Big Ten Signing Day Recap: The Conference Awakens

By Jeremy Birmingham on February 3, 2016 at 10:13 pm
The Big Ten got better on National Signing Day 2016.

SIgning Day is over.

Now it's time to sift through the carnage and start the arduous task of figuring out how the next wave of Big Ten football players fit into the programs they've chosen.

Obviously, here at Eleven Warriors, we've talked about the Ohio State class over and over today and throughout the year. You know how we feel about the Buckeyes' 2016 haul: it's undoubtedly a good one and the best in the Big Ten.

2016 ohio state buckeyes RECRUITING CLASS
1 17 7 0 3.76 DL NICK BOSA

Tonight, I've called upon a few of the region's recruiting analysts to try and give 11W readers some insight into how the rest of the Big Ten shook out today.

We'll start with Michigan, the conference's second-best class.

1 13 14 0 3.54 DL RASHAN GARY

From Steve Lorenz of

Michigan's Signing Day and probably the overall perception of their class hinged on whether or not they could finish with Rashan Gary. Outside of the Buckeyes reeling in Terrelle Pryor in 2008, the Big Ten has struggled mightily in reeling in the nation's top prospect year after year, regardless of where they're from. Gary's pledge solidified a class that was actually pretty full of players Michigan had higher on their board throughout the 2016 cycle. That in itself was a surprise to some, myself included, as fans were starting to get used to the Wolverines flopping in the "hat on the table" type recruitments. 

Two recruitments really hurt Michigan from this being an epic class. Devery Hamilton was not the highest rated recruit on the Wolverines' commitment list, but he was one of the top four tackles in the country on their recruiting board. His flip to Stanford over the weekend was a huge blow to a class that wanted an elite tackle on the outside. The other one was Ohio State beating them out for Jordan Fuller. In retrospect, the Buckeyes probably led this one from start to finish, but Michigan really made it close in the end. A victory in that race would have been big from both a production and perception standpoint. 

I have to give Michigan an A for two reasons. One, they secured the top prospect in the country and held off schools that normally seem to weasel their way into winning those types of recruitments. Two, this class has a very national flavor, with pledges from 13 different states and while there was variety, they still signed the top two players in the state of Michigan in Michael Onwenu and Lavert Hill.

2016 penn state nittany lions RECRUITING CLASS
1 7 11 1 3.4 RB MILES SANDERS

Sean Fitz of

Penn State had a fantastic start to the cycle, as its first two commits were Miles Sanders and Shane Simmons. Both were huge gets and both stuck for more than a year-and-a-half. The offensive line was a huge need and they picked up four quality prospects up front, two of which could challenge for early playing time in Michal Menet and Connor McGovern. We have defensive lineman Daniel Joseph ranked high, but he could be a steal based on his composite ranking. He’s an excellent athlete would could develop into an All-Big Ten end or tackle. 

The Nittany Lions lost their final four games and momentum was slowed to a trickle heading into the new year. The finish left a lot to be desired, and what is a good class isn’t quite where it could have been. Still, it’s a very good result for a 7-win ballclub. Penn State had a very good group of defensive tackles at one point, but the group of four turned into one before the Nittany Lions added some late bodies there. Losing Philly four-star Karamo Dioubate certainly stung. 

All in all, it’s a pretty good class that still has a chance to finish in the top 15. It’s also a class that won’t finish as strongly as it looked like it would a few months ago.

Overall, it’s a top-heavy class, probably about a B-, with anchors at running back, on the offensive line and at defensive end.

0 9 10 0 3.47 DL JOSH KING

Mike Wilson of

Michigan State came into the class with two areas of obvious need at running back and wide receiver and they hit home runs at both spots, reeling in Donnie Corley, Cameron Chambers, Justin Layne and Trishton Jackson at wide receiver and Josh King, Naquan Jones and Mike Panasiuk on the D-line. A handful of those guys figure to be early impact players and MSU sorely needs wide receivers to step in.

I think the most surprising thing about this class is MSU basically wrapped it up in July. That is not a normal MSU class, which generally features a lot of late commits after good senior years. But MSU built good relationships with their top targets early and got a lot of those 'Plan A' guys into the fold early and kept the majority of them committed. But it wasn't all a roaring success, as I think MSU messed up by not taking a second tight end. After not taking one in 2015 and only one in 2014, I thought two would be an obvious need for an offense that will trot three tight ends out at a time.

