Breaking Down the Big 10 Recruiting Classes

Gardner could be the player Rich Rod needs to turn Big Blue around. (Pic via

The dust has settled and the hype machine is winding down. Signing day has come and gone, complete with the usual circus surrounding the big-name schools and the annual discrediting of the Big Ten’s classes.

The Boo-Ya network spent much of it’s recruiting process ripping Ohio State for losing out on Seantrel Henderson and Jordan Hicks–and ignoring the impressive work by Michigan and Penn State. Typical.

I don’t believe in ranking classes mainly because I have not seen many of these guys play, and it is very difficult to predict how they will develop. However, I will assign grades based on how each school did given the talent pool available to them.

Let’s take a closer look at the Big Ten classes:

Ohio State

Summary: Much was made of what OSU didn’t do in recruiting, but what they did do was land some pretty solid prospects. Christian Bryant could be the next great pro prospect to play in the Bucks’ defensive backfield. WRs James Louis and Corey Brown add much-needed depth on the outside. Bradley Roby is raw but can fly–allegedly runs a sub 4.4 40–and could see playing time at corner next season if he can put on some lbs.

Sleepers: Tyrone Williams (6’5″, 215) could blossom as a receiver or tight end down the road. Keep an eye on linebackers Scott McVey and Jamel Turner. McVey could be the next great angry white dude to emerge at Ohio State.

Shortcomings: The Bucks signed only one offensive lineman (Andrew Norwall) and missed out on a couple others. There is a fair amount of depth on the line, but Tressel certainly wanted more line help from this class.

Analysis: As usual, Ohio State landed a bevy of talented recruits. There were more 3 star signees than usual, but that could be a good thing.

Grade: B


Summary: Iowa is exhibit A for recruiting being over-hyped and overrated–see Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark, Shonn Green, etc. This year, the Hawkeyes landed a very solid class, including Iowa City native A.J. Derby and enormous TE C.J. Fiedorowicz. It’s going to be annoying to spell F-i-e-d-o-r-o-w-i-c-z for years to come; he should be an absolute beast with an excellent chance to have a long NFL career–I’m getting ahead of myself now. But his size (6’6″ 240) and athletic ability (offered basketball scholarships by Indiana and Wisconsin) combined with Iowa’s lack of depth at TE means he should see a ton of playing time next season. Bruising RB Marcus Coker and OL Andrew Donnal should have a big impact in Iowa City down the line.

Sleepers: James Morris could push for playing time at linebacker next season, most likely in the middle. Anthony Ferguson is an athletic DT prospect. Iowa raided LB Austin Gray and WR Kevonte Martin-Manley from Michigan; both could emerge as key contributors.

Shortcomings: Not many as far as position depth. Iowa could have used some cornerback prospects and will need to address that area in recruiting this year.

Analysis: Most people who have seen Derby play say he throws an ugly ball and believe his size and skills would make him a solid linebacker. But he wants to play QB and the Iowa coaches want him to play QB. Don’t expect him to see the field for two or three years unless he changes positions.

Grade: B+

Penn State

Summary: Highly-touted linebacker prospects usually pan out, so expect Khari Fortt to be the next star at Linebacker U. QB Robert Bolden could be in the mix for playing time next season, and RB Silas Redd and LB Mike Hall will likely see extensive playing time right away. The Lions also signed four talented defensive linemen; Dakota Royer, Kyle Baublitz (great name), Evan Hailes, and C.J. Olaniyan.

Sleepers: Kevin Haplea could emerge as a big-time TE down the line. WR Levi Norwood and O-Line prospect Luke Graham could develop into solid contributors.

Shortcomings: Plenty of linebackers and defensive ends, but absolutely no secondary depth was added. Much like Iowa, Penn State will need to hit that area hard next year.

Analysis: Joe Pa is old balls but apparently can still recruit–or somebody at PSU can. The Lions are stockpiling talent and adding to what is already a very deep team.

Grade: A


Summary: Wisconsin didn’t land many big names, but still put together a balanced class. Frank Tamakloe could be the next great Badger safety. Madison’s own Marquis Mason will have an impact right away, while Jameson Wright could team with Tamakloe down the line to form a talented safety duo.

Sleepers: When you’re (listed) at 6’8″, 346, it’s hard to go unnoticed. But Rob Havenstein didn’t get much interest from big-name programs, aside from Penn State. Havenstein could be the next Aaron Gibson–the college years. That’s a good thing. WR Isaiah Williams could be a good finds, along with linebackers Cody Byers and Josh Harrison could be good finds.

Shortcomings: Wisconsin and Iowa typical land a bunch of three star type guys who develop and emerge in couple years; along with a can’t-miss guy here and there. I’m not sure Wisconsin has that can’t-miss this year.

Analysis: The class addressed numerous positions and looks to be pretty solid, even if it takes some time for its members to see the field. UW is starting to make it’s mark in Florida, inking five players from the Sunshine State this year.

Grade: C


Summary: Who wouldn’t want to play for Pat Fitzgerald? One of the most underrated coaches in CFB is becoming a good recruiter, landing Trevor Sieman from Florida and three talented defensive line prospects–Chance Carter, Sean McEvilly, and Will Hampton.

Sleepers: WR Jimmy Hall might be one of the few Wildcats play as a true freshman. Collin Ellis and Paul Jorgensen need time but could emerge as stars in a couple years.

