Big Ten Spotlight: Highlights, predictions for 2023 recruiting class
As recruiting classes begin to take shape across the country ahead of a busy summer of official visits, now is a great time to take a look at how the Big Ten is faring heading into the thick of the cycle. Take a look at some of the highlights and a few predictions for the Big Ten's 2023 recruiting rankings.
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info for 2022 series
SURPRISE SO FAR: Michigan State
It may be a stretch to say that Michigan State's recruiting in the 2023 class comes as a huge surprise when you consider the trajectory of the Spartan program under Mel Tucker. However, when you look at historical Big Ten and national recruiting rankings on paper, the job Michigan State has done to date with its 2023 class puts it on pace to potentially have one of its best recruiting classes ever.
The Spartans currently rank No. 16 overall, No. 3 in the Big Ten and with only six commits their class is just getting started. Should they hold on to their No. 16 ranking nationally, it would tie for their highest rated class since 2004 and only be the third time since 2002 that the Spartans cracked the top 20 of the Rivals recruiting rankings. With a 3.5 star average player ranking the Spartan's appear to be going for quality over getting recruits in the boat early, and when the commits start tallying up, there is no limit to how high they can finish.
MOST IMPORTANT COMMIT SO FAR: Rickie Collins
I could have easily gone with Luke Montgomery's commitment to Ohio State here as he is the top commit for the program that typically leads the 2023 Big Ten recruiting rankings, but I am going to pivot and go with Baton Rouge (La.) Woodlawn dual-threat quarterback Rickie Collins who is currently committed to Purdue. Collins was a must-get target for a Purdue team that currently has two commits and ranks No. 11 in the 2023 Big Ten recruiting rankings.
While holding onto Collins through signing day may be just as hard as it was for Purdue to land his commitment in the first place, the Boilermakers currently have their quarterback of the future locked in. With the dual-threat quarterback's commitment, Purdue currently has one of the top rated players at arguably the most important position in the game. His mere presence on their commitment list should also go a long way toward landing some other big-time offensive skill players as well.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Iowa
There are a few Big Ten programs that could fit this category as Minnesota and Northwestern are racking up early commits, and Nebraska has been making moves as well. I find the potential of Iowa's class to be the most intriguing of programs currently not ranked in the Big Ten's top four. The Hawkeyes currently have seven commits with one of them being a four-star in quarterback Marco Lainez. The other six commits are currently three-star players with three of them having a Rivals Ranking of 5.7 which is borderline four-star territory.
Iowa is known as a developmental program more so than a team loaded with five-star recruits, but that also seems to be changing as the Hawkeyes landed five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa in the 2022 class. Nwankpa also happens to have a former high school teammate in five-star offensive lineman Kadyn Proctor who could very likely end up at Iowa as well. Should Iowa land Proctor and squeeze in a couple more four-star players, this could be one of its better recruiting classes in recent history.
NEED TO STEP IT UP: Maryland
Maryland currently ranks dead last in the Big Ten and No. 70 overall in 2023 recruiting rankings. While it is easy to pick the last-place team as the team that needs to step it up, I chose the Terrapins because of my faith in them doing so. They are located in the talent-rich DMV area, are in on some impressive players and showed their ability to close late on an impressive group of recruits during the 2022 recruiting cycle.
One of the main reasons Maryland currently ranks last in the Big Ten is due to only having two commitments as of today. I don't know if I am ready to push the panic button on its 2023 class, but things certainly need to pick up if it even hopes to replicate their 2021 and 2022 classes, which finished No. 5 and No. 8 in the Big Ten respectively. The Terrapins won seven games for the first time since 2014 this past season and one would think that they would capitalize on the momentum to finish with one of their better classes to date in 2023.
MY PREDICTION FOR THE TOP THREE BIG TEN CLASSES
1. Ohio State
2. Penn State
Ohio State is rolling in 2023 and I don't see the Buckeyes slowing down anytime soon. They have largely been the class of the Big Ten on the field in recent years and have only failed to finish with the top recruiting class in the conference one time in the past decade. They currently rank No. 2 in the conference, No. 5 in the nation and have a legitimate shot at signing the nation's top-ranked class.
Penn State currently sits atop the Big Ten rankings and as of now appear to be the one program that has any chance at finishing above Ohio State. After finishing No. 2 in the conference and No. 7 overall during the 2022 recruiting cycle, it would appear that the Nittany Lions are looking to one up last year's banner class. We all know that James Franklin can recruit and it looks as though Penn State is only building on its recruiting momentum. While it isn't entirely out of the question for another Big Ten team to make jump into the top two, it seems unlikely that another program will vault over the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions.
Michigan State currently sits at No. 3 in the conference and although it may seem like a copout to have the current top three as the final top three, I see the Big Ten race shaping out similar to how we see it right now, with the one exception being Ohio State finishing No. 1. All that being said, the No. 3 spot is a lot less set in stone for me than the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. Michigan continues to recruit strongly and Iowa is right on its tail. Nebraska and Minnesota are two other teams that are picking up some momentum and could put themselves in position for a top three finish as well.