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Early Signing Day Big Ten Roundup

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We have a sneaking suspicion 14 coaches are going to claim they filled a lot of needs and are getting more athletic

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Happy bowl season everybody, but before we get into the prize games for the 2021 season, every program gets to partake of their Christmas gifts in the form of Early National Signing Day.

Heh, this is probably the only day of the year when fax machines still get used, right? Right?? Amirite??? Nailed it. No one’s ever made that observation before.

Recruiting coverage as a non-insider mostly consists of trailing in the wake of stuff that’s already happened, and recent changes in the sport make it even harder to figure out who’s going where. Although the early signing day was intended to help both schools and teams get some certainty, the fact that it occurs before the coaching carousel has stopped spinning creates even more potential for unseemly situations than the historical Assistant Who Recruited Player X Leaves The Day After Signing Day.

The one-time transfer availability also reduces the permanence of commitments even after the Letter of Intent is in the books, but in most cases, that’s only a good thing. Nothing stops normal students who get homesick or just aren’t happy at their school from bailing, after all.

Still, for fans of major programs, NSD is an exciting moment in the calendar, when the future is full of possibility.

Got a class full of blue chips? Time to start thinking about double-digit wins, conference titles, maybe more than that!

Got a middle-of-the-road class with a couple top-300 guys? Well, it’s important to get role players, multiyear starters, foundational and depth pieces, and depending on where your coach is in his arc, this group could be a building block.

Got a bottom-of-the-conference class without a single blue chip? Hey, it’s more important that your coach got His Kind Of Guy, guys who really want to be in [Your Middle Of Nowhere-Ass College Town], and everyone knows the recruiting services systematically under-scout [Whatever Chunk Of Florida Or Ohio Most Of Your Randos Are From].

For everyone’s reference, we’ll list each team’s current 247 Composite ranking as well as their rankings over the last few years to give you some context. As a reminder, the Composite is the average ranking between 247, Rivals, and ESPN, the three largest and most comprehensive ranking services.

Are those numbers perfect? No. The services are motivated to pump up prospects committed to or interested in larger fanbases with more possible subscription buyers, and they also buff the kids who are able to attend their camps. But the correlations between these ratings and college performance is there, and it’s strong, and if you want to argue otherwise, your team probably just isn’t recruiting very well or your rival is tearing it up on the trail, and you don’t like that. Which I understand! I’ve been there, and attempted those mental gymnastics myself.

So anyway.

Illinois: #44 (#11 B1G), 2021 #73 (#13 B1G), 2020 #88 (#14 B1G), 2019 #53 (#13 B1G)

Indiana: #20 (#4 B1G), 2021 #54 (#12 B1G), 2020 #58 (#12 B1G), 2019 #36 (#8 B1G)

Iowa: #25 (#6 B1G), 2021 #24 (#7 B1G), 2020 #35 (#8 B1G), 2019 #41 (#9 B1G)

Maryland: #28 (#8 B1G), 2021 #18 (#4 B1G), 2020 #31 (#6 B1G), 2019 #47 (#11 B1G)

Michigan: #9 (#3 B1G), 2021 #13 (#2 B1G), 2020 #14 (#2 B1G), 2019 #8 (#1 B1G)

Michigan State: #21 (#5 B1G), 2021 #46 (#10 B1G), 2020 #44 (#10 B1G), 2019 #33 (#7 B1G)

Minnesota: #43 (#10 B1G), 2021 #38 (#8 B1G), 2020 #38 (#8 B1G), 2019 #45 (#10 B1G)

Nebraska: #56 (#14 B1G), 2021 #20 (#5 B1G), 2020 #20 (#4 B1G), 2019 #17 (#4 B1G)

Northwestern: #46 (#12 B1G), 2021 #50 (#11 B1G), 2020 #47 (#11 B1G), 2019 #51 (#12 B1G)

Ohio State: #4 (#1 B1G), 2021 #2 (#1 B1G), 2020 #5 (#1 B1G), 2019 #14 (#3 B1G)

Penn State: #6 (#2 B1G), 2021 #21 (#6 B1G), 2020 #15 (#3 B1G), 2019 #12 (#2 B1G)

Purdue: #38 (#9 B1G), 2021 #76 (#14 B1G), 2020 #32 (#7 B1G), 2019 #25 (#5 B1G)

Rutgers: #27 (#7 B1G), 2021 #39 (#9 B1G), 2020 #61 (#13 B1G), 2019 #65 (#14 B1G)

Wisconsin: #49 (#13 B1G), 2021 #16 (#3 B1G), 2020 #26 (#5 B1G), 2019 #29 (#6 B1G)

Let’s go to our esteemed team correspondents with a few questions.

