With national signing day (Feb. 2) around the corner, here is a breakdown of how things are looking in the Big Ten. Schools are listed in alphabetical order, not in order of their rank in the conference.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Overview: : It's a monster haul by Ron Zook and his staff. The big numbers gave the Fighting Illini very good balance from top to bottom including six defensive backs, five offensive linemen, and four defensive linemen. Of the 29 commits, 19 are three-star prospects. Four-star recruit Dondi Kirby (Monroe, Pa./Gateway) can project on either side of the ball at receiver or safety.
Top prospect: Illinois just flipped four-star defensive end Darrius Caldwell (Atlanta, Ga./Mays). He was previously committed to Georgia Tech. Caldwell will remind many of former Illini standout Martez Wilson. At this stage he's raw but he has very good athleticism and upside.
Don't be surprised if: The Illini pull a major upset and land four-star linebacker prospect Arrington Jenkins (Miami, Fla./Coral Park). He absolutely raved about his official visit this past weekend to Champaign. It also helps that his high school head coach coached former Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget. If Ron Zook could pull this one off it would be a major upset because most have Jenkins pegged to be a Florida State Seminole.
Overview: There's a new football regime in Bloomington with head coach Kevin Wilson. While there is not a signal caller headed to Indiana yet they are getting help on the offensive side of the ball with running back D'Angelo Roberts (Bloomington, Ind./North) and a pair of big receivers. Athlete Tre Roberson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central) will likely be a receiver for the Hoosiers. Defensively, they filled needs at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety.
Top prospect: Roberts is a local prospect that rushed for 6,015 yards and 78 touchdowns. He's smaller at 5-9 and 180 pounds but he runs with deceptive strength, good vision, balance and body control. Roberts is very excited about the opportunity in front of him to play in Kevin Wilson's offense.
Don't be surprised if: Indiana can land a few more like cornerback Demarius Reed (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) and defensive tackle Shafer Johnson (Southfield, Mich./Christian). They both visited this month. Indiana is also hoping to get former commitment defensive end Donte Phillips (Mequon, Wisc./Homestead) back in the fold.
Overview: More of an offensive class at this point for the Hawkeyes. Iowa hit their needs at wide receiver with four and this group all has good size. Quarterback Jake Rudock (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) looks like a great fit offensively. Three offensive line prospects are headed to Iowa City so far as well as two tight ends, and running back. Defensively, Iowa hit on three linebackers and two defensive ends. A real gem could be athlete Rodney Coe (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville).
Top prospect: Four-star Jordan Walsh (Glen Ellyn, Ill./Glenbard West) played offensive tackle in high school but projects inside at guard for the Hawkeyes. Walsh is a dominant and nasty run blocker that plays with good leverage and pad level. Walsh had offers from teams all over the country including Nebraska, USC, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
Don't be surprised if: Iowa makes a big run at big offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic). He visited the Hawkeyes this past weekend and there's hope at Iowa that they can pull this five-star recruit and the nation's top o-tackle. While Alabama seems like the overwhelming favorite for him you never know, especially with their history at this position. His teammate, defensive tackle Darian Cooper, also visited and is down to Iowa, Georgia Tech and Michigan State.
Overview: This class looks a lot different now than a few months ago. The Wolverines lost a few when they dismissed head coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff. New coach Brady Hoke and his staff have their work cut out for them with the short recruiting window. Five of their top six recruits are defensive players that should help bolster this unit in Ann Arbor. In fact, most of their 2011 class has been focused on that side of the ball.
Top prospect: Four-star cornerback Blake Countess (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel) is the top commitment to date for Michigan. The big concern if you cheer for the Maize and Blue is hanging on to him. He recently visited Penn State. He's a natural cover guy with good size and speed. Countess has all the tools to be an outstanding player in college. He's the No. 14 CB in the nation.
Don't be surprised if: You see Michigan all over the place. First things first, they have to keep their commits like offensive tackle Tony Posada (Tampa, Fla./Plant). Then you have a former committed player like offensive tackle Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, Mich./Michigan West). The Wolverines want to reel him back in but now are fighting other schools like Oregon, Michigan State and Florida. And then there will be still uncommitted prospects to keep an eye on like cornerback Stefan McClure (Vista, Calif./Vista) and offensive tackle Christian Bryant (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) that both recently visited Ann Arbor and Michigan is in the mix for them both.
