BRADENTON, Fla. -- In the 2015 class, IMG Academy had 12 prospects sign with FBS programs, including eight spread over four of the Power 5 conferences. That was a mere warmup compared to the Class of 2016.

The junior class at IMG Academy features a whopping eight prospects in the ESPN Junior 300, headlined by No. 2 Shavar Manuel and No. 3 and Florida State quarterback commit Malik Henry, along with No. 19 Saivion Smith and Florida State commit Isaac Nauta. Add in cornerback Khalil Ladler, outside linebacker Rahshaun Smith, No. 128 and Clemson wide receiver verbal Tavares Chase and Ohio State pledge Tyler Gerald and the quickly growing football program is officially among the nation's elite.

On Monday, RecruitingNation spent a few hours on campus to get the latest.

Big Ten morning links

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
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It's cold. I'm cranky. Let's get on with this. Seriously, is it almost spring?

Purdue is lowering season-ticket prices for nearly 90 percent of the seats at Ross-Ade Stadium in 2015. You can get a ticket to seven home games for less than $100 after attendance dropped in 2014 by 28 percent to 35,269 per game -- the lowest figure since 1951, according to the Lafayette Journal and Courier.

The university issued a news release Wednesday, quoting athletics director Morgan Burke, who opened with this: "We want our fans back."

Hey, at least he's not sugar-coating it.

The Boilermakers have won four games since Darrell Hazell took over two years ago, including one in Big Ten play – and it came on the road at Illinois last year.

If you wondered about the importance of next season for the third-year coach, wonder no more.

Meanwhile, at Ohio State, they're dropping ticket prices, too, though not quite like Purdue. The national champs are rolling prices to 2010 for the April 18 spring game to $5 per seat.

Five bucks to see the Bucks -- that's the best deal in the Big Ten. Apparently, this is happening in response to last year, when OSU tried to charge $20 a seat for the spring game, only to slash prices at the last minute.

Or maybe Ohio State is just preparing its fans for the letdown of a scrimmage without Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.

I admit, if I followed Dwayne Haskins Jr., the nation's No. 2-rated pocket-passer quarterbacl, on Twitter, I would not have understood his reference to Maryland's tribute to a Drake album cover.

I thought Drake was an FCS program in Des Moines. So yeah, I'm out of touch with some of these kids. Fortunately, people exist in the media out there who can explain this stuff to me.

Now, Jameis Winston and Bryce Petty are talking up Michigan's facilities and coach Jim Harbaugh in a part-genius, part-propaganda campaign by the Wolverines with two of the nation's premier quarterback prospects for the NFL draft.

If you didn't already notice, Winston and Petty visited Ann Arbor this week to work out at Al Glick Fieldhouse and meet with Harbaugh in advance of the NFL combine.

They attended a basketball game, and Winston gushed over Harbaugh on camera for the school-run website, saying, "I wish I could have played for" the former 49ers coach.

Harbaugh and George Whitfield, personal coach for Winston and Petty, have some history together; Whitfield served as an intern with the 49ers last year.

Curious minds want to know: What do Jimbo Fisher and Art Briles think of this little exercise?

On with the rest of the links:
Earlier today we took an extensive look at the potential changes to the college football recruiting calendar and their impact on the Big Ten. The league's football coaches spent a portion of their annual business meetings Feb. 8-9 on the likelihood of the signing date moving to December, and whether official visits also could or should be moved to late spring or early summer.

You might be wondering: Does this really matter? The answer is yes, especially for a certain group of Big Ten schools. We answer that question and others relating to these topics below.

Why is this so important for the Big Ten?

Several Big Ten teams face a major disadvantage in recruiting because their campuses are located far from the concentrations of top prospects. The challenge is amplified by a recruiting environment where players are making their college choices earlier and most likely will soon having a chance to sign earlier. If the official visits calendar doesn't change, certain Big Ten programs won't be able to pay for prospects from recruiting concentrations to visit their campuses, forcing the prospects to make long trips on their own dime. Bottom line: an already tenuous situation could become much worse.

Which programs are affected most by the proposed recruiting calendar?

The West Division teams located farther from recruit concentrations. Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin seem particularly vulnerable. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told ESPN.com that the school doesn't have trouble getting prospects to visit unofficially, even those from far-flung locations. But some of these programs could fall further behind in the recruiting race if early official visits don't accompany an early signing date.

What must happen for early official visits to gain traction?

