This is Part II of our Big Ten recruiting roundtable. Once again, our experts are senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill, Midwest recruiting writer Jared Shanker and Scouts Inc. recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert.
Topic 4: After the top tier of Ohio State and Michigan, what other Big Ten schools have done a good job with this class?
Tom Luginbill: "Michigan State has done a really good job on offense. They had to replace a some wide receivers, and their top two players in the class are receivers, in my opinion. I think they've done a nice job with the offensive line and on the edge with the defensive line. But they haven't addressed maybe their defensive tackle needs. Really, David Fennell is the only one in the whole class. But they're going to recruit their style of guy and they're going to develop them and mold them, because this isn't a program that feels it has to play true freshmen.
"I've been a little bit surprised that there isn't more of a Texas presence in [Nebraska's] class. I understand their want and need to create a presence in the Midwest, because that's where half of their livelihood is during the fall. But you look at where their guys are from -- Missouri, Colorado, Utah, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois -- and you're only really talking about one Texas prospect in their entire class, and that's a little bit surprising. Michael Rose is a really good player on the inside at linebacker and in front of him Paul Thurston out of Colorado has a chance to be a really good one, too. So they've done a nice job in the front seven overall, which they obviously needed to do."
Jared Shanker: “Wisconsin really tried to swing for the fences and went after some top guys. They only have 12 commitments. It’s not a whole lot in quantity, but there is some good quality. They have four four-star guys, and in the 2010 and ‘11 classes, they had one four-star guy combined. It looks like they really slowed down after the season started. They were going after some big guys. It looks like they’re going to lose Kyle Dodson. They lost the other offensive tackle, [J.J.] Denman. They’re hoping to get Jordan Diamond, but if I had to guess, I think he’ll end up at Michigan. They sent out a couple last-second offers to some other offensive tackles. Wisconsin, it looks like they tried to take that next step in recruiting. They whiffed on some, but I still like what they did overall with the class, even though they don’t have a whole bunch of numbers.
“Nebraska didn’t have a whole bunch of room. They had 14 or 15 guys, but they’re hoping to get three or four more. It looks like they’ll get Andrus Peat, one of the best tackles in the nation. He’s a guy they’ve been high on the whole time. Getting Imani Cross, the running back out of Georgia, was a big pickup. It looks like they’re probably going to land three-star Vincent Valentine out of Illinois. It would be a pretty successful signing day for them [if they get Peat and Valentine]."
Craig Haubert: “Very quietly Iowa, especially down the stretch here, has put together a pretty solid class. They just picked up a four-star offensive lineman, Alex Kozan. He was their sixth four-star guy in their class, so they’re doing a really good job. They’ve done a nice job in the trenches, especially on the offensive line where they’ve got some guys leaving and need some guys. They’re not a team a lot of people are buzzing about, but they’ve quietly done a good job.
“Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, you can lump together. If you ask five people to look at those classes and rank them, you’d probably get three different answers. With Wisconsin, it’s a very small class but a good class, just not much in numbers. The same can be said for Nebraska. They’re going to sign a small class, too, but did a great job filling needs at linebacker. The Armstrong kid can develop into a nice fit for them at quarterback.
“Northwestern, getting Ifeadi Odenigbo was, in the six or seven years I’ve been doing this, the most significant defensive pickup they’ve gotten in that time. Over the years they’ve actually picked up some pretty good offensive guys, but in our eyes, they’ve never landed anybody quite to his caliber, especially coming out of high school.”
Topic 5: What are your surprises and disappointments in the Big Ten for this class?
CH: “The team that’s really surprised me is Minnesota. They’ve done a really good job. That being said, they’re going to probably still finish in the lower half. But if you look at their class, they’ve done a very good job, and they’re on the heels of some of the teams right in front of them. The only difference with their class and some of the Michigan States and Wisconsins and Iowas, when you get to the meat of the class, Minnesota drops off a little bit. But at the top of their class, they’ve done a great job. They’ve got two really god wide receivers in Andre McDonald, who is a Minnesota kid, and Jamel Harbison, a kid out of North Carolina who’s a really good player. ... Considering how bad they’ve been on the field the last few years, this is a really good class. If you’re a Minnesota fan, you can look at this class and say there’s only a limited amount of prospects coming out of the state of Minnesota. You’ve got to be able to keep them. They’ve done that, and they’ve gotten some decent out-of-state pickups.