Other than that, I think MSU hit on their needs in landing a lot of their top targets at important positions, recruiting at a higher level than in previous years.

I think this class is an A- for MSU.

2016 nebraska cornhuskers RECRUITING CLASS
0 5 16 0 3.24 DB LAMAR JACKSON

Mike Schaefer of

Nebraska’s 2016 class was a bit of a mixed bag. The Huskers hit some big home runs in a couple areas though, including landing Patrick O’Brien, one of the top quarterbacks in the class and an early enrollee who could even play in 2016 if senior starter Tommy Armstrong gets hurt. Nebraska also landed a strong offensive line class highlighted by four-stars Matt Farniok and John Raridon. Both look to be fixtures on future offensive lines. The last addition to the class might be the best overall player as Nebraska landed Top247 defensive back Lamar Jackson.

There were a few big misses along the way for Nebraska. The Huskers missed out on three great players out of Kansas - Amani Bledsoe, Xavier Kelly and Isaiah Simmons - when all would’ve helped fill important needs. Nebraska also failed to add help at defensive end for 2016, which means the team will once again have to manufacture pressure from different parents of the field. 

Overall Grade: B

2016 wisconsin badgers RECRUITING CLASS
0 3 22 1 3.04 OL COLE VAN LANEN

From Evan Flood of

On paper, Wisconsin signed one of their best classes, if not the best. They've done a great job of balancing their Midwest, blue collar talent with upgrading their skill positions from non-traditional recruiting areas. 

It's never really a day of drama at Wisconsin, so no real surprises. But it was comforting for the fans to see four-star defensive tackle Garrett Rand stick with the Badgers after taking a visit to UCLA.

Wisconsin missed some opportunities in-state. The Badgers also failed to get an elite running back after Antonio Williams de-committed in favor of Ohio State; that took some of the luster away.

I give the class a B.

2016 Maryland terrapins RECRUITING CLASS
0 3 14 4 2.95 OG TERRANCE DAVIS

From Ahmed Ghafir of

Maryland had somewhat of a quiet signing day, adding all of their commitments as well as adding three-stars Tyrek Tisdale, an athlete out of Oak Ridge (Fl.), and Tyrrell Pigrome, a dual-threat quarterback out of Clay-Chalkville (Al.).

Overall, it's an encouraging class given the short time that the new staff was given ahead of signing day. The one disappointment was missing out on St. John's (DC) defensive end Terrell Hall, which signals Maryland's struggles to build on the defensive line. That said, Maryland added talented skill players in DeMatha Stars Tino Ellis, DJ Turner and Lorenzo Harrison.

Keep in mind, Maryland had just eight commitments two weeks prior to signing day.

Overall, I give the class a B- taking into account the staff had just over two months to fill the class.

2016 Minnesota golden gophers RECRUITING CLASS
0 1 19 1 3.00 LB CARTER COUGHLIN

Kyle Goblirsch of

Even through the coaching change at the end of the 2015 season, the Gophers will still close with their strongest recruiting class under the Jerry Kill and/or Tracy Claeys era.  It’s also the strongest class Minnesota has had since 2008 when former coach Tim Brewster pulled in a top 20 class that didn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations. Minnesota hasn’t finished above 11th in the conference in the last seven years, and according to 247Sports Composite, should close at No. 7 in the conference this season. 

The biggest success in the class is landing 4-star Army All-American Carter Coughlin, who chose to continue his father and grandfather’s legacy over other finalists Ohio State and Oregon.  Carter’s verbal helped Minnesota pull in 8 of the top 11 offered preps in-state.  This was a rare and deeper year than normal average for power five prospects from the state of Minnesota and the Gophers staff cashed in on that aspect. 

Minnesota also landed QB Seth Green who flipped after things cooled in Oregon.  Seth was a former Minnesota prep that had moved to Texas for his Senior season.  The Gophers also landed DB Antoine Winfield Jr., a name likely familiar to many Ohio State fans.  Like Seth, Winfield played in Minnesota until his Sophomore season, when his father’s career with the Vikings was over and the family relocated to Texas.

The biggest surprise in the class is Juco OL Garrison Wright choosing the Gophers over TCU just before the mid-year signing period. What made the surprise even more impressive is that it came at a time the Gophers didn’t have an OL coach on staff, after just having let go their previous coach for the position.