The Big Ten schools who need the change must push for them, and Nebraska is best positioned take the lead. Although leagues such as the SEC, Big 12 and ACC likely won't support early official visits, the Big Ten could drum up some support with the Pac-12, which has several members located far from recruit concentrations. Every FBS conference votes on the recruiting calendar, so the Big Ten also could find allies with Group of 5 leagues such as the Mid-American. A proposal for early official visits wouldn't go to a vote until spring 2016 at the earliest, so it wouldn't be in effect until the 2017 recruiting cycle.

Why isn't there more support for early visits nationally?

It's pretty simple. Schools and conferences look out for their own interests. Even within the Big Ten, good luck convincing Rutgers and Maryland that it's a good idea to provide a new edge in recruiting for league rivals. In the SEC -- and parts of the Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC -- many of the top recruiting targets can simply drive to campus in the spring or summer for unofficial visits. Official visits, at some schools, have become an afterthought. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith raises some interesting points about the importance of vacation time for coaches in the summer. But that's not a major obstacle. With June set aside for camps and official visits, coaches could still take plenty of vacation time in July -- not that many of them would take it.

Realistically, what would happen if the early signing period passes without early visits?

In the short term, probably not much. Coaches at the most impacted Big Ten West schools would work harder during the season to secure official visits. They'd load up on visitors in the short time in December before the signing date and make the best of a bad situation. Over the long haul, though, damage would be noticeable in the workload placed on coaches and the quality of recruiting classes. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the December period, if passed, would not grow in popularity among recruits. Some administrators point to basketball, which offers an early signing period in November and still makes use of an April period. Football recruiting is a different animal, though; the hype around signing day ensures it.

Envision the next frontier in recruiting. It's 2017. An early signing period -- likely to receive approval this year from the FBS conference commissioners -- has been in place for two cycles in recruiting.

Now check the pulse of your program.

How much can change in two years? What's the potential impact of two compromised classes for a group of schools that don't enjoy the advantages of the elite programs in recruiting?

As the Big Ten throws its support behind a three-day December window for prospects to sign letters of intent -- without an accompanying change by the NCAA to institute earlier official visits -- geographically isolated schools like Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and others nationally must consider a painful reality that strikes at the heart of the rich-getting-richer debate central to college football.

In advance of the June vote of conference commissioners on whether to have an early signing period to supplement the existing February date, Big Ten coaches and administrators met this month to discuss the proposal. The plan is designed to ease financial and time burdens on coaches and to keep pace with the accelerated recruiting cycle. If passed, it would allow prospects, on a two-year trial basis, to sign Dec. 16-18.

Commissioner Jim Delany said a "strong majority" to support the proposal exists among Big Ten schools, which form one of the wealthiest and most influential conferences nationally, yet offer a study in contrast amid the game's recruiting subculture.

And out of the meeting, a second conversation emerged, perhaps more integral to the Big Ten's competitive balance than an early signing period: the need for early official visits, which appears much less likely to pass.

That won't stop some Big Ten coaches who are already at a recruiting disadvantage from pushing hard for early visits.


(Read full post)


Ultimate ESPN 300 roundtable: Most impactful B1G recruit

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
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By now, you've surely seen the Ultimate ESPN 300, a list of the 300 most impactful players based on both high school and college production. The list considered players whom ESPN evaluated at both levels, so while not all 300 players were highly rated in high school, they were all somewhat known commodities.

We're all about the Big Ten here, so in the next three days we'll debate how the Ultimate ESPN 300 factors into this corner of college football.

Wednesday's roundtable topic: Which player had the biggest impact on a Big Ten program?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris Borland, Wisconsin linebacker, No. 143

Impact can be hard to quantify, as there are so many factors involved. I nearly went with former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who impacted Ohio State both positively (fans often forget how good he was in bowl games and big games) and negatively during a wild career. I also tried to find players who seemed like he played college ball for seven or eight years. Borland was one of those players. He was so good for so long, winning Big Ten freshman of the year in 2009 and Big Ten defensive player of the year in 2013. He overcame adversity, missing most of 2010 with a shoulder injury. He earned All-Big Ten honors -- coaches or media -- in all four full seasons he played.

Borland also is the quintessential Wisconsin star: an undersized, freakish athlete who grew up playing soccer and was overlooked in recruiting. He contributed from the moment he arrived in Madison and played in four bowl games and three Big Ten championship games. Although Wisconsin had more nationally famous players on the Ultimate 300 list -- J.J. Watt (No. 271), Russell Wilson (No. 187), Melvin Gordon (No. 53), Montee Ball (No. 136) -- Borland's overall legacy as a Badger trumps them all.