Shortcomings: Northwestern faces all sorts of obstacles in recruiting, and signed a small class this season. The Wildcats are dangerously thin at running back–Adonis Smith was the lone RB signed.

Analysis: The running back position is a big problem that wasn’t addressed, but the rest of the class appears to be pretty solid

Grade: C+

Gholston figures to be a star from the start, at either DE or OLB. (Pic via

Michigan State

Summary: William Ghloston headlines a class that could feature four or five players starting as soon as next season. Gholston will probably play defensive end for the Spartans, but for right now is listed as a linebacker. Max Bullough could compete for a starting job at outside linebacker. Look for Mylan Hicks and Isaiah Lewis to see the field right away.

Sleepers: Michigan State needs help at receiver, and Keith Mumphery and Tony Lippert should be able to bolster the Spartans on the outside. Joe Boisture is an enormous QB a could push his way into the lineup. RB Nick Hill has drawn comparisons to Mike Hart; short, compact, and really tough to tackle.

Shortcomings: MSU could have used more help at reciever and running back, but overall this is a strong, deep class.

Analysis: The Spartans have had off-field issues that might make things a bit rough early next season. The uncertain status of a number of key players, including leading returning reciever B.J. Cunningham, might force a handful of players into action too soon.

Grade: A-


Summary: Sean Robinson could become one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten as soon as next season–he is that good. Robinson can really throw it and is a very good runner with strength and speed. I have a feeling many of the top programs around the country will regret not pursuing him. Two Florida boys, WR O.J. Ross and CB Ricardo Allen bring speed and quickness and should play a key role.

Sleepers: A number of defensive players that could develop into starters, led by DT Bruce Gaston and Joe Gilliam.

Shortcomings: This class looks promising, but it will take awhile until it transalates to success on the field.

Analysis: Danny Hope and his magic ‘stache took a big step in rebuilding a program lacking depth. I’m telling you, Robinson will be a star.

Grade: B-


Summary: There is a chance Seantrel Henderson could end up being part of the class; he hasn’t officially signed with USC and Minnesota would be his likely destination if he backs away from the Trojans. Unlike Northwestern, Minnesota got the running backs it needed, signing LeMonte Edwards, Donnell Kirkwood, and Devon Wright. Jimmy Gjere would most likely end up playing offensive line and could crack the lineup next year.

Sleepers: Could be a bunch here, led by S James Manuel and LB Willie Tatum

Shortcomings: The Gophers could use a quarterback and needed reciever help. Aside from running backs and lineman, the offensive side of the ball didn’t get much help from this class.

Analysis: I remember watching Minnesota struggle against faster teams a few years ago–Tim Brewster has done a great job adding speed to his defense. I don’t see a dynamic offensive player among the 2010 class.

Grade: C

Providing he stays out of trouble, Dorsey should be an impact player for the Wolverines. (Pic via


Summary: Rich Rodriguez has found the going much easier in recruiting than he has on the field. Eventually, his highly-touted recruits should make a difference–unless he is the next Ron Zook. Difference-makers in this class include QB Devin Gardner and defensive backs Demar Dorsey, Marvin Robinson and Richard Ash.

Sleepers: Kickers never get much pub in recruiting, but Michigan landed a good one in Will Hagerup. Gibreel Black and Davion Rogers will be productive defensive players in the future, and WR Jeremy Jackson could be a star.

Shortcomings: Michigan’s enormous class featured only one offensive lineman. The Wolverines have struggled in the trenches for the last couple seasons and didn’t get enough help in recruiting.

Analysis: The man who coached Pacman Jones and Chris Henry at West Virginia has never hestitated to recruit players with questionable character, so it was no surprise Rich Rod went after Dorsey. The Florida native has been involved in three burglaries and appears to be a risk, creating a testy press conference on signing day. Winning cures all, and Rodriguez needs to win–now.

Grade: A-


Summary: Ron Zook is losing his recruiting magic, along with continuity in his staff and soon–his job. Zook lost a number of key recruits last fall, but did land QB Chandler Whitmer and Darious Milliness.

Sleepers: Expect 25 year-old Trulon Henry and Earnest Thomas to play somewhere next season in the defensive backfield. WR Anthony Williams is a project but could be a very good player in a couple years.

Shortcomings: This was Zook’s lowest-rated class and doesn’t seem likely to add much substance to an already thin Illini squad.

Analysis: Zook has always gotten less out of more, but now needs to get more out of less. Always considered a great recruiter, the Zookster fell short this year–way, way short.

Grade: D


Summary: The Hoosiers signed three JUCO players, including defensive backs Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles, that should help the defensive side of the ball right away. Kofi Hughes doesn’t have a clear position but is certainly a good find. LB Ishmael Thomas looks to be the cream of the crop and will certainly play next season.

Sleepers: At 6’5″, WR Logan Young was a steal. Matt Zakrzewski projects as a MLB and could see the field early.

Shortcomings: Offense wasn’t the problem last season, but could be in the future. The Hoosiers loaded up on defensive players and might regret not adding depth to the offense.

Analysis: Bill Lynch did a nice job filling needs with the three JUCO defensive players he signed and added several nice prospects. Indiana was competitive last year and should be an improved team next season, possibly playing into bowl contention.

Grade: B-


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