The area that has been a focus and hasn’t quite closed as planned is at the DL position.  There were a number of early targets that showed interest and visited, but ultimately relegated to other opportunities.  Minnesota will head into next fall without a freshman DT on scholarship (true or redshirt) and just one sophomore DT on scholly.  It’ll be a position of focus in the next cycle.

On one hand, it’s the deepest and strongest class in almost a decade, but there were also a couple areas that could have been a lot stronger at the close and warrants the grading.

My final grade for the Minnesota class is a B+.

2016 iowa hawkeyes recruiting class

Derek Young of

Iowa did very well at the most important position of all. They landed quarterback Nate Stanley of Wisconsin, a prospect the Badgers wanted. Michigan State also wanted him. His recruitment and media exposure was sewn up tight and of his own accord so the film is limited and the national attention on him is limited. Scout ranks him as a 4-star prospect and in the top 300. That's a huge win for Iowa.

They won out for four-star defensive lineman and Scout 300 prospect Cedrick Lattimore. He's from Michigan and had an offer from the Spartans.

I also like what the Hawkeyes did at tight end, a position they traditionally produce to the NFL. Shaun Beyer was flipped from North Dakota State but also had offers from Nebraska and Iowa State. in-state commit T.J. Hockenson is great in the passing game and they kept Omaha native Noah Fant from Nebraska and held off Minnesota in the end. 

They also signed Alaric Jackson, beating out Michigan and Michigan State for the senior from Detroit despite Harbaugh offering two days ago.

Iowa took two wideouts in this class that can be best described as projects for the future in Devonte Young and Frank Darby. In terms of headliners, this would be the position that lacks it the most. 

Another miss is at offensive line. Matt Farniok was their most desired prospect, possibly regardless of position, and that is one battle where they couldn't top Nebraska. It becomes less glaring of a miss if they are able to reel in offensive tackle Alaric Jackson from Detroit.

There isn't the star power you see from programs like Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State but it is typical of an Iowa class, perhaps better. The Hawkeyes find themselves in a lot of recruiting battles with programs like Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and in this cycle they won a very good share of them. Defeating those schools positions them well in the Big Ten West and places them near or at their ceiling. 

Overall grade I would give to Iowa is a B.

2016 northwestern wildcats RECRUITING CLASS
0 0 20 0 3.00 RB JEREMY LARKIN

Luke Srodulski of

When former Cincy RB commit Jeremy Larkin flipped to Northwestern, it sealed Northwestern’s class. The Wildcats got 10 wins, but they needed firepower to help an anemic offensive attack. Guys like Larkin, Riley Lees and Ben Skowronek can help make that happen. The last two recruiting classes heave really focused on receivers, Northwestern’s weakest position group.

Pat Fitzgerald talks a lot about how recruiting rankings don’t matter, but his starting quarterback and running back in 2015 (Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson) were both 4-star prospects. Those top recruits can change a program, and the Wildcats didn’t get one. They came close on guys like Tuf Borland, Treyjohn Butler and Erik Swenson, but couldn’t seal the deal.

Grade: B-

2016 indiana hoosiers RECRUITING CLASS
0 0 18 2 2.90 ATH JONAH MORRIS

Alex McCarthy of

IU's biggest successes in this class came on the offensive side of the ball, especially on the line. IU brought in the top o-lineman in the state in 247Sports four-star tackle Coy Cronk, adding three more solid linemen around him. IU also gained late commitments from key skill-position guys, with wide receiver Jonah Morris (formerly committed to Michigan State) and running back Kiante Enis (formerly committed to Michigan) signing.

On the defensive side of the ball, Indiana had a couple costly misses within the state. Defensive tackle Jovan Swann — IU's top target for the past year or so — signed with Stanford and Indianapolis-area linebacker Collin Miller chose Nebraska. IU was able to get a last-minute commitment from Mississippi defensive tackle Jerome Johnson, but is left without a linebacker and just two defensive linemen in this class.

Indiana took care of business in its biggest areas of need, but the costly swings and misses in-state could come back to haunt the Hoosiers

Grade: B

2016 illinois fighting illini RECRUITING CLASS

Unfortunately, there was no Illinois analyst available to help me get an "outsider" perspective on Bill Cubit's first class for the Fighting Illini, so I'll try and do this one alone.