Brian Bennett: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State quarterback, No. 71

My choice is a little unorthodox and not entirely based on what the player has done -- yet -- on the field. I'm going with Penn State's Hackenberg. He committed to Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke and stayed with the Nittany Lions even after the NCAA tried to decimate the program with scholarship reductions and a bowl ban. He could have easily gone somewhere else, but his faithfulness in Bill O'Brien and the program signaled to other players that it was OK to stick things out with Penn State.

Hackenberg was the Big Ten's freshman of the year in 2013 and, despite some struggles as a sophomore, still helped lead the Nittany Lions back to a bowl last season. He's got at least one more year in State College to show off his talent. Penn State fans should already be thankful for what he (and let's not forget No. 294, Michael Mauti) did to keep the entire program afloat.

Mitch Sherman: Joey Bosa, Ohio State defensive end, No. 58

What more could one guy do from his position than Bosa in helping lead the Buckeyes romp to a Big Ten title and the first College Football Playoff championship? Sure, the Ohio State quarterbacks and running back Ezekiel Elliott got many of the headlines – and deservedly so – during the 2014 championship run. But Bosa dominated from the first game of the season at defensive end, collecting 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

His Big Ten-best four forced fumbles led directly to 30 Ohio State points. And he did it, as a true sophomore, without fellow bookend Noah Spence, dismissed after All-Big Ten season in 2013. Opponents feared Bosa. His presence changed games. And nothing seemed to bother him. He was simply the best player on the best team in the country for the longest portion of last season.
The Ultimate ESPN 300 list is loaded with intriguing stories. From unheralded players rising to the top to players not yet reaching their potential, the list has everything. To outline a few of those intriguing players, here is a look at the top five within the Big Ten:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Big Ten morning links

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
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Jim Harbaugh ... quarterback whisperer?

Such was the implication when it was revealed on Tuesday that the new Michigan coach was in Ann Arbor helping former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and ex-Baylor star Bryce Petty prepare for this week’s NFL combine.



It turns out that Winston and Petty were directed to Michigan via quarterback guru George Whitfield after training in San Diego in order to get acclimated to the time zone and weather and throwing in an indoor facility before they head to Indianapolis. (Though why they'd need to adjust to the weather is a mystery). Harbaugh and Wolverines quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch met with both players on campus.

Though it was a bit odd to see players from other schools get advice from Harbaugh, it was also brilliant in many ways. Harbaugh has a great and well-deserved reputation for developing quarterbacks and understanding the position, given his playing career and previous players he has coached. This will merely enhance the perception of him as a teacher of quarterbacks, especially given that Winston could be the No. 1 player taken in the draft.

And what's Michigan's biggest need right now? Developing a quarterback, naturally. Despite getting a very late start in recruiting this year, Harbaugh was able to flip Zach Gentry away from his Texas commitment based no doubt largely on Harbaugh's track record. The Wolverines are in hot pursuit of more star quarterbacks in the 2016 class. It sure doesn't hurt for prospects out there to see these images of Harbaugh bestowing his wisdom on future NFL quarterbacks. (And it was probably also no coincidence that Petty and Winston were at the Michigan State-Michigan game in Crisler Arena at the same time as a bunch of important in-state recruits).

Of course, the guy who Harbaugh will be chasing, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, is viewed as one of the best developers of quarterbacks in the business. If there was ever any doubt about that, Meyer showed it last season with how both J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were able to take over at a moment's notice.

Two other new head coaches in the Big Ten, Nebraska's Mike Riley and Wisconsin's Paul Chryst, have earned praise in the past for their ability to teach quarterback play. That's a great harbinger for the league's future, since the most important position on the field seemed to slide a bit in recent years throughout the conference. Now, though, the Big Ten might just be flush with quarterback whisperers.

Around the league ...
video

National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree ranked the top 10 recruits who permanently altered the fortunes of their colleges. He breaks down the list with ESPN's Phil Murphy and picks which 2015 signee could join it.

Big Ten morning links

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
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As new coaches shopped for assistants after the season at Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin, four members of the programs’ old staffs were retained.

