Penn State Nittany Lions: Brandon Lee

From commitments to official visits to offers tendered, the Big Ten is never at a loss for headlines.

Here’s a look at the latest from an always busy conference:

Bill O’Brien serving pancakes

Urban Meyer has been known as the master in flipping committed prospects in his time at Ohio State and rightfully so with more than a dozen pledged targets becoming Buckeyes. O’Brien is catching up after flipping Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) from Syracuse to Penn State on Wednesday.

Cabinda marks the sixth pledge to change stripes and join the Nittany Lions since O’Brien took over the reins in Happy Valley.

He’s raided Maryland three times in landing running backs Richy Anderson and Johnathan Thomas as well as offensive guard Tanner Hartman. O’Brien has also plucked quarterback Steven Bench from Rice and landed defensive tackle Parker Cothren from Purdue.

Buckeye leafs

Ohio State’s biggest target is headed to Columbus this weekend for the game against Penn State as the top-ranked linebacker in the nation regardless of position comes to town on an official visit in Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County).

McMillan isn’t the only one slated to take an official visit as East Mississippi Community College teammates Avery Gennesy at offensive tackle and A.J. Stamps at safety are coming along. ESPN 300 wide receiver Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) will be on an official visit, too as will commit and defensive end Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor).

By the way, Gennesy and Stamps went to the same community college current Ohio State junior and 2013 signee Corey Smith went to.

ESPN Junior 300 standouts Jauan Jennings (Murfreesboro, Tenn./Blackman), Lorenzo Nunez (Kennesaw, Ga./Harrison), Brandon Wimbush (Jersey City/N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek), Anthony McKee (Columbus/Walnut Ridge), Shy Tuttle (Lexington, N.C./North Davidson), Larry Scott (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard) and Kelly Bryant (Piedmont, S.C./Wren) have all said they are coming.

As always, the list is fluid and could change at any time. There are a good collection of commits coming to the game as well.

Lee getting close

ESPN 300 linebacker Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central) cut his list down to Cal, Louisville, Missouri and Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. He will be announcing his decision on Nov. 8, and has already taken an official visit out to Cal and will be out to see Virginia Tech this weekend.

The No. 242 ranked prospect had Northwestern and Penn State in his top list, so those two schools are now obviously out of the running.

It’s still a bit of a mystery as to where he will end up, since Lee has kept everything close to the vest. He is keeping everyone in suspense and taking it down to the wire right up to his announcement date.

London has a top five and a timeline

Running back Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) is a highly coveted senior among Big Ten teams. With limited options remaining, plenty of teams are hoping to land the three-star back.

On Wednesday, London tweeted that his top five is Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pitt and that he will be making his final decision in two weeks.

The Spartans might have the edge here, but it could go either way since he has taken a few visits recently to various programs.

At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, he would be a great fit for most programs, so landing this Florida athlete will be a big deal for whichever program gets his commitment.

Michigan coaches on the road

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 21, 2013
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Plenty of news and notes on the recruiting trail from the Big Ten Conference this weekend. Here is a look at some of the biggest news, performances and questions for the future.

Biggest commitment:

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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Big Ten conference, check out our conference rankings:

1. Michigan, 15 commits: The Wolverines are No. 6 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, which includes nine ESPN300 prospects -- among them headliner and No. 2 overall Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic High). Michigan could make a move into the top-5 by winning the race for No. 4 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High). Defensive tackle and No. 67 Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mi./Southfield High) is another top target still in play. No. 41 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic High) will visit Nov. 29, and is another top target remaining.

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There are still a ton of prospects on the board for Big Ten teams, so conference recruiting reporters Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the best and worst case scenarios remaining for each team.

Illinois
Best-case scenario: Illinois picked up an offensive line commit on Monday with Peter Cvijanovic (Great Barrington, Mass./East Coast Prep), which gives the Illini two offensive line commits. Despite having four wide receiver commits on board, it looks like the staff would take another receiver in this class.

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From Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin grabbing a commit, to Penn State receiving great news on the recruiting front, to Ohio State playing host to some big-time official visitors this weekend, Big Ten storylines were everywhere this week.

Here’s a look at a busy time in this week’s Big Ten storylines:


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

September, 23, 2013
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It was another weekend with minimal actual news out of the Big Ten on the recruiting trail, but there is always something to watch. Here is a look at what happened this past weekend and what might happen in the future.

Biggest commitment

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Just a few days after stubbing its toe on the field, the Big Ten conference will try to right the ship in the recruiting world.

Larry Scott
Brad Bournival/ESPNESPN Junior 300 running back Larry Scott will make an unofficial visit to the Horseshoe this weekend.
From official visits to commitments, here’s a look at a few programs that highlight a busy time in this week’s Big Ten storylines.

Buckeye leafs

The fact Ohio State opened as 57-point favorites against Florida A&M didn’t scare off some big unofficial visitors, as ESPN Junior 300 running back Larry Scott -- L.J. for short -- out of Hubbard (Ohio) High School will lead a group of three big names with unofficial visits to the Horseshoe.


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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.


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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

August, 30, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the Big Ten recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions. We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered. We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter to @bbournival or @TomVH.

@Blue_gC_Blood: How close in size are Michigan commit Shaun Crawford and Ohio State pledge Eric Glover-Williams? I heard they are pretty much a carbon copy of each other, true?

