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Big Ten Spotlight: Top remaining 2019 targets for each team

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

David Bell
David Bell (Nick Lucero/

The opening of the Early Signing Period is just three months away, which means it is crunch time for programs across the country. In the Big Ten there are schools looking to put finishing touches on their classes, while others need to kick it in gear to sign respectable numbers. This week we look throughout the conference and identify the top target remaining for each program.

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There are several big commitments in this 2019 class already for Illinois, but with only 10 signed up the room to add more bodies is there. Defensive line is a position the Illini need to address with their remaining spots, and St. Louis is the pipeline they want to keep flowing to Champaign. Okpala fulfills both of those desires, and would be a big piece to this class. The Nigerian émigré is relatively new to the game of football, but he has star power if he fully meets his potential. Lovie Smith and his staff are hoping that takes place in Champaign, but with no official visits scheduled it seems Okpala is still a long way from a decision.


Bell is the top-ranked player in Indiana’s home state and plays a position the Hoosiers are working very hard to add bodies for in this 2019 class. Bell included the Hoosiers in a top five he released last June and he has been told by the staff he is its top target in 2019. The good news for Indiana is it is likely to get one of his last official visits, as Bell is saving trips to Bloomington and Iowa City for after the season. Official visits to Purdue and Penn State have already been scheduled, with an official visit to Ohio State in the works this season as well.


We are going back-to-back with the four-star from Indianapolis, who has a top five that consists entirely of Big Ten programs. Bell was just in Iowa City this weekend for a preview of his official visit, which is expected to take place in December. Iowa has needs for a playmaker at the wide receiver position to complement the consistency the Hawkeyes have been producing defensively. Bell could fill that role and give Kirk Ferentz that big-play guy at receiver he has not had in recent years. Which Big Ten program Bell chooses, though, will not be known until December.


Just holding onto the prospects currently committed in this 2019 class is priority No. 1 for a Maryland team that is still in-flux as it awaits word on the direction the school will go with head coach D.J. Durkin on suspension. Trying to add to the 2019 class when there is so much uncertainty about the future is even more difficult, and several prospects who had the Terrapins high on their lists have already eliminated the program from consideration. Boateng is among the few remaining legitimate targets until the head coach position gets figured out.


The Wolverines just landed safety Daxton Hill, giving them two five-stars already in this 2019 class, and they may not be done in the five-star department. They continue to be major players for five-star athlete Quavaris Crouch and five-star defensive end Zach Harrison. We go with Harrison here for several reasons. First, the Wolverines will likely lose both starting defensive ends after this season. Second, let’s also not discount what a coup going into rival Ohio State’s backyard and taking the No. 1 player in the region from the Buckeyes would be for Jim Harbaugh.


The strong Michigan State classes of recent years have been built on a foundation of in-state talent, and this 2019 class is following the same blueprint. Half of the Spartans' class lives within their home-state borders, including all three of their four-star commitments. Robinson has a similar skill set to Michigan State’s two defensive end commitments already in the class, but he is a talented prospect whose stock is on the rise and would bolster the talent at that position. Colorado appears to be Michigan State’s top competition right now, but Robinson will take his official visit to East Lansing next month.


Minnesota’s 23 commitments tie it with Michigan for the most in the Big Ten. The Gophers have multiple quarterbacks, a whole mess of defensive linemen, kickers and even long snappers committed for 2019. The Gophers could call it quits right now and be satisfied, but if an option comes along that is the right add to the class, P.J. Fleck and crew could make that happen. Graham is one of the few guys that Minnesota still seems to be actively pursuing. They may not even be able to take another commitment at this point due to available scholarships, but things could open up in the coming months.


Michigan and Purdue hosted Robinson for official visits in June and the Kentucky native just came back from an official visit to Alabama this past weekend. An unofficial visit to Ohio State was also snuck in there and we expect to see Robinson at Kentucky soon as well. Nebraska, however, brought him in earlier this month for an official visit and may be the team to beat. Scott Frost’s offense is a perfect fit for Robinson, who would be used in the Cornhuskers' “Duck-R” running back role. We may not have to wait long for a decision from Robinson.


The current era of Northwestern recruiting sees the majority of a class locked up before their senior seasons begin. This will be a small class compared with their Big Ten brethren, and 14 of the 15 current commits were on board before the summer. Running back and linebacker are two positions the Wildcats are still recruiting, though, and in the latter category Jackson is a top target. It looked like Jackson was going to have his decision in preseason, but he apparently is still mulling a collection of offers. Northwestern has hosted him multiple times in Evanston, though.


Another repeat entry in this lineup. Five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright is ranked higher and is definitely a major target for Ohio State down the stretch, but Harrison is in the Buckeyes' backyard. If the Buckeyes do not secure Harrison then he will go to either Michigan or Penn State, which means Urban Meyer’s team will have to face him every year. With the loss of Nick Bosa, Ohio State’s depth at the position will be tested in the coming weeks. The Buckeyes have recruited good talent at the position, but replenishing that cupboard with a talent such as Harrison would be big as well.


Defensive end is the biggest remaining position of need for a Penn State class that ranks 12th in the 2019 class nationally. The Nittany Lions are top three for five-star Zach Harrison out of Ohio and he could easily be the choice here, but Penn State might be sitting third out of those three right now. Isaac is a speedy rush end who would be a great complement the other defensive ends Penn State has recently recruited, Hakeem Beamon in 2019 and Jayson Oweh in 2018, both of whom are considered strongside defensive ends like Harrison.


You are probably picking up on a pattern here – Bell is a wanted man and his recruitment is going to be key for several Big Ten programs down the stretch. If I am handicapping this race I would say Purdue has the best shot at being the school Bell ends up choosing of the three he checks in for on this feature. Jeff Brohm has an offense that appeals to and fits the four-star wide receiver, and there is good in-state recruiting momentum with the Boilermakers right now. An official visit to West Lafayette has already been scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 2.


There have been some early-season bumps in the road for Rutgers, but in recruiting a slow start is not always a bad thing. It could signal early playing time is available, and that is one factor most cited by prospects when considering their college future. Young has a top five of Arkansas, Michigan State, Penn State, Rutgers and Northwestern, but besides the opportunity for early playing time Rutgers also has the advantage of having his brother, Avery Young, on the roster. Penn State looks to be Rutgers' strongest competition here, but the Scarlet Knights are in a good position.


Paul Chryst and Co., have only landed one commitment in the last three months, but they started strong early and this class may not get to 20 total prospects when all is said and done. With 13 committed now, though, there are certainly some targets the Badgers are pursuing heavily down the stretch. They just missed out on three-star Ohio defenisve tackle Isaiah Gibson, who chose Kentucky last week, but are squarely in the fight for Johnson, who officially visited in June. Michigan, Oklahoma, Penn State and Texas are also fighting for Johnson down the stretch.