February 6, 2008

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big Ten

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Rivals.com breaks down every class and takes a look at the headliners and sleepers each school signed in the special Signing Day edition of the Big Ten Blitz.

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big Ten
1. Ohio State

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BuckeyeGrove.com
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Headliner: Right now, the headliner is Mike Adams. If Terrelle Pryor ends up signing with the Buckeyes, that certainly will change. Adams' Rivals.com ranking fluctuated quite a bit over the past year, but in the end he proved to be what he always has been the nation's top offensive tackle prospect. Adams, a 6-foot-7, 308-pounder, should be the foundation for the Buckeyes' line for years to come.

Sleeper: It's hard to pick out a true sleeper in this class because it's full of four- and five-star prospects. But Buckeyes coaches absolutely love cornerback Travis Howard, and Ohio State has a tremendous track record with kids from Florida.

Overview: The Ohio State class will be special with or without Terrelle Pryor. Led by "Block O" the nickname given to the talented offensive line class highlighted by five-star tackles Adams and Michael Brewster and special skill-position players such as DeVier Posey, this class should keep Ohio State in the national title hunt for years to come.

2. Michigan

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TheWolverine.com
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Headliner: Landing the nation's No. 1 player would be as big as it gets. But Terrelle Pryor has yet to make his decision. For now, offensive lineman Dann O'Neill is a player on which Rich Rodriguez can hang his hat. O'Neill has NFL written all over him. Not only does he have the size and frame, but he's also an excellent technician. He could anchor the O-line for the Wolverines for years.

Sleeper: Michigan's coaches love the versatility that Greenville (S.C.) J. L. Mann three-star standout J.T. Floyd brings to the table. He could star at either cornerback or safety.

Overview: Give Rodriguez credit. When he arrived in Ann Arbor, there were more questions than answers. Would he be able to salvage the commitments already in place? Would he be able to get the type of players needed to run his system? He answered those questions. While he might not have hit the home run he wanted to at quarterback, he still brought in plenty of guys who fit what he wants. The way he surprised Wednesday by pulling Ricky Barnum from Florida, Roy Roundtree from Purdue and Michael Shaw from Penn State will be talked about in Ann Arbor for years.

3. Minnesota

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GopherIllustrated.com
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Headliner: Laying the foundation for the future is priority No. 1 for Minnesota, so that's why landing a quarterback was key. The Golden Gophers landed a standout in four-star dual-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray.

Sleeper: Xzavian Brandon out of Georgia wasn't a household name to many colleges that recruit the Peach State, but the Gophers love his big-play potential at receiver.

Overview: It's well-documented that Tim Brewster is one of the nation's best recruiters. But now it's well-documented that he's one of the best recruiters who also can recruit in a difficult situation. The Gophers were downright awful on the field this past season, but that didn't stop them from reeling in a top-20 class. Minnesota needed help everywhere, and it met needs at almost every position especially on defense.

4. Illinois

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Orange&BlueNews.com
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Headliner: Milledgeville (Ga.) Georgia Military College four-star prospect Donsay Hardeman is the type of ball-hawking, speedy safety who should excel in the Big Ten. He is built to take on the rigors of the conference, and he has a mean streak that could help him be a star.

Sleeper: It's hard to call a three-star prospect a sleeper, but Jason Ford was overshadowed by a lot of other talented Illinois players. He's going to be a good one for the Illini.

Overview: Ron Zook and Co. continued to take major strides on the field, and they did the same thing off the field by landing another top-flight class. The Illini did great in the Midwest, landing 15 players from the region. They were also able to branch out and recruit nationally, landing players such as defensive tackle Reggie Ellis and wide receiver Alfred Jenkins.

5. Wisconsin

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BadgerBlitz.com
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Headliner: Curt Phillips has the tools to help Wisconsin transition into a true dual-threat quarterback system. Phillips, a 6-3, 212-pounder, has a strong arm and could be the Badgers' leader of the future.

Sleeper: Miami Country Day defensive tackle Eriks Briedis is a raw prospect, but he has a world of potential. He has great strength, and if he develops, he could be special.

Overview: The Badgers went heavy on defense this season and did an exceptional job of loading up on linemen. Defensive end Tyler Westphal has a shot to be good, and junior college defensive tackle Daniel Moore is expected to help immediately. There also is a solid defensive back group coming in, highlighted by Kevin Claxton and Marcus Cromartie. Running back Dex Jones also had a strong senior season.