1) How you feeling, overall? Did you do as your coach claims and address all your needs, while also getting more athletic?

misdreavus79: I’m going to say yes, they did. Penn State got on the right side of top 10 for the first time since the 2018 class, and bring sin the No. 1 quarterback in the class in Drew Allar. They also bring the No. 1 running back in the class in Nicholas Singleton, so if you look at nothing else but those two, things are looking good. But hey, why not also look at Dani Dennis-Sutton, the No. 8 defensive lineman in the country? Case in point, there’s a lot to like about the 2022 recruiting class, and some of these guys will see the field shortly after the season starts.

MNW: I’m good—how are you? Finals are almost done, and I’m emotionally...present.

Listen, this is a great day for the Ohio States and Michigans and Penn States of the world. For me, the interested-in-who-shows-up Northwestern fan (and you can sure go to the InsideNU comments to watch the shit-flinging commence), there’s not much in it. Yesterday the ‘Cats signed a 3* QB who’s a Chicago Sun-Times player of the year and wants to walk onto the baseball team, and a commenter felt the need to post his baseball stats and say “He’s not actually that good at that, either!” So...lotta people can go walk in traffic. Apparently there was one offensive athlete, Octavian Smith Jr., from Paint Branch, MD, who was choosing between Maryland and Northwestern—I stumbled upon the Turtle guy covering his commitment and opened a livestream and, 15 minutes of coaches and administrators shouting about hard work and determination later, got bored and closed it. Apparently he eventually chose Maryland. Darn.

What a stupid fucking circus this is.

Northwestern’s dealt with some decommitments and flips—turns out going 3-9 is bad!—but grabbed a 3* defensive athlete away from Colorado and added some more size on the line, too. Nice to see that was a priority after...well, whatever the hell this season was. Two 4-stars: LB Anto Saka from Maryland and WR Reggie Fleurima from Naperville.

Added a one-handed running back, too, which is kinda neat.

Beez: I mean, it’s recruiting. It’s really not worth feeling much of anything. Will the next JJ Watt be a PWO or a highly-starred recruit? Which 4* will ride the bench for three years and then transfer to a 1AA after his junior year?

The big thing in Wisconsin recruiting this year is that the school has already lost at least 1, maybe 2, and potentially all 4 very actually highly ranked WISCONSIN RESIDENTS to other schools. Seems bad, man.

MNW: My 3* recruits are high-motor guys who my coach will get the best out of, beez. Yours are over-hyped MAC recruits that you settled on. You know that.

WSR: Looks good to me. I don’t tend to have any opinions on recruits for a year or two, other than being a huge Trey Bixby fan.

thumpasaurus: The Illinois coach’s first recruiting class is in the 40s nationally with over 20 players, no 4 star recruits but a bunch of guys who might outperform their rankings, a strong start in state (despite not landing any top IL prospects), and some underrated guys

Is it 2016 or 2021?

Skepticism of anything an illini head football coach does is always healthy and fair until such time as we reach the promised land of being Iowa, But With 6.5 Wins Instead Of 8.5.

No immediate impact players, but certainly some guys that might be good in a few years, especially on offensive line. It’s fine and all, it just feels familiar. Our coaching staff has proven that they can take lovie-grade recruits and field a competitive team, so that’s a good sign for what’s basically lovie’s 2017 class.

Nothing’s going to save us from being awful next year, it was ordained as soon as lovie smith was extended after 2018 (much the way 2017 was doomed for years in advance due to a class imbalance and a missing recruiting year).

But the good news is, I don’t see any guys that profile as immediate difference-makers. No 4 or 5 star recruits, no top-100 players, no guys you build a program around.

That means none of these players are guaranteed to wash out without ever contributing.

BoilerUp89: I’m not a big football signing day fan and don’t really care too much about it. At a developmental program like Purdue, it’s going to be 2+ years until we see most of these players outside of some stars who are ready early or a RB/WR or two.

The stars of the class are the 4 star QB and 4 star DL. Outside of that there is a lot of 3 star depth across the board. Lots of linemen on both sides of the team, a couple of WRs and TEs, a RB, couple of LBs, and a couple of secondary guys.

I’m glad to see Brohm has prioritized OL depth after getting hit super hard there this past offseason with multiple injuries/early retirements along the upperclassmen and not having depth to absorb that. He was already trending in that direction the past couple of years, but still it’s nice to see him continue that trend.

Beyond all that, it’s a solid class that I’m happy with. Look forward to seeing them in a coupe of years.

Green Akers: It was about yea short of being a perfect day, but 5* OT Kiyaunta Goodwin, after pushing his decision time repeatedly, then saying he wouldn’t decide today, ultimately sent in a signed LOI to Kentucky after all. He would’ve been a near-surefire starter on an OL that could lose every tackle who took a meaningful snap this year. Not pulling an offensive lineman who is a serious candidate to play immediately is something of a miss, honestly.

But that’s one grumpy little cloud on an excellent signing day. Tucker grabbed five 4* players, one short of MSU’s total from the previous four cycles combined. Tucker has also grabbed four of the top 40 players in the transfer portal, and is probably far from done there as well.