Jim Harbaugh kept Greg Mattison, the defensive coordinator turned D-line coach at Michigan; Nebraska’s Mike Riley kept secondary coach Charlton Warren; and Paul Chryst held onto defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and running backs coach Thomas Brown at Wisconsin.

Well, news surfaced Friday that Warren was departing for North Carolina. Monday, Brown left for his alma mater, Georgia.

And so there were two ...

Both decisions make sense. Brown played at Georgia and gets the chance to coach his former position near a fountain of recruiting talent.

For Warren, it’s a move closer to home. He’s from Georgia, too. And after nearly two decades in the military or working at the Air Force Academy, the opportunity was too attractive to make a career choice that served his family first.

Warren and Brown helped the new staffs at Nebraska and Wisconsin, respectively, transition through signing day. They were key figures in the schools’ signing of top prospects. Riley and Chryst, though, had bigger plans for them.

This is an issue, in fact, that persists nationally as the coaching carousel spins at an unusually brisk mid-February pace. Assistant coaches are abandoning recruits all around -- Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Notre Dame, Texas, UCLA.

A few coaches to whom I’ve spoken since signing day recognize the problem. It should be addressed, Riley said last week.

I’ve also heard from readers and on social media that coaches ought to face a penalty for leaving soon after signing day. That simply won’t happen under the current governance model unless it’s written into their contracts. And until schools stop breaking deals much more often than coaches, don’t expect any such language to appear.

If the answer is an out clause for recruits, that’s a discussion for another day. And it starts with the conference commissioners, who administrate the letter of intent and meet every June as a group.

In the meantime, head coaches next winter may think twice about the value of retaining assistants.

Around the conference:
We're taking a team-by-team look at the state of every Big Ten program as the spring nears. We'll examine coaching, the roster, recruiting and overall trends.

Penn State is up next.

2014 record: 7-6 (2-6 Big Ten, sixth in East Division)

Three-year record: 22-15

Coaching situation: Entering his second season in Happy Valley, 43-year-old James Franklin is something of a perfect fit for the Nittany Lions. He’s charismatic, full of energy and in the right place at the right time as PSU works to distinguish itself among a fast-improving East Division. Franklin’s offensive background should serve Penn State well on the heels of its struggles to move the football in his first season. Defensively, coordinator Bob Shoop was coveted by LSU last month. Franklin has constructed a solid staff, balanced well to teach and recruit.

Roster situation: The Lions remain young after losing just three starters on offense and four on defense. Three juniors left early for the NFL, a testament to the high-end talent in place despite NCAA sanctions, which hurt depth more than overall skill level on the roster. Depth is still a concern, but with scholarship limitations lifted, Penn State can again strive to compete on an even playing field. The defense may take a slight step back from the loss of Mike Hull, but tackle Anthony Zettel remains as an anchor. DaeSean Hamilton is a difference maker on the edge offensively, and QB Christian Hackenberg is still a ready-made star if given proper protection and support.

Recruiting situation: Recruiting is in good shape at Penn State, and it needs to be, what with league foes peering across the borders now more than ever and a renewed rivalry brewing with Pitt. PSU signed 11 Pennsylvanians in the 2015 class, rated a healthy 14th nationally -- one spot ahead of Oregon -- after inking just three from inside the state in 2014. Franklin nabbed nine members of the ESPN 300, and he’s already got four committed for 2016.

Trajectory: Penn State is rising more than the numbers show. Two consecutive seven-win seasons were largely defined by a second coaching change in three years, the harsh effects of scholarship reductions and a two-year bowl ban. While some collateral damage remains evident, the penalties are in the past.

Franklin owes thanks to ex-coach Bill O'Brien for his solid work in a tough time. The new coach is now recruiting free of the sanctions and looks ready to reposition PSU among the division’s elite with Ohio State and Michigan State -- perhaps before Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. A Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College, yet another regional threat, prevented the school’s first losing season in a decade. It shouldn’t have to worry for years to come about flirting with the .500 mark.
The college coaching carousel isn't done spinning. It isn't even slowing down.

There has been an unprecedented number of coaching moves after national signing day, including some in the Big Ten. Ohio State lost running backs coach Stan Drayton to the Chicago Bears less than 24 hours after signing day. Just last Friday, Nebraska lost secondary coach Charlton Warren to North Carolina.

So this list of coaching moves -- and the one colleague Mitch Sherman will supply a little later -- isn't complete, but it provides a snapshot of what has happened around the Big Ten.

Let's begin with the East Division.

