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Big Ten Spotlight: Grading the 2022 class

With National Signing Day in the books, we take a look at the teams in the Power Five conferences performed and give each program a grade. Today, we conclude the series with the Big Ten.

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MORE NSD: Grading the ACC classes | Grading the SEC classes | Grading the Big 12 classes | Grading the Pac-12 classes | Biggest stings | Texas A&M wins 2022 recruiting title | The Gorney Awards | Recruiter of the Year | Winners and losers

ONE-ON-ONE COACH INTERVIEWS: Oklahoma's Brent Venables | Rutgers' Greg Schiano | Clemson's Dabo Swinney | Vanderbilt's Clark Lea | Illinois' Bret Bielema | West Virginia's Neal Brown | Virginia's Tony Elliott | Indiana's Tom Allen | Utah's Kyle Whittingham | South Carolina's Shane Beamer | Arizona's Jedd Fisch | Stanford's David Shaw | Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman | Florida State's Mike Norvell | Michigan State's Mel Tucker | Missouri's Eli Drinkwitz

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ILLINOIS (T-9 in Big Ten, T-38 overall) 

Jared Badie
Jared Badie (Rivals.com)

Brett Bielema’s second recruiting class at Illinois may lack elite star power, and the No. 38 class ranking may not seem high at first glance, but it is actually the highest-ranked Illinois class since 2008 and 2009, when the Illini were fresh off of a Rose Bowl appearance. Bielema and staff have made recruiting the state of Illinois a serious priority, and you don't have to look any further than the 11 players inked from the state to see that it is already starting to pay dividends.

While the Illini weren’t able to land any of the highest-ranked prospects from their back yard the groundwork is now in place for that to happen sooner than later. There are a number of three-star players that will likely outplay their ranking, prospects like WR Eian Pugh, ATH Jordan Anderson and DB Malachi Hood, to name a few. High three-star LB Jared Badie could end up being one of the biggest steals in the Big Ten when he reaches his maximum potential.

Grade: B-

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(INDIANA, No. 4 Big Ten, No. 15 overall) 

Omar Cooper Jr.
Omar Cooper Jr. (GoldandBlack.com)

Coming off a 2-10 season when expectations were at an all time high, recruiting could have easily taken a nosedive, but instead the Hoosiers went out and signed what could arguably be their best class ever. Four-star players LB Dasan McCullough and WR Omar Cooper Jr. headline a class that has eight four-star players overall.

The Hoosiers were also able to flip high three-star TE Brodey Foley from Tennessee. He was a great display of the strides that Indiana has made from a perception standpoint on the recruiting trail. Signing three-star DL J’mari Monette out of Louisiana was a great way to cap off the Late Signing Period, and he could very well outplay his star rating.

Grade: A

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IOWA (No. 6 Big Ten, No. 28 overall)

Xavier Nwankpa
Xavier Nwankpa

The Hawkeyes capitalized on the momentum from a 10-win season by landing what many view as their top recruit of all-time, five-star DB Xavier Nwankpa. The Nwankpa pledge a week before signing day made a splash and helped the Hawkeyes close the early period in style as they landed five additional commits on Dec. 15.

The most notable of the group that both committed and signed on the same day was four-star DE Brian Allen Jr, a one-time Illinois commit, and a player who was an Oregon lean up until the final hour. With Iowa RB Tyler Goodson off to the NFL the Hawkeyes were able to hit a home-run by signing four-star RB Kaleb Johnson, who has a chance to do big things early. The class ranks a respectable No. 28 overall and with the track record that Iowa has of developing players it will be fun to see what the coaching staff can do with this talented group.

Grade: B+

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MARYLAND (No. 8 Big Ten, No. 35 overall)

Jaishawn Barham
Jaishawn Barham (Rivals.com)

Maryland had a wild early signing day with seven of its prospects committing within 48 hours of when they could officially ink their NLIs. Class headliner, four-star LB Jaishawn Barham, was a huge signing-day present for the Terrapins as he had been committed to South Carolina up until the last hour.

Four-star ATH Octavian Smith was another signing-day pledge and had previously been committed to Northwestern. The other four-star recruit in the class is QB Cameron Edge. One thing that we learned about the Maryland staff during this cycle is that it has the ability to close when the pressure is on, and had it not this class would have a whole different look.

