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Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Most important Big Ten recruiting targets

By Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival

As the season is getting into full swing, teams are recognizing needs and holes that need to be filled. Every team in the Big Ten still has some areas of improvement that can be fixed with recruiting.

Here is a look at some important targets remaining for each Big Ten team.

LB Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic)
6-2, 190
ESPN Rank: Four-star
Sykes is a highly regarded in-state prospect that Illinois is currently after. Linebacker commit Austin Roberts (Rice Lake, Wisc./Rice Lake) recently tore his ACL, so adding another linebacker like Sykes has become even more important for reassurance. The two play different positions, but shoring up a position group with a four-star is never a bad thing. This is the type of player that the Illini can’t let get out of their grasp. Winning a battle for an in-state prospect at a position of need would be a big step in the right direction.

OT Lukayus McNeil (Indianapolis/Decatur Central)
6-6, 260
ESPN 300 rank: Unranked
McNeil has become one of the most sought after linemen in the Big Ten with offers from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin. It’s the Hoosiers that need him the most, however, as their offense relies very heavily on the passing game. With a strong left tackle like McNeil guarding the line, Indiana could continue to flourish.

DE Dewayne Hendrix (O’Fallon, Ill./O’Fallon)
6-5, 230
ESPN 300 rank: 189
The Hawkeyes are in need of a rush defensive end in a big way. They’re also looking for one to come in and make an immediate impact. With power off the edge strength, Hendrix is that defender. His versatility against the run and pass could be something the Hawkeyes see much sooner than later. Putting Hendrix alongside redshirt freshman Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara (Weston, Fla./Cypress Bay) could pay dividends for years to come.

DE Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge)
6-4, 262
ESPN 300 Rank: 4
Hand took his official visit to Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame night game and came away thoroughly impressed. He is set to visit Florida and Alabama and will then decide on November 14. Landing Hand would be a big help along the defensive line and would give Michigan two five-star commitments and two top-five prospects in the same class with defensive back Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic).

Michigan State
RB Jeff Jones (Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn
6-0, 196
ESPN Rank: Three-star
This one could go a few different ways as Michigan State has a few big needs and some top targets still on the board, but the Spartans’ offense has struggled. Jones is currently committed to Minnesota, but has been hearing from Michigan State. The Spartans are in on several running back prospects, including Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) and Chris James (Niles, Ill./Notre Dame) as well. This could be an interesting dynamic to see which running back Michigan State lands, but Jones would be a dynamic playmaker in East Lansing.

OL Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen)
6-5, 296
ESPN rank: Three-star
Ragnow is an in-state kid with a ton of big offers, so landing him would be a huge deal for the program. There isn’t a huge talent pool in the state of Minnesota so keeping the best prospects home has to be a huge priority for the Golden Gophers. Ragnow is heavily considering other schools, including Florida State and Arkansas, but still has Minnesota in consideration.

DE Claudeson Pelon (Orlando, Fla./Mesa Community College)
6-5, 280
Defensive back is a big need, but there also needs to be pressure on the quarterback and a push up front as well. With his size and the fact he is a JUCO prospect, Pelon might be able to contribute earlier than other prospects. He has a ton of big offers, so if the Cornhuskers could land him, it would be a step in the right direction for the future of the defense.

LB Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central)
6-2, 210
ESPN 300 rank: 242
Lee is schedule to take his official visit to Northwestern on September 20 and lists the Wildcats within his top list. Landing a top prospect from Lawrence Central could not only pay off in this class, but future classes as well. Lee has several teammates who could be big-time prospects, so landing him could make an impact with his teammates.

Ohio State
ILB Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County)
6-2, 249
ESPN 300 rank: 14
The Buckeyes lined up their outside linebackers of the future in 2013 when they landed ESPN 150 standouts Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell. If Ohio State can land the top-ranked linebacker in the country this year, it will have a core it can build around for the future.

Penn State
DT Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln)
6-4, 303
ESPN 300 rank: 86
The Nittany Lions need a linebacker in this class, but more importantly they need to shore up the trenches with as many as two defensive tackles. While it will be a fight to get him, Holley’s size and strength are a natural fit in Penn State’s defense. He can be the cornerstone for the unit and someone it can use in different ways.

DE Renell Wren (St. Louis/Lutheran North)
6-5, 247
ESPN 300 rank: Unranked
The Boilermakers are trying hard to hold onto Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) and Denzel Ward (Chicago/Simeon Career Academy), but this is about who they want. Purdue likes the three-star end Wren’s length and athleticism and believe he would be a perfect fit. With most of the defensive line graduating after this year the need to build for the future is vital. Wren would be an excellent addition moving forward.

RB Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom)
6-1, 209
ESPN 300 rank: 100
While the Badgers have recently reached out to Kansas State commit Dalvin Warmack (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs), the chance to grab an all-around back like Mixon is hard to pass up. He has Wisconsin in is final five and has shown a knack for the end zone after a 20-touchdown season as a junior.