“A disappointment is Illinois. There’s a real possibility they could finish last in the conference. Any time you get a coaching change, that can cause some problems, but their class is just not very strong, and they lost a few guys after Zook was fired. So it’s really not a very strong class. They’ve been a team that has shown over the years that they can put together some pretty good classes. While they’ve surprised at times with some of those classes with guys like [Arrelious] Benn, it’s probably equally surprising how opposite this is.”
JS: “The disappointment is Michigan and Ohio State are up there and there isn’t another Big Ten team in the class rankings. You’d expect Michigan and Ohio State to always be up there, but with Michigan struggling recently and Ohio State going through its turmoil, if you were the other programs you hope this is an opportunity to maybe close the gap in recruiting. And none of them were able to do that. Not that they got bad classes, but you would have hoped that they’d take full advantage.”
TL: "I think Minnesota has slowly but surely put together a pretty nice looking group. When you consider the issues with Jerry Kill and his health throughout the fall and the fact they had an abysmal year on the gridiron, they've still been able to get three of the top five guys within the state. I would say their top five-to-seven guys would probably exceed expectations from what they'd normally be able to draw. It's a very big and deep class. So I think they're a surprise that's fallen under the radar to some degree.
"Another team where things weren't ideal for them on the field but they put together a pretty decent class is Iowa. They've done a pretty nice job of getting a lot of high-end three-star, low-end four-star players that aren't getting that internet notoriety, which they could care less about.
"I wouldn't say there's any disappointment. Northwestern has done as good a job as they can given their parameters. I don't want to judge Tim Beckman yet, because he's just now laying down his blueprint."
Topic 6: Give us three or four players who can make an immediate impact next season.
TL: "I think Noah Spence could have an impact at the defensive end spot for Ohio State. I think either Aaron Burbridge or Monty Madaris at receiver for Michigan State will likely be asked to contribute in some way, shape or form, just because there's a significant need there. Michigan could have quite a few guys come in and play a role. Maybe Devin Funchess at a need position [tight end] for them on offense. A guy who may surprise and get on the field pretty quickly for them is Joe Bolden, a linebacker."
JS: “Ifeadi Odenigbo, going to Northwestern, coming in he’s going to obviously have to add some weight, but he’s a guy that can be a situation pass rusher, coming in on third down and maybe end up with six, seven, eight sacks as a freshman just with his speed off the edge.
“Adolphus Washington, committed to Ohio State. He’s another guy who could make a big impact. He had a huge senior season. He doesn’t play against the best competition, but I was really impressed watching him, the few times I saw him this year.
“And if he gets a chance, even on special teams, I really like Joe Bolden, going to Michigan. I saw him play in the opener, and he has great instincts. He was making two steps in the direction the play was going to go before the ball was even snapped. I wasn’t down in St. Petersburg, but I heard he tore up the Under Armour game.”
CH: “Any time you’re a five-star guy, you’ve got to look at a guy like Noah Spence. Joe Bolden, he’s got a chance for two reasons: he’s already on campus, and he’s a pretty good football player, a pretty instinctive guy. Also for Ohio State, Adolphus Washington, a kid with good size, great motor.
“In Iowa’s class, Greg Garmon. He fits their system well.
“For Nebraska, that corner they got out of juco [Mohammed Seisay] is pretty good. But sticking with the high school kids, Imani Cross was a great pickup for them. He was committed to Tennessee at one point. He’s a really good running back, a bit bigger, but in addition to being a good prospect, he’s a great fit for them. He’s a no-nonsense runner. He finds his hole, makes one cut and gets up field. And for a need at linebacker, [Michael] Rose is really good, too. I really was impressed with the job he did down at the Under Armour game. He’s got good size for a kid coming out of high school, a linebacker, pretty savvy in coverage, too, for a high school kid.”