2) With the caveat that between the portal and the COVID year of extra eligibility, nobody has any idea what depth charts will look like next year, who do you expect to see next season?

misdreavus79: Sean Clifford already said he’s returning, and Jahan Dotson would be a fool to come back. Outside of those two, there are some decisions still to be made from Arnold Ebiketie, Brandon Smith, and Jesse Luketa. As of today, I’d say all three of those to leave, which means Penn State will be looking to fill some gaps from the portal once more, which gives time for the 22 class to ease their way into the rotation.

MNW: Depth is good and I am strongly in favor of it.

At the moment our QB depth chart is a mystery puddle of raw sewage. Who knows how deep it goes, but it’s shit all the way down.

Beez: I never expect to see any Paul Chryst recruits until they’ve been around a year or three.

WSR: I expect to see PJ Fleck and Goldy the Gopher. Freshman players? I’m sure there’s a chance we could see a DB or RB. JUCO CB Ryan Stapp seems very likely.

Thumpasaurus: Expect or want? I expect that we’ll roll with Tommy Devito coming off the bench for Art Sitkowski at quarterback, but holy shit give me a quarterback that hasn’t bounced off his ceiling a bunch of times already. Not that it matters, with RBour 5 offensive line starters we’re replacing, but damn.

Huh, actually, if we are well and truly fucked on offensive line, we don’t need a quarterback because we can simply run the triple option with Isaiah Williams.

I don’t see how our offense could get a whole lot worse to be honest.

BoilerUp89: Joe Strickland (DT) could play next year although I think that group is fine on the depth chart. RB Kendrell Marks could also play next year if none of the guys in front of him can fill the RB pass catcher role. He’s probably 4th on the depth chart there and we could see a WR take some RB snaps similar to this past year with Jackson Anthrop. Other than that, it’s probably going to take some injuries for any of these guys to see significant snaps.

Green Akers: Well, if this year is any indication, Tucker isn’t bringing in these transfers for them to sit around as depth or scout teamers. With DEs Drew Beesley and Jacub Panasiuk both out of eligibility, expect to see Florida transfer Khris Bogle as a likely starter. Also, despite finding a budding star in LB Cal Haladay, Tucker added UNLV’s Jacoby Windmon and Mississippi State’s Aaron Brule. This suggests that the staff views the pass defense issues as being as much about pass rush as about secondary play. Finally, former Badger Jalen Berger will doubtless throw his hat into the ring to divvy up Kenneth Walker III’s carries.

Along those lines, though, depth transferring out in the secondary means that basically all the DBs are candidates for playing time.

3) Do you expect your coach to keep seeking more players, or are you basically full up (again, pending transfers)?

misdreavus79: Depending on the decisions of the aforementioned players, Penn State will seek some more players to plug on defense. They are 100% looking for offensive linemen to plug the abysmal unit, so I’d expect at least another player to emerge at some point. And, of course, with a 23-person class, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a transfer or two from people not known today.

MNW: I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.

Beez: Paul had better continue seeking more players. Wisconsin needs some QBs, a RB or two, some WRs, and a secondary.

WSR: I think we’ve got a spot or two left, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. I know we’re always happy to welcome another OL.

Thumpasaurus: I think he’ll add as many as possible, and over 30 are possible. We are in a really strange position with all our seniors and super seniors and draft-eligibles. I don’t know that we’ll get any impact players, or at least certainly not enough to save us from losing at least 9 next year. Might we have been able to entice them to come had we not blown several chances at Win Number 6? Probably not.

There’s no way we’re not looking at offensive linemen in the portal to start right away. I’ll be very disappointed if we’re not looking at quarterbacks, and we’re still an offense with converted quarterbacks as its best receivers. More player departures also might come; LB Khalan Tolson unexpectedly entered the portal and “no longer with the team” is becoming a thing with upperclassmen that didn’t play. I think we’ll add at least ten more players.

BoilerUp89: Purdue has already added a couple of transfers (including a big O-lineman which will be helpful), but I suspect they will continue to look in the transfer portal for O-lineman, potentially QB depth if Burton joins Plummer in the portal (although that’s a tough sell as it’s almost certainly just a 1 year depth add), and any defensive players/punters that Brohm sees as an upgrade on the two deeps. No idea what the scholarship grid looks like, as COVID and the transfer portal makes these things a moving target.

Green Akers: Tuck still comin’ as far as the portal goes. Most MSU fans want more defensive back help, but I have a (n unfounded) feeling that the staff is content with the bodies they have there and will count on a second offseason resulting in substantial improvement.

No, I think the priority in the portal should be the OL, specifically at tackle. Even if Jarrett Horst eventually returns to the team, he’d be the only OT with real game experience, unless Kevin Jarvis returns for a COVID year and they kick him outside again. And that STILL only gives you two game-proven tackles. But given the best OTs in the portal have already been pounced on, I wouldn’t object to looking for improvement across the line. Rimington finalist Victor Oluwatimi, come on down!