Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big Ten
The late addition of five-star linebacker Curtis Grant put the Ohio State class over the top, but even without Grant it still would have been at the top of the Big Ten.
Check out the breakdown of National Signing Day in a special edition of the Big Ten Blitz.
Headliner: Four-star running back Aaron Green is the No. 61-ranked player in the country. Green is extremely quick and is a homerun threat from any point on the field because of his speed and cutting ability.
Sleeper: Athlete Ameer Abdullah may be considered small at 5 feet 9 and 171 pounds, but all he has ever done is produce on the field. He shines in the open field with his stop-and-start and change of direction abilities, plus he catches the ball very well.
Overview: The Cornhuskers signed a class of 19, with 11 of those being four-star players. Bubba Starling may be the quarterback of the future at Nebraska if he doesn't become a baseball star first, while Ryne Reeves and Zach Sterup should continue the long standing tradition of strong in-state offensive linemen and will join out-of-state stud Tyler Moore. Coming into the Big Ten next season, the Cornhuskers laid down the foundation for continued success with this class.
Headliner: Despite an injury during his senior season, four-star running back Justice Hayes of Grand Blanc (Mich.) still finished as the No. 4 player in Michigan and the No. 85 player in the country. Hayes is extremely quick and has a long, lean frame. He is also very versatile and would be able to play several positions if necessary.
Sleeper: Running back Thomas Rawls from Flint (Mich.) Northern was a late offer and addition to the class because he wasn't a fit for what previous coach Rich Rodriguez wanted to do on offense. However, he's the perfect fit for a pro-style offense under Brady Hoke and could be the next great big back at Michigan.
Overview: Full credit has to be given to Hoke and his staff for saving this class after the coaching change. Hoke was able to keep recruits like four-star Blake Countess, who was wavering on his commitment, but also added a number of top recruits. Included in this were four-star offensive lineman Chris Bryant from Chicago, and Chris Barnett and Raymon Taylor, a pair of four-star recruits who flipped from other schools. Barnett makes his way to Michigan from his previous pledge to Arkansas, while Taylor flipped from his commitment to Indiana two weeks ago.
Headliner: The Hawkeyes were able to go into Ohio and grab four-star tight end Ray Hamilton. Hamilton, 6-5 and 230 pounds, has great size, good hands, runs impressive routes and is a surprisingly good blocker at his age.
Sleeper: Three-star defensive back Nicholas Law is a great athlete, who has impressive quickness and athleticism. He also attacks the ball from his safety position.
Overview: The Hawkeyes have a history of recruiting the East Coast, and definitely continued to go in that direction this year. Recruits came from Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, with several possessing the ability to make an early impression. Marcus Grant is a big strong receiver, defensive tackle Darian Cooper was a signing day addition who is extremely strong and John Raymon is an impressive looking defensive end at 6-5 and 245 pounds.
Headliner: Four-star linebacker Lawrence Thomas is the No. 55-ranked player in the country and the No. 1-ranked player in Michigan, which was a huge victory for the Spartans.
Sleeper: Three-star defensive end Damon Knox of Muskegon, Mich. possesses good size, has an impressive first step, but also has the ability to bull-rush opponents.
Overview: The Spartans landed an impressive group of in-state prospects, led by Thomas, but also reeled in a number of top out-of-state recruits. Leading the way is four-star lineman Brandon Clemons of Milford (Pa.) Delaware Valley, who can play on either side of the ball. Darien Harris is an athletic linebacker from Maryland, Shilique Calhoun from New Jersey can move extremely well in space, and junior college lineman Fou Fonoti should plug a hole on the offensive line.
Headliner: The commitment of four-star defensive end Anthony Zettel to Penn State was a surprise at the time, as most considered him a heavy Michigan lean. Zettel is an extremely hard-working player with a motor that never stops. He also has a great muscular frame that would allow him to play on either side of the line.
Sleeper: Three-star Ben Kline of Dallastown (Pa.) is a prototypical Penn State linebacker. He has good instincts in coverage and is a physical, aggressive player.
Overview: A small class with only 16 recruits, the process started off very slowly for the Nittany Lions but ended quite well. Both the offensive and defensive lines saw quality upgrades, especially with four-star defensive end Deion Barnes and four-star offensive lineman Donovan Smith making their decisions in January. Penn State also benefitted from the Pittsburgh coaching chaos by flipping four-star athlete Bill Belton.
Headliner: The Badgers were able to keep four-star linebacker Jake Keefer home. The No. 1-ranked player in Wisconsin plays very well in space, has a great nose for the ball and has the ability to rush the passer when called upon.
Sleeper: Three-star offensive lineman Tyler Marz of Springfield, Minn., is the type of lineman that the Badgers turn into a top player. At 6-8 and 280 pounds, tough and strong, Marz could become a multi-year starter at tackle.