INDIANA

Who's out?

No changes (yet)

Notes: Kevin Wilson's staff shuffling began before he even coached a game for IU, but the Hoosiers should finally have some stability heading into a pivotal 2015 season. Running backs coach Deland McCullough, who helped mold Tevin Coleman into a consensus All-American last fall, has been rumored for the same post at Notre Dame. McCullough would be a big loss but the nucleus of Wilson's staff will remain.

MARYLAND

Who's out?

Andre Powell, running backs/special teams coordinator

Who's in?

Terry Richardson, running backs

Notes: Powell, who left for the same post at Pittsburgh, oversaw arguably Big Ten's best special teams units in 2014. Kicker Brad Craddock won the Lou Groza Award. Richardson spent the past two years with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars but boasts extensive college experience. He coached standout running backs at Miami and also with Connecticut while working for Maryland coach Randy Edsall. This hire makes a lot of sense as Maryland looks to upgrade its run game.

MICHIGAN

Who's out?

Brady Hoke, head coach
Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Dan Ferrigno, special teams coordinator/tight ends
Darrell Funk, offensive line
Jeff Hecklinski, wide receivers
Fred Jackson, running backs
Curt Mallory, safeties
Roy Manning, cornerbacks
Mark Smith, defensive line

Who's in?

Jim Harbaugh, head coach
Tim Drevno, offensive coordinator/offensive line
D.J. Durkin, defensive coordinator/linebackers
John Baxter, special teams coordinator
Jedd Fisch, quarterbacks/wide receivers/passing game coordinator
Jay Harbaugh, tight ends
Greg Jackson, co-secondary
Tyrone Wheatley, running backs
Michael Zordich, co-secondary

Retained

Greg Mattison (defensive coordinator/linebackers in 2014, now defensive line coach)

Notes: Michigan got its man in Jim Harbaugh, who hired a staff featuring a mix of NFL and college experience. He has extensive history with Drevno, tasked to boost a struggling Wolverines' line, and Durkin, considered a rising star. Harbaugh wisely retained Mattison, a strong recruiter and coach who wasn't the problem during Hoke's tenure. He also brings back former Michigan star Wheatley to oversee an underperforming position group. Fisch, who has bounced between the pro and college levels throughout his career, served as Minnesota's offensive coordinator in 2009.

MICHIGAN STATE

Who's out?

Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator

Who's in?

Mark Snyder, linebackers/special teams coordinator

Promoted

Mike Tressel (linebackers) and Harlon Barnett (secondary) elevated to co-defensive coordinators

Notes: Narduzzi, who left to become head coach at Pittsburgh, leaves a significant void after being Dantonio's defensive coordinator since 2004. But Tressel and Barnett have been on the defensive staff just as long and made big contributions to the unit's strength. Dantonio followed a familiar pattern in promoting them. Despite Snyder's struggles at Texas A&M, he has a strong track record as a recruiter and as a linebackers coach, a role he held at Ohio State before succeeding Dantonio as Buckeyes defensive coordinator.

OHIO STATE

Who's out?

Tom Herman, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Stan Drayton, running backs/assistant head coach

Who's in?

Tim Beck, quarterbacks/co-offensive coordinator
Tony Alford, running backs/assistant head coach

Promoted

Offensive line coach Ed Warinner became Ohio State's primary offensive coordinator

Notes: Few head coaches are better than Urban Meyer at locating top assistants, and the Buckeye boss came through again after losing two top offensive aides. Alford is an excellent recruiter with 18 years coaching running backs. He also has links to several Buckeyes assistants, including Warinner. Beck spent the past four seasons as Nebraska's offensive coordinator. He had some ups and downs, but the Husker offense always ranked in the top half of the Big Ten and Beck improved the passing attack. Alford previously served as Notre Dame's primary recruiter in Florida, while Beck has ties to Texas as a former high school coach there.

PENN STATE

Who's out?

No changes

Notes: Penn State awarded defensive coordinator Bob Shoop a lucrative new contract after LSU made overtures about its defensive coordinator vacancy. Shoop oversaw a Lions defense that finished in the top 10 in several significant statistical categories. Keeping him is huge for PSU, which could take a nice jump in Year 2 under James Franklin.

RUTGERS

Who's out?

Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks

Who's in?

