2017 BIG TEN RECRUITING
How did the BIG TEN do with Recruiting?
February 3, 2017
compiled by Prez Ro
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Among Big Ten schools, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State crushed it in recruiting. Northwestern and Illinois held their own.
So say national recruiting analysts Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network and Tom Luginbill of ESPN.
“One of the things that stands out to me about Ohio State,” Luginbill said, “is how they have been able to forecast who they will lose early in the (NFL) draft. They make inroads and get replacements now rather than in the next class. They did that at linebacker, cornerback and safety. And quite honestly, I thought they needed to improve at running back.”
Luginbill said the Buckeyes did that by signing J.K. Dobbins, an early enrollee from La Grange, Texas.
Ohio State’s 21-man class has an outrageous 19 four- or five-star players, according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings. It ranked second nationally to Alabama after the smoke cleared on national signing day Wednesday.
Fifth nationally, behind Georgia and USC, was Michigan. Its 30-man class has two five-stars in versatile Detroit receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon of Leesburg, Ga., plus 19 four-stars.
“Michigan is in the headlines for having a big class,” Luginbill said. “They cast a wide net and addressed a variety of positions. Their class is not just quality but significant quantity, compared to a Clemson (14 players), which didn’t have as many scholarships to give out.”
As for Penn State, which had the Big Ten’s third-ranked class, Luginbill said: “Penn State made a climb. It’s a top-15 class, and I think much of it can be attributed to the performance on the field. Winning and recruiting go hand in hand.”
Luginbill called Illinois “one of the tougher jobs in college football.”
“It’s tough in-state and tough when you have to cross borders,” he said. “It’s a pretty good class from a top-heavy perspective. They really addressed the defensive front seven and some needs in terms of speed and explosiveness on offense.”
Illinois (25 players, including junior-college quarterback Dwayne Lawson, who can’t sign until the summer because of academics) and Northwestern (19 players) ranked 44th and 48th nationally.
“For Northwestern, what I love is that they recruit their guys throughout their process,” Luginbill said. “They’re like an academically more stringent Michigan State in terms of how they approach recruiting. I think (defensive end) Earnest Brown out of Texas will be a really, really good player.
“What you need to hopefully have happen going forward is to get that bottom and middle third of the classes up closer to the talent level of the top third. That’s where you’d probably say these two are lacking.”
Lemming, the Schaumburg-based analyst who has been grading talent since the late 1970s, praised NU’s Brown as “a long-armed and quick-handed guy.”
“He was one of the bigger defensive surprises in the state of Texas, a legit four-star guy,” Lemming said. “The key was that Northwestern got on him early. They pushed the academics and kept working him.”
Lemming said of Andrew Marty, the potential successor to quarterback Clayton Thorson: “I like his height (6-foot-4), his arm strength and his potential. He’s more of a pro-style (passer), but he has good feet. He can develop into a great passer. He and Penn State’s Sean Clifford (also an Ohio native) are among the best in the Midwest.”
Lemming also had kind words for Illinois coach Lovie Smith and his staff, saying: “Illinois was everywhere — Texas, New Jersey, Florida — and it paid some dividends. This is a better class than their (3-9) record would indicate. Dwayne Lawson, I think, will be a big surprise. (Brother Rice receiver) Ricky Smalling is a fantastic player with Odell Beckham-type skills. (Running back) Mike Epstein runs a legit 4.4. Illinois’ reputation in the state wasn’t great, so they mainly went outside.”
The Illini also made inroads in St. Louis, signing three from the area.
“Next year will be the best year in 20 years for St. Louis,” Lemming said. “There are six to seven potential All-Americans and another 15 D-1 guys. It will be the year of St. Louis.”
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