Grade: B

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MICHIGAN (No. 3 Big Ten, No. 9 overall)

Will Johnson
Will Johnson (Rivals.com)

Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines were riding high after a 12-2 season that resulted in a playoff berth, and they leveraged that success on the recruiting trail by landing the highest-ranked class since 2017. While there is plenty of star power here, the most impressive thing about this class is how strong it is from top to bottom. Five-star DB Will Johnson is an immediate impact player with the size and skill set to play on Sundays.

The Wolverines were able to go into Maryland and flip high four-star DE Derrick Moore after he had been committed to Oklahoma. Four-stars Tyler Morris (WR) and Jimmy Rolder (LB) are two players who were plucked out of Illinois and have very high ceilings. With players from 16 different states, the amount of miles the Michigan staff put in to land a class up to its standards is impressive.

Grade: A

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MICHIGAN STATE (No. 5 Big Ten, No. 22 overall)

Katin Houser
Katin Houser (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Michigan State got a quick return on its investment in Mel Tucker during his second season by going 11-2 and competing for a playoff spot down the stretch. The Spartans' success on the field proved to pay immediate dividends on the recruiting trail as they finished with a class that ranks No. 22 overall.

The crazy thing about this class is that it is probably underrated and is filled with prospects that have future NFL frames. Four-star QB Katin Houser, a former Boise State commit, comes in as the highest-ranked player and should provide immediate depth behind center. Four-stars Alex VanSumeren (DT), Jaden Mangham (ATH) and Dillon Tatum (DB) were big in-state recruiting wins with Michigan offers and are players that Michigan State may have not landed prior to Tucker’s arrival. Watch out for three-star DE Chase Carter out of Minnesota as he could be a serious sleeper and has next-level potential.

Grade: A-

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MINNESOTA (No. 13 Big Ten, No. 49 overall)

Anthony Smith
Anthony Smith (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Like many other classes in the 2022 cycle, the Minnesota class is also on the smaller side due to the Gophers targeting eight players from the transfer portal. This class ranks No. 49 overall, which is a slight drop from what we have seen in the previous Minnesota classes, but it's solid from top to bottom and has a couple of highly ranked players.

Four-star DEs Trey Bixby and Anthony Smith headline the class and are sure to continue the impressive defensive line play we saw from the Gophers this past season. Three-star running back Zach Evans is a dynamic player when the ball is in his hands and he was in the four-star discussion. PJ Fleck and staff were also able to flip high three-star OL Cade McConnell, a longtime TCU commit, leading into signing day.

Grade: C+

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NEBRASKA (T-9 Big Ten, T-38 overall)

Anthony Grant
Anthony Grant

Nebraska was forced to go heavy on the transfer portal due to Scott Frost's desire to win now. So, this recruiting class ranking doesn’t tell the whole story of what the Huskers have coming in. Among the bright spots are veteran players from the junior college ranks that will look to make an immediate impact. Four-star RB Anthony Grant and talented three-star DBs Javier Morton and DeShon Singleton could easily outplay their ranking.

The high school headliner of the class is four-star DB Jaeden Gould, who was a national recruit that committed the day before he could sign. The Nebraska staff was also able to flip four-star Georgia Tech commit WR Janiran Bonner, and he has a chance to make an immediate impact. Three-star DB Jalil Martin out of Chicago Kenwood Academy is a player with a ton of upside and NFL potential.

Grade: C+

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NORTHWESTERN (No. 14 Big Ten, No. 54 overall)

Reggie Fleurima
Reggie Fleurima (Josh Helmholdt / Rivals)

There are two things that we know when it comes to recruiting at Northwestern: The Wildcats have the most stringent admissions standards of any team in the Big Ten, and Pat Fitzgerald will find a way to win while getting the most out of his talent. While the overall ranking follows the trend of being hurt by the limited number of players signed, it still hovers in that No. 50 range that Wildcats fans are used to seeing. Four-star WR Reggie Fleurima was highly recruited and is physically ready to play and make an impact the second he steps on the field this fall.

Four-star DE Anto Saka, a freakish combination of size and athleticism, had over 30 offers and will likely make an early impact. In-state three-star OL Deuce McGuire is a very good player who could outplay his ranking. Watch out for the potential class sleeper in two-star QB Jack Lausch out of Chicago Brother Rice. The kid can flat out ball and is a proven winner.