Phil Galiano, special teams coordinator/tight ends

Promoted/moved

Ben McDaniels elevated from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Anthony Campanile moves from tight ends to wide receivers

Notes: Friedgen will continue to consult Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood, but his departure leaves Rutgers with a new offensive coordinator for the sixth consecutive season. McDaniels, the brother of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, has experience coaching quarterbacks in the NFL but has never been a primary playcaller. Rutgers' offense took a significant step under Friedgen but loses quarterback Gary Nova and several other key pieces, so McDaniels will be in the spotlight. Galiano most recently served as Rutgers' recruiting coordinator but has extensive experience as a position coach, working with the Scarlet Knights' defensive line in 2011 and tight ends in 2010.
We’re nearing a close to our pre-spring series on key position battles at every Big Ten school. Up next is Penn State.

1. Middle linebacker: It’s no easy task to replace the best player on the best defense in the Big Ten. But Mike Hull is gone, leaving Gary Wooten as the top candidate to fill the key spot after he contributed 12 tackles as a sophomore in 2014. Troy Reeder, who redshirted last season, figures to factor in the competition. Senior Ben Kline, after missing last year with a torn Achilles, will try to return, adding more experience to the mix. Additionally, Penn State could look at Koa Farmer and Jason Cabinda, both of whom played elsewhere on defense for the Nittany Lions as true freshmen last year.

2. Defensive end: The early loss of Deion Barnes stings as Penn State also must account for the departure of starter C.J. Olaniyan and top reserve Brad Bars. Garrett Sickels, a former top recruit who collected a pair of sacks as a redshirt freshman, and rising senior Carl Nassib look set to open the spring as leading candidates to earn starting spots. Evan Schwan is back as a senior. Curtis Cothran could enter the situation, and redshirt freshman Torrence Brown looks like a talented prospect. Penn State signed four defensive ends this month who will join the competition in August.

3. Offensive tackle: Donovan Smith left early for the NFL, and Andrew Nelson returns after starting as a redshirt freshman. Albert Hall returns as the lone reserve with experience, but there’s a lot of potential help rising through the system. Penn State redshirted four scholarship freshmen last year – Noah Beh, Brendan Brosnan, Chance Sorrell and Chasz Wright. It added ESPN 300 recruit Sterling Jenkins and junior-college transfer Paris Palmer in January.

Big Ten spring practice dates

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
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Spring (practice) is in the air. Well, almost.

Two Big Ten teams -- Michigan and Northwestern -- will take the field for spring ball before the end of the month. Here's a handy list for when every team in the league begins practicing and when it will hold its spring game.

Illinois

Start date: March 14
Spring game: April 18

Indiana

Start date: March 26
Spring game: April 18

Iowa

Start date: March 25
Spring game: April 25

Maryland

Start date: March 2
Spring game: April 11

Michigan

Start date: Feb. 24
Spring game: April 4

Michigan State

Start date: March 24
Spring game: April 25

Minnesota

Start date: March 3
Spring game: April 11

Nebraska

Start date: March 7
Spring game: April 11

Northwestern

Start date: Feb. 25
Spring game: April 4 or 11

Ohio State

Start date: March 10
Spring game: April 18

Penn State

Start date: March 20
Spring game: April 18

Purdue

Start date: March 10
Spring game: April 18

Rutgers

Start date: March 30
Spring game: April 24

Wisconsin

Start date: March 15
Spring game: April 25
Welcome to our second edition #B1GFridayFive, a new weekly feature on the Big Ten blog that will offer you a Top 5 on a given topic and then allows you to weigh in on Twitter.

In today's #B1GFridayFive, we'll try to identify five instant impact freshmen who joined a league team last week on signing day. We're going with true freshmen here, not junior college guys, who are a bit easier to project. This isn't easy (check out last year's picks for proof), but we'll give it our best shot.

1. Dre'Mont Jones, DE, Ohio State:

Dre'Mont JonesJohn Albright/Icon Sportswire 

This much we know for sure: Freshmen are going to make an impact for the Buckeyes in 2015. Urban Meyer isn't afraid to play them, and this is another supremely talented group coming to Columbus. It's just a matter of figuring out which ones will shine. We're picking Jones because Ohio State has some needs on its defensive line, but it could just as easily be fellow defensive end Jashon Cornell, who enrolled early. Linebacker Justin Hilliard could also make an impact, though he's got two established starters (Darron Lee and Joshua Perry) plus Raekwon McMillan to climb over. But we'll go with Jones, who was more consistent in high school than Cornell.


