Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt ranks the Big Ten's 2012 recruiting classes by position.
Big Ten's best by position
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Purdue University, the "Cradle of Quarterbacks," has had trouble finding a signal caller it can count on since Curtis Painter graduated following the 2008 season, but the Boilermakers look to be countering that issue by adding significant depth at the position and signing four quarterbacks in the 2012 class. North Canton (Ohio) Hoover's Austin Appleby is the only pro-style quarterback on the list. Three-stars Bilal Marshall, Robert Gregory and Aloyis Gray are all dual-threat signal callers, though Gray and maybe even Gregory could end up at another position in college.
Minnesota signed the second-best quarterback group in the Big Ten after landing the top two passers in its own state - three-star Philip Nelson and two-star Mitch Leidner. Seven other conference schools signed at least one quarterback in the 2012 class, though none ranked four-stars or higher.
The addition of Rivals250 prospect Dennis Norfleet the night before National Signing Day was enough to push Michigan to the top of the Big Ten's running back rankings in this go-round. The Wolverines also landed three-star in-state back Drake Johnson and Utah fullback Sione Houma in 2012.
Ohio State boasts two Rivals250 running backs in Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball to sign the second-best ball-carrying unit in the Big Ten. Iowa signed Pennsylvania four-star Greg Garmon and Wisconsin brings in four-star Vonte Jackson, giving those programs the No. 3 and No. 4-ranked running back classes in the conference, respectively.
Michigan State's group of four receivers in 2012 gives the Spartans the Big Ten's best wide receiver group, and that does not even count the addition of former four-star DeAnthony Arnett, who transferred from Tennessee at the semester break. The Signing Day week addition of Cincinnati three-star Monty Madaris was a big pickup for the Spartans down the stretch, but four-star Aaron Burbridge is the group's headliner.
Michigan State was able to hold off Ohio State for the top spot. The Buckeyes signed three receivers in this class, including four-star Michael Thomas of Virginia. In the third slot, Iowa signs four three-star rated prospects while Purdue also brings in four three-star prospects to finish inside the top six.
With a pair of three-star tight ends apiece, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State tie for the best tight end classes in 2012. The Wolverines signed Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams, Michigan State brings in Evan Jones and Josiah Price, while Penn State landed Jesse James and Brent Wilkerson.
No Big Ten team was able to sign a four-star tight end in 2012, though the conference does add five of the top 22 at the position. Funchess is the conference's highest ranked tight end signeed, with Ohio State-bound Blake Thomas close behind and ranked No. 16 overall.
With two Rivals100 additions - including five-star Kyle Kalis - Michigan lays claim to the top offensive line group in the Big Ten. All four of Michigan's additions rank in among the top 38 offensive tackles in the country. Ohio State also has a strong group of five offensive line additions, highlighted by Rivals250 prospects Joey O'Connor, Kyle Dodson and Taylor Decker.
The top seven teams in the conference rankings each feature outstanding depth and/or talent. Purdue signs the largest group with six offensive linemen, while Wisconsin, who looked as if they may challenge for the top spot early in the process, finishes in fifth after adding three-star Jake Meador on Signing Day.
The Big Ten benefitted from an outstanding crop of defensive tackle talent in the Midwest in 2012, signing five of the top 20 prospects at the position nationally. Michigan's pickup of five-star Ondre Pipkins helped to earn them the top overall class, though Ohio State, Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State each signed four-star prospects in 2012.
Nebraska went all the way until National Signing Day without a defensive tackle in its 2012 class, but the Cornhuskers landed a pair of three-stars in Illinois' Vincent Valentine and Texas' Aaron Curry to claim the Big Ten's third best group.
With five-stars Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence, Ohio State has landed the best defensive end class in the Big Ten going back at least ten years. Add in Rivals100 prospect Se'von Pittman and this group is one for the ages.
No other Big Ten team landed a five-star prospect, but Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue will each bring in a four-star defensive end next fall. The Wildcats boast the conference's highest ranked defensive end not headed to Ohio State, with Rivals100 standout Ifeadi Odenigbo.
Michigan had commitments from all four of its linebacker additions in the 2012 class by the beginning of last May, and that group held on as the top unit in the Big Ten. Led by Cincinnati area 'backer Joe Bolden, the group features three prospects ranked between 100 and 200 in the Rivals250.
The Big Ten's highest ranked addition in the 2012 class is Wisconsin signee Vince Biegel, who saw his stock rise with a standout performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Although he was the only linebacker signee for the Badgers, he helps them secure the No. 4 class at the position behind Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska, teams that signed four linebackers apiece in 2012.
Although Minnesota signed the largest class by numbers, with seven defensive back additions in 2012, five of whom are ranked three-stars, Ohio State earns the highest rated class thanks to signing of four-stars De'van Bogard, Najee Murray and Armani Reeves.
Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana signed four prospects apiece in 2012 to each find a spot in the top five, while Northwestern and Illinois brought in six-man classes. Nebraska signs the highest rated defensive back in JUCO cornerback Mohammed Seisay, but as he was the only defensive back addition for the Cornhuskers this year they finish with the ninth best group in the conference.
Nebraska's Signing Day haul included four-star athlete Alonzo Moore of Louisiana. Combined with Toledo, Ohio, three-star LeRoy Alexander, that was enough for the Cornhuskers to lock down the Big Ten's top ranked group of athlete prospects.
No Big Ten program signed more than two athlete prospects in 2012, and three teams did not sign any. That is not unusual for the Big Ten because the Midwest does not produce as many athlete-type prospects as the Southeast or West Coast. The Conference's top athlete prospect does come from the state of Indiana, however, with four-star David Perkins signing up to play for Urban Meyer and Ohio State.
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