The nation's 71st-ranked class, Illinois has a few guys that are likely to be early contributors in Champaign, led by 6-foot-3, 210-pound early-enrollee quarterback Eli Peters from Sandalwood, Florida. He joins tight end Zarrian Holcombe, whose name is awesome, and former Michigan commit Dele Harding, a linebacker from Maryland, as the three highest-ranked players in the class.

Illinois' class could have been signicantly better if they'd been able to keep some of their home-state's talent, well, home. Three-star tailback Kentrail Moran, who had committed to the Illini last March, did not sign and reports have him leaning towards Eastern Michigan, so it's reasonable to suggest something went awry in his recruitment. You have to go all the way down to Illinois' 30th ranked player to find one heading to play for Cubit. There are 19 different schools who landed a higher ranked Illinois prospect that the Fighting Illini, and that ain't good.

Grade: D+

2016 rutgers scarlet knights RECRUITING CLASS
0 0 13 4 2.76 LB ELORM LUMOR

Richie Schnyderite of

After losing a handful de-commits over the past week from WR Isaiah Wright, TE Korab Idrizi, and OL Elijah Johnson, the Scarlet Knights rebounded nicely today by receiving new commitments from former WR commit Ahmed Bah and flipping Louisiana Tech DT Julius Turner. 

Bah is a solid addition in class that desperately needed some receiver depth. He is a big, strong and relatively fast receiver who can either become a deep threat or grow into a hybrid type Tight End in the Scarlet Knights new spread offense. Bah is an overall solid get for the Scarlet Knights. 

As for Turner, I’m personally very high on him. He has a very good first step and he has ideal size at 280lbs. to be a force in the middle. One thing that has held him back from additional offers is his height, as he's listed graciously at 6-foot-2, but we've learned that number is a little skewed. 

One position that Rutgers really recruited well this class was linebacker, as they have landed 5 solid players in Solomon Manning, Jonathan Pollock, Rashawn Battle, Elorm Lumor, and Tyreek Williams. All 5 have the potential to be starters somewhere down the line for the Scarlet Knights.

When the class all but seemed finalized, the Scarlet Knights received more bad news as they had learned that longtime Rutgers commit Taysir Mack decided to flip to Indiana. After taking an Official Visit to Indiana two weeks ago, Rutgers thought they were still in a good position with the Grand Street Campus wide out. The staff was under the impression that they would land the duo of Mack and Bah who were high school teammates but eventually learned that only Bah would be coming to Piscataway. 

With the addition of the new coaching staff, there aren't many things that the staff could have done differently. They were behind the 8-ball from the beginning due to the timing of recruiting periods but they tried like hell with a number of their top prospects. They spent a lot of time making in-roads to local programs and that is something we feel will have long term benefits for the program. 

The class may not have the star-power some of the others have but given the circumstances we feel the staff added some nice prospects. We are all anxious to see what the new staff can do in terms of recruiting with a full year at the helm. 

Grade: D

2016 purdue boilermakers RECRUITING CLASS
0 0 13 6 2.68 DE AUSTIN LARKIN

As with Illinois, I was unable to find a regional recruiting analyst that covered Purdue willing to put their name to a thorough review of the Boilermaker's class.

In this case, I don't blame them. To say this class is underwhelming, probably  definitely putting it nicely.

Purdue checks in as the country's 81st-ranked class which sounds bad–because it is–but to make it worse you have to take into account that only Kansas has a lower ranking among Power 5 programs.

In a class littered with junior college transfers, defensive Austin Larkin from the City College of San Francisco is ranked as the top overall player in their class.

I am a big fan of Dayton, Ohio's Terrance Landers, Jr., a 6-foot-4, 170-pound receiver who flipped to the Boilermakers from Bowling Green. As a group, Purdue's best overall unit is at defensive back where they signed three different quality players in Miami's Brandon Shuman, West Bloomfield, Michigan's Navon Mosley and early-enrollee Kamal Hardy from Monroe Community College in New York. 

Beyond that, there's not much for Purdue fans to look forward to. Indiana produced some big-time talent in 2016 and Darrell Hazell's program signed two total players from the Hoosier State with the highest-ranked being the state's 18th-ranked player, cornerback Joshua Hayes. Miami of Ohio signed three of Indiana's top 20. 

Grade: F

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