2. L.J. Scott, RB, Michigan State:

L.J. ScottTwitter/@DantonioMark  

The Spartans have to replace supremely productive tailback Jeremy Langford, and Scott might be just talented enough to do so right away. Michigan State has more experienced options, like Delton Williams, Gerald Holmes and Madre London, but Scott is a 228-pound, physical runner who seems like an ideal fit.


3. Brian Cole, WR, Michigan:

Brian ColeMark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire 

Cole is athletic and versatile enough to play a number of positions, but the Wolverines have a pressing need at receiver. He enrolled in January, giving him time to learn Jim Harbaugh's system this spring. Don't be surprised to see him making important plays this fall.


4. Adam McLean, DL, Maryland:

Adam McLeanTom Hauck for Student Sports 

McLean is recovering from an ACL injury but is expected to be fully recovered well before the season starts. He was an important recruit for the Terrapins because of both his pedigree and his position. Maryland lost all three starters on its defensive line, which could make it more likely that a true freshman sees time there.


5. Sterling Jenkins, OT, Penn State:

Sterling JenkinsTom Hauck for Student Sports 

This one is tough, because true freshman offensive tackles don't often see the field immediately. Paris Palmer is a stronger bet to make an impact out of the Nittany Lions' Class of 2015 on the offensive line, but he went to junior college and we're talking true freshmen for this list. Plus, Jenkins has enrolled early, has beefed up to more than 325 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame and has impressed in some early workouts. Given the state of Penn State's offensive line last season, it's not unreasonable to think he could be playing sooner rather than later.


Disagree with these picks? Think you have better choices? Or do you want to praise us as geniuses? Sound off on Twitter with the hashtag #B1GFridayFive. You can hit us up @BennettESPN, @ESPNRittenberg, @DanMurphyESPN, @MitchSherman, @AWardESPN and @TomVH or @ESPNBigTen.

Big Ten morning links

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
9:00
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Credit Kirk Ferentz for trying. Is it enough, though?

The Iowa coach, in preparation for his 17th season, announced changes Thursday to his staff assignments. Not coaching changes, but hey, something is better than nothing, right?

To summarize, LeVar Woods, formerly the linebackers coach, will take over the tight ends. Brian Ferentz is now the run game coordinator in addition to his responsibilities as offensive line coach. And Seth Wallace, who assisted with the defensive line last year, now coaches the nickels and cornerbacks.

Change does not come easily at Iowa, where the head coach's release of a postseason depth chart, in a departure from previous seasons, raised brows last month.

Iowa's offense needs an infusion of energy. Maybe quarterback C.J. Beathard can provide it. But the elder Ferentz is wise not to rely entirely on that. He's banking also on Woods, a linebacker on Ferentz's first two teams who did nice work on the defensive side, and the coach's son in an increased role.

Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette suggests that the new job description for Brian Ferentz rates as the most interesting of the changes. But what will the younger Ferentz do as run game coordinator? Certainly, he's not about to supercede offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has his hands full with quarterbacks Beathard and Jake Rudock.

Fact is, though, Iowa's quarterbacks -- and its defense -- would benefit most from a dynamic running game. The Hawkeyes' 4.12 yards per rush in 2014 ranked 10th in the Big Ten. It lacked explosiveness.

Brian Ferentz has extended Iowa's notable tradition of producing solid offensive linemen. If his work translates to the run game at large, maybe he can help get his dad back on the right track.

Nothing official out of Piscataway, New Jersey, yet on the potential hire of business consultant Jeff Towers as Rutgers' recruiting coordinator, but Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com is offering praise for coach Kyle Flood.

Mandel likens Towers, who has no known experience in football, and other similar hires at major programs to general managers at the pro level -- without the ability to trade or draft players, of course. (Don't get any ideas.)

Much remains unknown about the specifics of Towers' business experience. The only details uncovered came from his LinkedIn profile. Regardless, if Flood makes this move, clearly he believes in Towers to bring a new type of leadership to the business side of the Rutgers program.

College football programs are built like corporations today. Nearly every major program employs an operations director, the most effective of whom possess freedom in making decisions on non-coaching matters. So why not have a GM-like figure to run the personnel department, otherwise known as recruiting operations?

The size and structure of these staffs loom as a possible issue for the Power 5 conferences to debate. Even so, unless major restrictions are imposed -- unexpected in this age of autonomy -- hires like Towers will soon be viewed as standard practice.

Let's get to the links:

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