Overview: The Badgers coaching staff once again made it a point to keep the best in-state players home, and accomplished that as nine of the 20 players who signed Wednesday are from Wisconsin. Aside from Keefer, running back Melvin Gordon is also a four-star recruit. Gordon, who originally committed to Iowa, has the athletic ability and versatility to move to another position if necessary, especially with the Badgers loaded backfield. Another player who the Badgers managed to flip was three-star linebacker Derek Watt, who originally committed to Northwestern. Watt is the younger brother of J.J. Watt.
Headliner: Four-star defensive back Dondi Kirby of Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway moves extremely well at 6-1 and 170 pounds. There is still some debate as to whether he ends up at cornerback or safety, but either way he has plenty of tools to work with.
Sleeper: At 6-4 and 190 pounds, wide receiver Kenny Knight of Beverly Hills (Mich.) Country Day has long arms and very good hands, to go along with his obvious height. He could be a nightmare for Big Ten defensive backs down the road.
Overview: An average class was strengthened by a strong in-state group of recruits, led by offensive lineman Pat Flavin and quarterback Reilly O'Toole. One thing noticeably missing from this class is any highly ranked Florida recruits, which Coach Ron Zook has relied on in the past. Instead, the Illini grabbed players from South Carolina, Georgia, New York and Texas to fill out their class this year.
Headliner: Three-star offensive lineman Tommy Olson of Mahtomedi, Minn., is the top ranked player in the state of Minnesota, and has plenty of family ties to the Gophers.
Sleeper: With Olson, offensive lineman Joe Bjorklund of Rosemount (Minn.) should help solidify the line for the Gophers. Bjorklund is a good athlete, who is a student of the game.
Overview: Trying to find talent anywhere they possibly can, new head coach Jerry Kill and his staff signed 22 recruits Wednesday from 11 different states. As with most programs that are looking for athletes, the search took them into Florida where they signed four recruits. Included in this group were three-star defensive back Steven Montgomery of Miramar, Fla., and three-star linebacker Jephete Matilus of Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic. Montgomery is a strong, tough cornerback, while Matilus is an extremely hard hitting backer at 6-1 and 220 pounds.
Headliner: Four-star linebacker Zack Shaw finished with an incredible 228 tackles during his senior season and followed that up with an impressive showing at the NUC All-World game.
Sleeper: Three-star defensive back Nick Stoner of Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove committed to the Hoosiers back in June. Stoner, 6-1 and 170 pounds, has a 4.42 40, good hips, and an impressive nose for the ball.
Overview: The Hoosier started out very strong, but then a few de-commitments tempered hopes of a memorable class. However, their success in Ohio did bring some talent to Bloomington. Aside from Shaw, wide receiver Cody Latimer, defensive back Mark Murphy and wide receiver Shane Wynn are all three-star players making their way to Indiana from Ohio. Also, the Hoosiers hope they found their quarterback of the future with in-state dual-threat Tre Roberson.
Headliner: Three-star wide receiver Christian Jones of Spring (Texas) Westfield should excel in the Wildcats passing offense with his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.
Sleeper: Three-star offensive lineman Shane Mertz of Hazlet (N.J.) Raritan bulked up last offseason to 285 pounds, to go along with his 6-foot-7 frame. With the weight gain he still maintained his athletic ability and speed, which should lead him to bigger things at Northwestern.
Overview: As usual, the Wildcats brought in a good class that will not amaze people with four-star talent, but is full of players that fit their system perfectly. Along with Jones, wide receivers Cameron Dickerson and Xavier Youngblood-Ary should add to the Wildcats receiving stable, while Zack Oliver of Baton Rouge (La.) Catholic should continue Northwestern's streak of exciting dual-threat quarterbacks.
Headliner: Three-star athlete Frankie Williams of Tampa (Fla.) Robinson chose the Boilermakers over NC State, Texas Tech and Cincinnati in late January. He is a versatile player who can play on either side of the ball.
Sleeper: Jumbo athlete Brandon Cottom from Pennsylvania is an intriguing recruit at 6-2 and 233 pounds because of his versatility. It should be interesting to see what position he ends up at down the road.
Overview: An extremely small class of 15 recruits took its biggest hit in January when three-star quarterback Russell Bellomy flipped to Michigan. The Boilermakers did try and plug some holes during the last two weeks by adding speedy wide receiver Raheem Mostert of New Smyrna Beach (Fla.), jumbo linebacker Jalani Phillips of Warner Robbins (Ga.) Houston County, and junior college linebacker Kaulana Judd. Another addition from Florida that will have a chance to shine early is defensive back Taylor Richards of Lake Mary, Fla.