre Dame (Independent)
Former Irish pledge Blake Lueders switched his commitment to Stanford. Another four-star prospect, Giovanni Bernard, is no longer a Notre Dame commit either. To make matters worse, Notre Dame legacy Anthony Barr picked UCLA last week. A class that looked like a top-10 contender just two weeks ago is now at No. 21 in the team recruiting rankings. However, the Irish do have a chance to close strong. ND will have five official visitors on campus this weekend: Rivals100 tackle Matt James, four-star athlete Danny Spond, and three-star prospects Jeremy Ioane, Luke Massa, and Derek Roback. The Irish still have a shot at five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, and are making a late push for Rivals100 defensive end J.R. Ferguson. Signing Day should be pretty crazy in South Bend, with the new staff brining new recruiting targets into play while trying to hold on to the early commitments.