Michigan State Spartans
Overview: The Spartans have 20 commitments from nine states and Canada, 19 of whom are at least three-star players. Linebacker Lawrence Thomas (Detroit, Mich./Renaissance) is the headliner but the Spartans landed some primetime recruits in wide receiver Juwan Caesar (Miami, Fla./Coral Park), outside linebacker Darien Harris (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) and athletes Roger Williamson (Dayton, Ohio/Dunbar) and A.J. Sims (Snellville, Ga./Brookwood). This is a solid class, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Top prospect: Four-star linebacker prospect Timmons (Detroit, Mich./Renaissance) is one of the top overall recruits in the midwest. He's a beast on defense that could play linebacker and eventually grow into a defensive end and put his hand down. Timmons is long and athletic and makes play all over the field.
Don't be surprised if: You see Michigan State pull a shocker or two down the stretch, as they are in on some pretty big name recruits like offensive linemen Audrey Walker (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) and Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, Mich./Michigan West) and defensive tackles Marquise Wright (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) and Darian Cooper (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha).
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Overview: Almost half the Gopher commits are with offensive linemen or linebackers. So it's safe to say that Minnesota filled needs at those two positions. Other need positions filled were receiver and in the secondary with eight commitments. Not a very balanced class but it's all about filling needs.
Top prospect: Offensive lineman Tommy Olson (Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) is the lone Minnesota four-star commitment to date. This 6-4 and 275 pound offensive guard prospect is a dominant run blocker. This kid is quick off the ball, plays with good pad level and has great feet. Olson is nasty, aggressive and finishes very well.
Don't be surprised if: Minnesota closes with some under the radar prospects like defensive ends Denzel Perine (Mobile, Ala./Davidson) and Wedley Estime (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic) and offensive lineman Joe Bjorklund (Rosemount, Minn.) and Graham Glasgow (Aurora, Ill./Marmion Academy).
Overview: The Cornhuskers have raised the bar with their recruiting efforts. They currently project to have the second-ranked class in the conference behind Ohio State. Six of their commitments are of the four-star variety. They have big time players are quarterback, running back, cornerback, linebacker, athlete and did really well on the offensive line. If there is one thing they need to close with it's a few more defensive linemen.
Top prospect: Nebraska's top prospect is ESPNU 150 running back Aaron Green (San Antonio, Texas/ James Madison). This five-star recruit is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. He excels in space and is a big play threat from anywhere on the field. Green has great vision, balance and brings great versatility to the Cornhusker offense.
Don't be surprised if: Nebraska offers linebacker David Sutton (Lincoln, Ne./Southeast). He visited last week and could be a late offer for the Cornhuskers. Two other linebackers to keep an eye on with Nebraska are Keeon Virgile (North Miami Beach, Fla./North Miami Beach) and USC commitment Kent Turene (Sunrise, Fla./Boyd Anderson). Turene insists that Nebraska is very much alive for him.
Overview: Northwestern has 15 commitments from eight states. Of those, 11 are offensive recruits and they did well in the trenches with four commitments, led by Jack Konopka (Palatine, Ill/William Fremd). Quarterback Zack Oliver (Baton Rouge, La./Catholic) looks like a great fit into their offensive scheme. Defensive end Max Chapman (St. Augustine, Fla./Nease) is the headliner of their defensive recruits.
Top prospect: Christian Johnson (Spring, Texas/Westfield) is an ESPNU 150 member and the No. 19 receiver in the nation. This four-star recruit has excellent size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and good speed. He runs very well and is a physical wideout. He's athletic and is tough in the air. Johnson is coming off a spring ACL injury.
