Do you smell that? The smell of hope springing eternal?
That sweet, lusty delusion that this will be the class that takes you to a national title/playoff appearance/conference title/division title/division contention/bowl appearance/not losing to MAC teams anymore/please God just let something go right for this program?
Signing Day is fast approaching, and we at OTE can confidently predict that all your wildest college football dreams will definitely come true on the backs, arms, and legs of this group of 'croots*.
Let's take a turn around the conference and see where everybody is at with the Class of '16 here in the 11th hour, per the 247 Composite:
#2 Ohio State, 22 commits, 91.66 average
No surprise here. OSU has been flirting with the top overall class for much of the cycle, and they still have a few big targets out there. Expect OSU to defend its position near the top of the national rankings come Signing Day, as Urban Meyer is usually good for a few last-second commitments.
Best position group: TE. The Buckeyes have a trio of instate 4* talents coming in at this position, all of whom are candidates to see some time given up by Nick Vannett.
Biggest remaining need: DT. Even with 3 talented prospects coming in on the line, highlighted by Nick Bosa, OSU might be a bit light on the interior DL. Larry Johnson has surprisingly come up empty on a number of top prospects, but one expects they'll find somebody worth having up front given the snaps that could be available immediately.
#5 Michigan, 25 commits, 89.34 average
Jim Harbaugh's relentless and controversial tactics have yielded some dividends, and his national approach has landed the Wolverines outstanding players from coast to coast. Michigan's class is in a state of pronounced flux, as new decommitments and commitments come seemingly every day. Michigan also has a number of uncommitted targets still on the board, including consensus top overall recruit, NJ DT Rashan Gary. With Gary's former high school coach now on Harbaugh's staff, Michigan has to feel good about landing Gary.
Best position group: WR. Brad Hawkins, Ahmir Mitchell, and Dylan Crawford give Michigan a trio with diverse skill sets, and the return of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson means none of these guys necessarily needs to be thrown out there.
Biggest need: DT. Gary would cure this need in a big way if Michigan can get him, but the only other true DT committed at the moment, Jordan Elliott, has been wavering in his commitment a bit.
#13 Michigan State, 20 commits, 88.84 average
Stability has been the name of the game for Michigan State in recent years, but the Spartans can once again land a historically strong class. They remain in pursuit of a few big targets both locally and nationally, and in particular will try to wrestle two Detroit prospects, DB LaVert Hill and OG/DT Michael Onwenu, away from rival Michigan.
Best position group: WR...but it was a tough call between that and DL. The Spartans have four 4* WR prospects, including two early enrollees in Cameron Chambers and Donnie Corley. This is a class of receivers that can stack up with any in the country, and the need for new contributors out wide is significant.
Biggest need: RB. The Spartans' former tailback commit, Abdul Adams, bailed for Oklahoma, and the Spartans are in no apparent hurry to find another. With all 4 contributors returning, the need isn't urgent, but it's the only real hole in the class as is.
#16 Penn State, 17 commits, 89.53 average
Whatever his team's troubles on the field, James Franklin continues to excel in bringing talent to Happy Valley. Thie year's class will be smaller than the last couple of years, but there's good quality on a per-player basis here. 5* RB Miles Sanders could offer a tantalizing one-two punch with sophomore-to-be Saquon Barkley for years to come. A string of recent decommitments have taken some wind out of his sails, but this is still a class near the top of the conference.
Best position group: DL. Penn State raided Maryland once again and has a pair in DE Shane Simmons and DT Ellison Jordan who will likely contribute as freshmen. The depth here isn't bad, but the top two are an enviable duo.
Biggest need: LB. PSU's hand may have been forced a bit by scholarship crunch here, but only taking one prospect when Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman-White are both seniors-to-be places a lot of faith in the backups already on the roster.
#28 Nebraska, 19 commits, 86.88 average
Mike Riley has continued Nebraska's national recruiting pattern, touching California, Florida, Colorado, and points in between to gather his prospects. With not very much time between now and signing day, the Cornhuskers continue to hone in on some big fish with projections to land 4* WR Desmond Fitzpatrick, 4* S Lamar Jackson, and 4* S Isaiah Simmons. This class is all about the close, and things are looking up. If things fall right, this could be a class around 24-25 and could be a Top 20 composite.
Best Position Group: OL. In particular, you have to like Riley prevailing over conference peers to grab Iowan John Raridon and South Dakotan Matt Farniok.
Biggest need: DL. Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins both left for the NFL, and there are no obvious instant-impact guys in this class to replace them.
#30 Wisconsin, 26 commits, 84.65 average
Paul Chryst's first full class strikes a nice balance without turning many heads - exactly the way Wisconsin's classes have looked every year for the last 20. However, Dave Aranda's defection to LSU has caused some uncertainty amongst the defensive prospects, as it's no longer clear what system Wisconsin will run; DT Garrett Rand is reportedly looking around.
Best position group: LB. The Badgers have and will graduate a ton of productive players on the second level of the defense, and Chryst has oriented his class accordingly. None of the Badgers' 4 LB commits will jump off the recruiting page, but Chris Borland and Joe Schobert didn't, either.
Biggest need: QB. Kare' Lyles is a decent-looking prospect, but with only 2 other scholarship QBs currently on the roster in front of him, a JUCO or graduate transfer might have been a decent insurance policy. Even a second prep QB would have allowed Chryst to hedge his bets a bit.