Grade: C+

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OHIO STATE (No. 1 Big Ten, No. 4 overall)

Alex Styles
Alex Styles (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

The Buckeyes started fast and closed strong en route to their third straight Big Ten recruiting title. The thing that stands out most about the 2022 class is its overall strength from top to bottom, along with a healthy mix of immediate impact players like five-star LB CJ Hicks and five-star ATH Alex Styles, as well as developmental players with a very high ceiling, like three-star OL Avery Henry.

While the Buckeyes didn’t necessarily own the Buckeye State, they were able to land the majority of their top targets from Ohio and were also able to steal players who were ranked in the top three in other states in four-star QB Devin Brown (Utah), four-star OL Carson Hinzman (Wisconsin), four-star WR Kyion Grayes (Arizona), four-star Kaleb Brown (Illinois), four-star Caden Curry (Indiana) and four-star OL George Fitzpatrick (Colorado). Ohio State also finishes as one of three classes to have an average star ranking of four or higher.

Grade: A

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PENN STATE (No. 2 Big Ten, No. 6 overall)

Dani Dennis-Sutton
Dani Dennis-Sutton (Rivals.com)

Penn State put in some serious work on the recruiting trail this year and finished with its highest-ranked class since 2018. With 25 prospects, the class is big on both numbers and star power. Five-star DE Dani Dennis-Sutton headlines a class that has an impressive 16 players ranked four stars or higher.

The Nittany Lions lost four-star DE Enai White to Texas A&M, but they still signed five of the top six players from their home state and owned Pennsylvania as a whole. Four-star QB Drew Allar comes in with big-time accolades, has all of the tools to be a phenom and he is probably under-rated as a four-star. There are difference-makers here from top to bottom, and the future of Penn State football looks to be in good hands.

Grade: A

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PURDUE (No. 7 Big Ten, No. 32 overall)

Brady Allen
Brady Allen (Nick Lucero / Rivals)

The Boilermakers' class comes in at No. 32 overall, and that is a drastic improvement over last year’s class that finished No. 72. Purdue hit a home run by signing extremely talented and productive four-star QB Brady Allen from within the state. Four-star DE Joe Strickland out of Indianapolis was another big in-state win as he had over 20 offers and has a chance to be a difference-maker in West Lafayette.

The Purdue staff hit Texas to land four-star DE Nic Caraway, who is an athletic big man and received rave reviews for his play at the All-American Bowl. There are a number of three-star players, like DT Mariere Omonode, that could outplay their ranking as well. Omonode lacks prototypical size, which led to him being a tad underrecruited, but when you turn on the film you see an impressive player in the mold of Aaron Donald.

Grade: B

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RUTGERS (No. 11 Big Ten, No. 43 overall)

Samuel Brown
Samuel Brown (Rivals.com)

The Rutgers class may only rank No. 43 overall, but when you take a deep dive there is a lot of star power and NFL upside here. An impressive one third of the 18 players signed by the Scarlet Knights are four-star players.

That vaulted their average star rating to 3.33, which was good for fourth best in the Big Ten. Four-stars Anthony Johnson (LB), Samuel Brown (RB) and Jacob Allen (OL) were all highly coveted national recruits that will have a chance to contribute early. Four-star WR Amarion Brown has serious upside and gives Rutgers a long receiver that can stretch the field. This class was on the smaller side as the Rutgers staff looked to the transfer portal for some immediate fixes, which led to the lower ranking. But there is still a lot to be excited about here.

Grade: B

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WISCONSIN (No. 12 Big Ten, No. 46 overall)

Joe Brunner
Joe Brunner

Wisconsin’s No. 46-ranked class is a seismic drop-off from the previous year’s class, which ranked No. 14 overall. But this ranking is more about the size of the class than the quality of the class as a whole. The thing that really stung the Badgers in this recruiting cycle was their inability to close on the top in-state recruits, and the Wisconsin program has typically had a border around the state.

The Badger program is known for developing and getting the most out of its talent, but it simply cannot afford to lose multiple top-five, in-state players if it wants to compete for Big Ten titles. It wasn’t all bad, however, as the class makes up for the lack of star power with a group of players that have a ton of upside. The Badgers were able to keep the top in-state player, four-star OL Joe Brunner, home and he is a guy that you will likely be watching on Sundays down the road. Three-star OL Barrett Nelson is a Wisconsin legacy with the size and raw talent to become a dominant Big Ten offensive lineman. Three-stars Austin Brown (DB), Isaac Hamm (DE), Aidan Vaughan (LB) and Chris Brooks Jr. (WR) are just a few of the players that will likely outplay their ranking.

Grade: C+

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