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Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Big Ten class rankings analysis

By Brad Bournival & Tom VanHaaren

The latest version of the ESPN class rankings is out, and there are seven Big Ten teams within the top-40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, there are trends and stories developing, so Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival give you a look at what to watch within the conference:

Trending up

Brad Bournival: Interest in Ohio State after Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer created his own Twitter account. At the urging of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, @OSUCoachMeyer was created. In 12 hours, the account has three tweets -- one an introductory tweet and the other two a bible verse. In those 12 hours, the two-time national champion picked up over 24,000 followers. Incidentally, it looks like the first person Meyer followed drives the keys to the Buckeyes’ Mercedes (@BraxtonMiller5).

Tom VanHaaren: Wisconsin. New coach Gary Andersen’s staff has been putting in work trying to land top prospects for 2014. The Badgers have secured official visits from ESPN 300 prospects Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./Saint John Bosco), and the Badgers recently made the cut in Mixon’s top-five list. The coaching staff also has a big list of official visitors outside of those two prospects as well, including running back Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) and Lubern Figaro (Everett, Mass./Everett). Wisconsin will have plenty of opportunities to move up in the class rankings during the season.

Trending down
Bournival: Ranked teams in the Big Ten not named Ohio State or Michigan. Penn State fell two more spots to 24th and Northwestern fell one to 26th. As predicted, Nebraska (36th), Wisconsin (37th) and Michigan State (38th) all fell a spot after Arizona State picked up running back Darrel Williams (Marrero, LA/John Ehret) on Tuesday. The Sun Devils have landed seven pledges so far this month. Coincidentally, Penn State hasn’t landed a recruit since July 1. Northwestern -- July 8 --, Wisconsin -- July 8 -- and Nebraska -- July 5 -- are in similar droughts. Michigan State had three-star defensive end Robert Bowers (Columbus, Ohio/Walnut Ridge) commit on Aug. 3.

VanHaaren: Every Big Ten team in the top 40 dropped in the rankings except for Michigan (6) and Ohio State (11). That wasn’t necessarily due to anything those teams did, but North Carolina picked up ESPN 300 running back Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic) and Arizona State has picked up seven commitments in August, including ESPN 300 defensive end Connor Humphreys (Portland, Ore./Central Catholic). Those additions have moved the Tar Heels and Sun Devils ahead of most of the Big Ten teams, thus pushing them further down the list.

One to watch

Bournival: It’s another Purdue commit. While the Boilermakers are already watching three-star outside linebacker Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) and his flirtation with Notre Dame, another commit is drawing interest. Three-star offensive tackle Denzel Ward (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) picked up an offer from UCLA this week and has said he will take an official visit there as well as others. Ward could be one to watch as the lineman originally committed to Michigan on Oct. 20 before opening his recruitment back up a little over three months later.

VanHaaren: Linebacker Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic) already holds offers from a few Big Ten teams including Illinois and Indiana, but his offer list could grow soon. The four-star prospect says that he is hearing from Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri. Those programs have told him they want to see film on his first few games of the season, and if all goes well, he could earn a few new offers.

Bold prediction

Bournival: Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, and Wisconsin will all have top 30 classes by the time this is over. As VanHaaren stated, the Badgers, who have 11 commitments, are well ahead of the game in the official visit category. The Wildcats (13 commitments) have a strong core as it is and Penn State (12) could take as many as five more in its class. Speaking of small classes, the Cornhuskers (11) and Spartans (14) have plenty of room to move up in the ranks, too.

VanHaaren: Michigan and Ohio State both end up with top-five classes. With the number of top-ranked targets still on the board, it seems very conceivable that the two rivals will eventually move up in the rankings. No. 4 ranked Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) could end up at Michigan and the No. 1 ranked linebacker, Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), could end up a Buckeye on signing day. Those two alone would boost the status of each class, and are very likely to end up picking those respective schools.