#40 Minnesota, 19 commits, 84.94 average
Not a bad first group for Tracy Claeys in his first year as the man in charge, and comparable to the classes Jerry Kill used to rebuild this program.
Best position group: OL. With a couple of junior-college guys included in the mix, Minnesota has acquired a couple of options to immediately improve what was a disappointing line last season.
Biggest need: DL. Need is a relative phrase here, as Minnesota has plenty of young defensive linemen already on the roster, but typically you'd like more than 2 bodies here.
#43 Iowa, 24 commits, 84.10 average
Stop me if you've heard this before: Iowa has a class entirely composed of 3* recruits, with a core of instate guys supplemented with Chicago, Detroit, and East Coast prospects.
Best position group: DE. Cedrick Lattimore could end up being a big assessment miss for instate Michigan and Michigan State.
Biggest need: P. An Iowa class without a kicking specialist? Hustle off, Kirk.
#45 Maryland, 16 commits, 85.09 average
Maryland had its guts pulled out by Ohio State a few weeks ago, as Urban plundered the class's crown jewels, QB Dwayne Haskins and LB Keandre Jones. New head coach D.J. Durkin has rebounded nicely since then, particularly with some new inroads into Florida, but this class has still lost considerable shine from the heyday of the #movement.
Best position group: OL. Maryland has managed to hold on to a number of promising instate linemen in the last few classes, and this year is no different with Terrance Davis and Richard Merritt, both products of major talent factories.
Biggest need: QB. Losing Haskins was a kidney punch in a few ways. Sure, he was a potential symbol of Maryland's improved fortunes in retaining local talent, but more importantly, he fit a position of enormous need. Maryland's QB situation is a mess and Haskins could have been an immediate fix.
#47 Northwestern, 20 commits, 84.45 average
Northwestern continues to plug along on the recruiting trail, both limited and helped by its academic stringency and abstaining for the most part from dramatic or high-profile recruiting.
Best position group: LB. The strength of this group is based mostly on its All-Name Team All-American, Jango Glackin. Yes, that's an actual player who will be going to Northwestern and not a character from the next Star Wars movie. On merit, the OL group at least has enough options to expect a couple of serviceable starters to develop.
Biggest need: DE. The Wildcats have some attrition to deal with here, and Tommy Carnifax is the only definite end in the recruiting group.
#63 Indiana, 16 commits, 83.86 average
Kevin Wilson's recruiting has fallen back from his high-water a couple of seasons ago, but one hopes this is the mark of a strengthening program: with so many young players having seen the field recently, there isn't as much easy playing time to go around.
Best position group: QB. JUCO Richard Lagow has to be the frontrunner to step in and start next year. Given the cliff IU generally fell off of the last couple of seasons when Sudfeld couldn't go, Lagow's success is likely to correlate strongly with the Hoosiers' overall.
Biggest need: DL. One commit isn't ideal, even though the option of flipping one of the several OL commits is always out there.
#66 Illinois, 21 commits, 81.85 average
Somehow, Bill Cubit has held on to a few decent pieces despite his ludicrous contract situation. His bigger problem will be patching the many roster holes opened by the many offseason transfers.
Best position group: TE. Cubit has at least found himself some options here with 3 commits. Presumably, at least one will be flipped to defense.
Biggest need: LB. There's nothing wrong with the 2 LB commits Cubit has so far, but this position has been slammed by attrition over the offseason. Cubit better hope Christion Abercrombie and Jake Hansen are ready to go, because they're likely to be needed.
#67 Rutgers, 14 commits, 84.05 average
New coach Chris Ash got a late start on this class, which had already missed on a veritable bonanza of in-state talent before Kyle Flood was let go. Seriously, consider how good Rutgers would be if they could hold on to just the instate talent which has gone to Michigan in the last 2 cycles - Jabrill Peppers, Ahmir Mitchell, Brad Hawkins, Ron Johnson, and most likely Rashan Gary would be a damn sight better than anyone the Knights can run out there right now.
Best position group: LB. Good thing, too, because all 3 starters from last year are gone. Moreover, 3 of Rutgers' 5 (!) LB commits have already enrolled, which may take the edge off of the learning curve a bit.
Biggest need: DL. Not a single commit yet up front for a position group that hasn't been a liability, but is far from a strength.
#85 Purdue, 16 commits, 81.29
Take heart, Boiler fans: there's still a couple months of basketball left before you have to think about football again. The Boilers have failed to outrecruit 3 new coaches in the conference and are soundly bested on this front by Bill Cubit of the 2-year contract. Apparently, the scent of death coming from Darell Hazell's regime is noticeable, as they currently sit one rank behind the Naval Academy.
Best position group: CB. Hazell has at least given himself (or his successor) some options in the defensive backfield with 4 recruits labelled as corners and another safety. None of them profile as the big-impact types this program needs, but squint the right way and perhaps a Ricardo Allen type emerges from this unheralded group.
Biggest need: QB. Sure, with a returning-starter redshirt sophomore and a redshirt freshman atop the depth chart, maybe this need isn't as pressing as the general need for immediate-impact players all over the roster. But Austin Appleby's departure leaves those 2 as the only scholarship QBs in West Lafayette right now, which is poor insulation at the most vital position,
*OTE does not warrant or vouchsafe the success of your program and guarantees only that each and every foible, disappointment, and shortcoming of your preferred team will be vigorously scrutinized and ruthlessly mocked.