6. Penn State

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BlueWhiteIllustrated.com
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Headliner: Two-way star Brandon Beachum led his team to the Ohio state championship game this past season. While Rivals.com projects him to play defense, he could also be a star at running back on the next level.

Sleeper: Reston (Va.) South Lakes receiver A.J. Price is a tall, lanky receiver. If he fills out, he has a shot at being a major steal for the Nittany Lions.

Overview: The Lions stockpiled a lot of talent on defense. Penn State has one of the linebacker classes in the nation. Along with Beachum, Penn State landed Michael Mauti, Mike Yancich and Mike Zordich. Throw in solid defensive back D'Anton Lynn, and it's a class that should help shut down Big Ten offenses in the future.

7. Michigan State

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SpartanMag.com
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Headliner: Wide receiver Fred Smith has the athletic ability to come in and be a star from Day One. Smith, a 6-2, 207-pounder, has been clocked as fast as 10.5 in the 100-meters, led the Detroit Public League in scoring in basketball and dominated on the football field as a senior.

Sleeper: Ohio linebacker Steve Gardiner's lack of height (he's 6-1) might have scared away some teams, but that will be something they'll regret later. Gardiner has the potential to be an All-Big Ten linebacker.

Overview: Michigan State did a great job of addressing needs all over the field. There is a solid group of talented offensive linemen coming in, and the needs at linebacker definitely were filled. There is also help on the way at receiver with Smith. Defensive backs Johnny Adams, Charles Burrell and Brynden Trawick should give the Spartans a ton of depth.

8. Iowa

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HawkeyeReport.com
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Headliner: Defensive end Riley Reiff committed to Iowa, switched to Nebraska, then switched back to the Hawkeyes. He's one of the best defensive ends in the nation and could see the field early.

Sleeper: Mentor (Ohio) Lake Catholic defensive end Joe Gaglione emerged late and picked up offers from Pittsburgh and Indiana before choosing the Hawkeyes.

Overview: Iowa needed to address holes at the skill positions and on the defensive line, and it looks as if the Hawkeyes accomplished their mission. The Hawkeyes landed one of the best running back classes in the nation, headlined by Nate Guillory and Jeff Brinson. Throw in several good defensive backs, and the class is solid from top to bottom.

9. Purdue

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Gold&BlackIllustrated.com
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Headliner: New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy offensive lineman Ken Plue is one of the top-10 prep school players in the nation. He already is on campus. At 6-8 and 340 pounds, he should be a great anchor for the Boilermakers' offense.

Sleeper: Linebacker Chris Carlino was a lightly recruited in-state prospect, but his film shows he has plenty of potential to be a star.

Overview: It was a transition year for the Boilermakers as Purdue set in motion the stepping down of Joe Tiller. The Boilermakers hit a few speed bumps because of it, but in the end, the class does have a nice group of players who could really do some damage in the future. Look for big things from defensive tackle Kawann Short, running back Albert Evans, linebacker Derek Jackson and defensive back Kevin Green.

10. Northwestern

Commit List
WildcatReport.com
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Headliner: Offensive lineman Brian Mulroe was one of the top line prospects in the Midwest. At 6-6 and 265 pounds, he might need to add some weight, but the talent is there to play early.

Sleeper: Dallas South Oak Cliff receiver Demetrius Fields brings big-play potential to the Wildcats.

Overview: The Wildcats needed to add depth along the offensive line, and they did a tremendous job of filling that hole. Along with Mulroe, guys such as Nick Adamle, Chuck Porcelli and Jeff Radek are the foundation of this class. If they can pave the way for running backs, they also could be the foundation for the future. The Wildcats also landed a standout linebacker in Brett Nagel.

11. Indiana

Commit List
Peegs.com
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Headliner: Defensive back Cortez Smith was one of the best players in Detroit this season.

Sleeper: Tandon Doss has the size (6-3, 195) and skill to come in and make an immediate impact for the Hoosiers at wide receiver.

Overview: Indiana made some noise this season on the field and was rewarded with a class that is one of its best in some time. The Hoosiers were able to reel in three-star prospects such as Smith, Kyle Kozak, Darius Willis, Tyler Adetona and Shane Covington. Indiana went offense-heavy in this class, signing four players who could be running backs and a solid group of four linemen.

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