Big Ten morning links

The stars will be counted up just like usual, and the traditional powers will dominate the conversation because of their ability to attract them.

But as the faxes roll in this afternoon and the Big Ten begins reloading for a season that for the first time in a while should have considerably more hype, it might be a good idea to look beyond the classes ranked outside of the top 40 in the nation to see who might be in position to boost business this fall or in the next few seasons.

Perhaps that seems counterintuitive with the already established favorites not slowing down any, particularly with the defending national champs stockpiling elite talent at Ohio State and James Franklin maniacally hitting the recruiting trail at Penn State. And it's not just worth watching the lightly-regarded classes because for once Michigan currently fits that bill.

Mark Dantonio's rise at Michigan State bears monitoring, new coaches at Nebraska and Wisconsin will generate attention -- and of course there's Jim Harbaugh.

But a few underrated recruits are fascinating because of what they might mean for programs facing meaningful campaigns this fall. This trio could be facing a day of extreme importance, even if the work is largely already done and the evaluation won't truly come for a while:

  • Minnesota: Jerry Kill has certainly established a foundation with his team, instilling toughness and discipline with the Gophers and turning them into a squad capable of contending in the West all the way down to the wire in November. With Nebraska and Wisconsin each dealing with coaching transitions and with his own program seemingly on the rise despite its recruiting limitations, Kill may just be a few game-changing newcomers away from a true breakout season. Certainly Minnesota could stand to improve its passing attack, and its highest-rated commitment just happened to come from a wide receiver in Rashad Still.

  • Indiana: A season marred by injuries at quarterback helped earn coach Kevin Wilson a pass for a disappointing campaign that once again ended without a bowl appearance. And while it's possible the coaching staff could have been assigned some blame for the attrition it suffered at the position before the season even began, that's a moot point now. What seems clear moving into 2015 is that Wilson doesn't have much wiggle room left, and that will make finding some early contributors out of this class invaluable for the Hoosiers. Wilson and his staff have quietly been doing some impressive work to bolster the roster in a hurry, notably through transfers, but the beleaguered defense could use an influx of talent to keep afloat in a division that isn't getting any easier.

  • Illinois: After a surprising run to a bowl game, Tim Beckman was able to hold onto his job for at least one more season. Losing to a non-Power 5 opponent in the bowl, though, provided a reminder that the ice is still thin. The highlight of this class appears to be ESPN 300 offensive tackle Gabe Megginson, and keeping the in-state, four-star prospect was a job well done. But Illinois needs guys who can tackle following some truly embarrassing outings on defense last season, and without a whole bunch of stars next to names on that side of the ball, it will be interesting to find out by training camp if Beckman found some diamonds in the rough.

On to the links for national signing day.

East Division

West Division