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Early Signing Period: Biggest question for each Big Ten team

Jackson Carmen
Jackson Carmen

The inaugural early signing period for Division I football is just over a week away and we take a look around the Big Ten for the biggest storylines for each program heading into Dec. 20.

MORE: Big Ten team recruiting rankings | Updated 2018 Rivals250


ILLINOIS: How big of a dent will Illinois make in its available scholarships?

This 2018 group is still the first full class for head coach Lovie Smith even though he has coached at the university for two full seasons, and the Illini have a full complement of scholarships to offer. Sunday brought their first commitment in three months, from JUCO safety Delano Ware, but there are still about 10 more spots available in 2018. Smith and his staff would like to get as many of those spots taken in the early signing period as possible so they are not scrambling to fill holes with the smaller pool of prospects left for the late signing period.

INDIANA: Will the Hoosiers get good news at quarterback?

Until Indiana makes the big strike at the quarterback position, it will be, and should be, the focal point of its recruiting efforts. After missing out on top targets early in the 2017 class, the Hoosiers had to scramble late and take a guy in January. Now, they are once again quarterback-less in this 2018 class and their options are dwindling. Just this past weekend two of their targets, La’Darius Jefferson and Terry Wilson, committed to Michigan State and Kentucky, respectively. Indiana needs some good news at the quarterback position, and it would be ideal to get it before the late signing period.

IOWA: Can the Hawkeyes capitalize on their big visit weekend?

We are coming off a big official visit weekend for several programs across the country, and one of the biggest went down in Iowa City where nearly 20 prospects were on campus, including all 15 of Iowa's 2018 commitments. The Hawkeyes were also trying to court prospects such as four-star safety Dallas Craddieth and wide receivers Drake Stoops and Calvin Lockett to join the program while working to make sure their commitments were solidified and ready to sign. Indianapolis cornerback D.J. Johnson, in particular, has been targeted by other schools recently, including a new offer from LSU.

MARYLAND: Can Terrapins keep five-star Eyabi Anoma at home?

One of the biggest movers in the recent update of the class of 2018’s Rivals100 was Baltimore native Eyabi Anoma, who earned a fifth star after his outstanding senior season. Alabama has been considered the big favorite to land Anoma’s commitment, but Maryland has stayed in the conversation throughout and is probably the biggest threat to the Crimson Tide. Can Maryland keep Anoma at home and out of the SEC? It would be one of the biggest coups of the early signing period if it happened.

MICHIGAN: Will the Wolverines make a big splash late?

The biggest recruiting question in Ann Arbor right now has nothing to do with the Early Signing Period. Michigan fans want to know if and how many transfers they will get from Ole Miss, and whether former five-star quarterback Shea Patterson will be one of those transferring. But while Jim Harbaugh has been spending time courting Ole Miss Rebels, he and his staff have also been working the current high school seniors. After pulling in back-to-back top five classes, though, this 2018 class is just barely residing in the top 20 and would need a big splash to match previous classes.

MICHIGAN STATE: Will Dantonio’s tough stance push away commits?

Talking with several Michigan State commitments earlier this fall, including four-stars Chase Kline and Trenton Gillison, many planned to either wait until February to sign or were not sure when they were going to sign. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio then came down on the side of those head coaches who were declaring that commits who did not sign in December were not really committed. Prospects such as Kline and Gillison have since fallen in line and plan to sign in December, but it will be interesting to see if Dantonio sticks to that stance if any of the Spartans' current commits balk at signing in December.

MINNESOTA: Will Gophers close with four-stars?

Minnesota’s 2018 recruiting class did not have a four-star until Georgia wide receiver Rashod Bateman was moved up to that level in the post-senior season update of the rankings last week. This past weekend, though, the Gophers added two more in IMG Academy offensive linemen Daniel Faalele and Curtis Dunlap. The Gophers are now up to 26 total commitments and are pushing all to sign in the early period. P.J. Fleck may have his first full class in Minneapolis done and signed before the new year.

NEBRASKA: How much turnover will Frost endure?

The first commitments of the Scott Frost era in Lincoln came on Sunday from four-star Florida safety C.J. Smith and three-star JUCO athlete Jaron Woodyard. Those came, however, the same day the Cornhuskers received word that four-star Texas wide receiver Joshua Moore would be backing off his Nebraska pledge after six months on its commitment list. That Nebraska commitment list stands at just nine even after the two recent commitments. There is still possibility for more turnover with a couple of its current commitments visiting other schools, while Frost is making offers across the country and will bring more guys into the fold before Dec. 20.

NORTHWESTERN: Will the Wildcats break commitment drought before Dec. 20?

The longest commitment-less streak in the Big Ten for the 2018 class is at Northwestern, where the Wildcats have not secured a commitment since June. A big, early push by Pat Fitzgerald and his staff secured the bulk of this class before their junior years were complete, but recent offers show the Wildcats are not done recruiting 2018. Among the recent 2018 offers was one to Arizona running back Drake Anderson, son of Northwestern great Damien Anderson. Big Ten rival Illinois has also offered Drake and has hosted him for an official visit.

OHIO STATE: Do the Buckeyes land Jackson Carman?

Whether or not Ohio State will remain on top of the team recruiting rankings and finally end Alabama’s dominance will not be determined until February, but the Buckeyes can add a big rung on the ladder to the top by securing the top in-state prospect in the 2018 cycle, five-star Jackson Carman. A mid-year enrollee, Carman will sign in the early period. The home-state Buckeyes have been the team to beat from the beginning, but Clemson and USC have made strong efforts to get the five-star out of the Buckeye State.

PENN STATE: Is the exodus over in State College?

Penn State’s position in the top five of the current team recruiting rankings is impressive, but also improbable considering the talent it lost to de-commitments over the last few months. From five-stars such as Justin Fields and Micah Parsons, to parting ways with four-star Antwan Reed just last week, the Nittany Lions have overcome much to stay as highly ranked as they are. A big official visit weekend just wrapped up in State College and it should go a long way toward strengthening the bond of the current commits, while also attracting more into the fold.

PURDUE: Will a push for early signees cost Purdue top talent?

It took first-year head coach Jeff Brohm some time to get this 2018 class rolling, but once he did the momentum kept rolling. The majority of this 21-man class committed to the Boilermakers during a three-week stretch in June, but they were able to add to the numbers this fall as well. In recent weeks, though, Purdue has gone away from commitments and targets who are not willing or able to sign in December. It had a strong shot with four-star running back Markese Stepp, but that recruitment dissolved when Stepp informed the Boilermakers he would be signing in February.

RUTGERS: Can Sitkowski entice others to follow him to Rutgers?

Arguably the biggest commitment of 2018 for Rutgers thus far was getting IMG Academy quarterback Artur Sitkowski, a New Jersey native, to commit earlier this fall. Since then, Sitkowski has been actively working on getting others to follow him to Piscataway. He was joined on his official visit this past weekend by IMG Academy teammate Jalen Jordan, and he has been pushing prospects such as Tyler Friday, Josh Walker, Khristopher Banks and UCLA commit Jahan Dotson to give the Scarlet Knights a strong look.

WISCONSIN: Does Paul Chryst have a late surprise in store?

Wisconsin’s 2018 class has been pretty static since the summer and its big recruiting weekend that just concluded in Madison consisted of the majority of its commitments. There could be a couple more scholarships opening up, however, with players leaving early for the NFL Draft. Wisconsin is being mentioned as a potential player for some new names and old names that could be coming back into play, including four-stars Dallas Craddieth, Jairus Brents and Markese Stepp.