Don't be surprised if: Northwestern lands defensive end Deonte Gibson (Lakewood, Ohio/Saint Edward). He took his official to Northwestern this past weekend and Cincinnati the week before. These two remain his favorites. He was originally committed to Pittsburgh before the Panthers' coaching change.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Overview: It's business as usual in Columbus, where Jim Tressel and his staff usually reel in a top 10 class that leads the conference. There's a little bit of everything in Ohio State's group from a big time quarterback prospect like Braxton Miller (Huber Heights, Ohio/Wayne), a shut down corner in Doran Grant (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary) and plenty of great athletes. The only thing missing is the running back position.
Top prospect: The top Buckeye prospect is defensive end Steve Miller (Canton, Ohio/McKinley). This kid does it all. He can run the passer and defend the run. Miller has good size and will get much bigger and stronger. He's athletic and can run. Miller's physical and also plays with a high motor. He has a chance to be another dominant defender in Columbus.
Don't be surprised if: It's a big close for the Buckeyes. In state, they could potentially land three teammates from Cleveland Glenville in defensive end Andre Sturdivant, offensive lineman Aundrey Walker and quarterback Cardale Jones. Of course, all eyes on are ESPNU 150 linebacker Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va./Hermitage). Ohio State is a major player for his services.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Overview: Don't look now but Joe Paterno and his Nittany Lions are starting to catch fire. This is a solid group headed to Happy Valley. It's only 15 deep but Penn State has loaded up so far with linemen on both sides of the ball; five offensive linemen and three defensive ends.
Top prospect: Angelo Mangiro (Succasunna, N.J./Roxbury) is a four-star offensive guard prospect that's a road grader. This athletic run blocker is quick off the ball and strong. Mangiro moves very well, can pull and trap and get to the second level very easily. He will need to work on pass pro but that's only because he's from a run-oriented high school offensive scheme.
Don't be surprised if: The Nittany Lions lure away Michigan commitment Blake Countess. This cornerback prospect visited recently. Penn State has pretty much wrapped up its class but could still sign one or two more players.
Overview: This is not a balanced class with 10 offensive prospects on board including three running backs, a trio of receivers and a signal caller. Purdue is also short on linemen, with only one on each side of the ball. They did land two more skilled players with speed and athleticism from Florida in wide receivers Frankie Williams (Tampa, Fla./Robinson) and A.J. King (Seffner, Fla./Armwood). Athlete Brandon Cottom (Newtown, Pa./Council Rock) can be a big back or outside linebacker.
Top prospect: Purdue's top commitment to date is outside linebacker Armstead Williams (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway). He's athletic and versatile, also playing wide receiver in high school. Williams plays well in space, plays downhill and has good quickness to sift through traffic. Williams was a first team all-state selection that committed to the Boilermakers over Illinois, Iowa and others.
Don't be surprised if: Purdue digs deep in Florida again. They look to be the team to beat from a super prospect flying under the radar in athlete Raheem Mostert (New Smyrna Beach, Fla./New Smyrna Beach). All he did this past season was return nine kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns. Mostert also hauled in 37 passes for another seven scores. The Boilermakers are battling Southern Miss right now for his signature. They have done very well in the state of Florida over the past few seasons and it looks like they could land another good one here.
Overview: There are 16 three-star recruits among the 20 headed to Madison. Wisconsin hit their need area of linebacker hard. This position group is led by Jake Keefer (Baldwin, Wis./Woodville). The Badgers are also getting help at the tight end and wide receiver positions with a trio coming for each. Their top tight end is Sam Arneson (Merrill, Wis./Merrill) and top receiver is A.J. Jordan (Trotwood, Ohio/Madison). Wisconsin is also getting help in the secondary. The Badgers also have committed three intriguing recruits that are listed as athletes that should bring some big play power to their offense.
Top prospect: Jordan is their lone four-star commitment to date. He plays bigger than his listed 6-1 frame because he has long arms and can go get the ball. Jordan is a playmaker, whether it's on a deep route or taking a short pass. He has some wiggle and can make defenders miss. Jordan committed to Wisconsin over Michigan.
Don't be surprised if: The Badgers close with quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer). He was blown away by his visit to Wisconsin this fall and the Badgers remain firmly in the hunt and near the very top of his wish list. Wisconsin is also in play with his teammate, outside linebacker Curt Maggitt. Both will likely announce their intentions on signing day.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.