What things stood out on National Signing Day in the Big Ten Conference? 247Sports gives our take in this breakdown of B1G Superlatives.
Top247 defensive lineman Darius Latham is the jewel of an Indiana recruiting class that addressed several defensive needs.
Best Class At Filling Needs
Even with a few key injuries and two true freshmen starting on the offensive line, Kevin Wilson’s Indiana offense was very exciting at times, ranking No. 17 nationally with the pass and No. 34 overall at 442 yards per game. The Hoosiers put up a season-high 49 points against undefeated Ohio State. The bad thing for Indiana against the Buckeyes and throughout the season was the defense was flat terrible. They gave up 52 to the Buckeyes and ranked No. 103 overall as a unit in total defense.
Help is coming.
In what looks to be one of Indiana’s best recruiting classes in memory (No. 43 nationally), Wilson and his staff went out and got three of the better in-state players in 247Composite four-stars, defensive linemen Darius Latham and David Kenney and hard-hitting U.S. Army All-American safety Antonio Allen. Athlete Rashard Fant was a steal out of the Sunshine State and should provide a boost at corner while junior college defensive tackle Christopher Cormier could be a Signing Day steal. Unheralded safety Chase Dutra was one of the Hoosier State’s best players as a senior. Indiana reeled in 10 front-seven defensive players overall.
Biggest Surprise Class
Though this writer isn’t surprised, seems like a lot of folks were very impressed with the 17-player class Penn State signed that ranked No. 26 nationally, despite the NCAA sanctions.
When the hammer dropped, head coach Bill O’Brien and his staff were able to keep the majority of the key targets in the fold including the country’s top quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the nation’s No. 2 tight end Adam Breneman and fellow four-stars Garrett Sickels, Andrew Nelson and Brendon Mahon. O’Brien and his assistants built solid relationships with these touted prospects that couldn’t be broken despite the bowl ban, etc…
Best Recruiting Battle Won
Five-star safety Vonn Bell surprised the Ohio State coaching staff when he committed to the Buckeyes on National Signing Day over his other two finalists Alabama and Tennessee.
With Ohio State finishing No. 2 in the national rankings and rival Michigan landing the country’s No. 5 class, both programs won their fair share of big-time recruiting battles but none was better than five-star safety Vonn Bell choosing to play for Urban Meyer on National Signing Day over Alabama and Tennessee.
The nation’s No. 2 safety and No. 27 prospect overall according to the 247Composite made the call on national television, surprising Meyer and his staff. Many considered Ohio State to be the No. 3 school with some analysts on television not even mentioning the Buckeyes right before Bell made the call.
Most Significant Flip
Originally out of the Indianapolis area, Arizona Western defensive end Randy Gregory signed with Purdue coming out of high school and remained a Boilermakers commit through most of the year before flipping to Nebraska on Nov. 1 shortly after his official visit to Lincoln. Since his days at Fishers (Ind.) Hamilton Southeastern, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Gregory has gone from a three-star recruit to the nation’s No. 1 weak-side defensive end and No. 4 JUCO player overall. Gregory should step right into a starting role in the Huskers defense and has all the tools to be selected very high when he chooses to enter the NFL Draft.
Best Down The Stretch
There’s not a better closer in college football than Urban Meyer and that rang true again this year for the Buckeyes. It started when Ohio State flipped Ohio native in East Mississippi C.C. receiver Corey Smith, the nation’s No. 3 JUCO receiver and No. 9 prospect overall from Mississippi State on Jan. 29. Two days before signing day, Top247 all-purpose back Dontre Wilson reneged on his verbal to Oregon for the Buckeyes. It was a big signing day with Bell choosing Ohio State and Top247 receiver James Clark also selecting the Buckeyes over widely-considered favorite Florida. To cap off signing day, Top100 running back Ezekiel Elliott announced he’d be sticking with his Ohio State pledge despite a late run by in-state Missouri, where both his parents attended.
Biggest Obstacle To Overcome
Purdue fired head coach Danny Hope on Nov. 25 and his replacement Darrell Hazell didn’t begin full-time in West Lafayette until Jan. 7, the day after he coached his last game at Kent State. Hazell did go out and land 13 players and a key preferred walk-on after he was hired, and kept the majority of the class in the fold, however, him and his partial staff were not working at the same strength as their Big Ten counterparts.
Five-star running back Derrick Green could become a Heisman candidate during his time at Michigan, running behind what was arguably the nation's top offensive line class.
Top Impact Recruit
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg and Michigan running back Derrick Green tie, as both mean a lot to their respective recruiting classes. With Penn State still facing heavy sanctions, the five-star Hackenberg could help soften the blow and lead the Nittany Lions to a lot of victories if he lives up to his extreme potential. The Wolverines inked one of the nation’s top running back classes with the five-star Green, ranked No. 26 overall in the 247Composite, co-signing with the top back out of Ohio in DeVeon Smith. As Michigan transitions to its pro-style offense next season, Green is the perfect in-between-the-tackles, downhill runner with wiggle, that will be extremely tough to keep off the field next fall and could develop into a Heisman candidate by the end of his time in Ann Arbor. He’ll be taking carries behind what was arguably the top offensive line class in 2013 as well.
Top Impact Sleeper
Demetrius Cooper wasn’t as heralded in what was a deep and talented year in the Chicago area, but the 6-foot-6, 225-pound pass rusher has all the physical tools and upside to be a big-time player in East Lansing. Cooper was under the radar heading into the summer but went on to earn offers from the Spartans and Notre Dame after working out in front of both coaching staffs. Mark Dantonio and his assistants are as good as any staff in developing talent and getting maximum performance out of a player, and they have a lot to work with regarding Cooper.
Iowa struggled this fall and it carried over to the recruiting trail where Kirk Ferentz and his staff failed to sign one four-star prospect in it their 22-player class. The Hawkeyes class finished ranked 10th in the conference, however on the bright side, linebacker John Kenny, tight end Jon Wisnieski, offensive guard Colin Goebel and defensive tackle Brant Gressel are four guys that could end up being really good players in Iowa City.
Class That Could Surprise
Michigan State signed a lot of potential difference makers. Besides Cooper, Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep Top247 teammates in quarterback Damion Terry and athlete Delton Williams were huge gets and four-star linebacker Jon Reschke was arguably the top player in the state of Michigan as a senior. Four-star offensive tackle Dennis Finley was a touted recruit and major get out of Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech, and guys like cornerback Darian Hicks, all-purpose back R.J. Shelton, linebacker Shane Jones and receiver Jay Harris are all players that have the potential to keep Michigan State among the Big Ten’s best programs.
For a complete look at the Big Ten recruiting rankings, click here.