Brad Bournival: Having seen both individuals multiple times in pads, that is a very fair assessment. Crawford (Lakewood, Ohio/Saint Edward) is 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds and EGW is 5-10, 170 pounds. But it goes well beyond that as both are very athletic kids who aren’t afraid to mix it up at times. Speed, obviously, is their biggest common denominator. It would be great to see Glover-Williams play the slot or split out wide to see just how close in game they actually are, but unfortunately for Canton (Ohio) McKinley, the Bulldogs put their junior star behind center because he is the best athlete on the field. That said Crawford is the better defender, though it should be noted Glover-Williams is better offensively. Seeing the two in camps, however, their game really is almost the same.




@joshuas430: Do you think the recruiting success for Rutgers has been more with the move to the Big Ten or their new head coach?

Tom VanHaaren: That’s a good question. I think there is some cache for recruits to play for Rutgers now that they are a part of the Big Ten. But if you look at their top prospects, they are all guys from New Jersey.

In the 2014 class, Rutgers has four ESPN 300 commitments and they are all from New Jersey. Rutgers has always done well with local prospects and that hasn’t changed with this class.

From 2011 to 2013, Rutgers actually signed 10 prospects ranked as four-stars from New Jersey and New York. That is a key for the Scarlet Knights’ success in recruiting, and it’s continued in 2014.

It’s interesting to look at the Big Ten aspect of this, because if Rutgers was already in the conference, it would have the No. 3 ranked class in the Big Ten.




@GRSportsBlog: What is your opinion of Montae Nicholson being able to play a hybrid safety/outside linebacker at the next level and the fact Penn State is trying to recruit guys to be versatile in its defensive packages?

Bournival: Penn State has never brought that up to Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) as it wants him to play safety and not linebacker, as the Nittany Lions will take a linebacker in this class. However, with the NCAA sanctions, the limited number of 65 scholarships really does alter how Penn State approaches the type of players they pursue. The Nittany Lions don’t have the luxury to miss on a player, so you’ll see more athletic players who can play multiple roles on the team. For example, if it can grab a player who helps in the offense and special teams, Penn State won’t hesitate.

The other reason the Nittany Lions need to have fast, athletic type players is to be able to matchup in an ever-changing Big Ten Conference that isn’t all ground and pound anymore.




@dydd911: Do you think we will see any commits from visitors at the Under the Lights game?

VanHaaren: Michigan’s night game against Notre Dame in Week 2 is going to be one of the bigger recruiting events of the season. The Wolverines really only have three big home games, so it’s also an important event in general.

The last time these two teams faced off at night at Michigan Stadium, safety Dymonte Thomas ended up committing right after the game.

This answer all depends on who ends up making it in for the game, but as of now it doesn’t look like there will be that type of situation. It looks like this game will be something that sets the tone for a prospect and could eventually lead to a commitment down the road.

Some of the bigger names that are visiting include 2014 defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and the No. 1 ranked player in the 2015 class Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall).

Hand has his announcement date set for Nov. 14 and still has official visits to Florida and then Alabama, so he doesn’t seem likely. Cornell, while he does have Michigan very high on his list, still plans on waiting to make a decision.

Since Michigan’s 2014 class is nearly full there will be a lot more underclassmen than seniors. That’s not a bad thing, especially if the environment is anything like it was two seasons ago in the first night game.




@buckeyefan686: It seems like Urban Meyer went hard after defensive backs and wide receivers in 2013 and linebackers/offensive tackles in 2014. What position groups do you see being the focus in 2015?

Bournival: First and foremost, I think Meyer looks at the quarterback position more than any other. With Braxton Miller possibly gone after this season and Kenny Guiton definitely, gone he’ll need to bolster that position and give it some depth. There could be no one with any meaningful in-game experience coming back in 2014 and he’ll need to address that in 2015.

With four defensive linemen gone after the 2014 season, don’t be surprised if he dips into the trenches yet again.




Mark, Chicago, Ill.: Do you see Northwestern landing any of the remaining big targets they have left in 2014?

VanHaaren: Short answer, yes. The bigger targets left on the board are all ESPN 300 prospects. Linebacker Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central), defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) and tight end Garrett Dickerson (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic).

Lee is visiting Cal this weekend when they take on Northwestern and will likely then take an official out to see the Wildcats at home.

I do think there is a good chance that at least one of these prospects chooses Northwestern. The question is how many? That is yet to be seen.

The List: Top Big Ten games for recruits 

August, 27, 2013
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The 2013 season is right around the corner, which means recruits will be scheduling official and unofficial visits. The bigger the game, the bigger the implications at stake with regards to recruiting.

With a lot of top prospects still on the board for Big Ten teams, here is a look at the top 10 games this season for the conference.


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Big Ten recruiting storylines: Aug. 22 

August, 22, 2013
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Big Ten fodder is never hard to find, especially in recruiting. Here’s a look at a few programs that highlighted a busy recruiting week:

Cotton getting close

Linebacker Micquell Cotton (O’Fallon, Ill./O’Fallon) has narrowed his list down to Indiana and Iowa State. The three-star back holds offers from both schools as well as Syracuse and Michigan State.

Cotton has visited both already and will take official visits this fall before making a pick.
The Cyclones have some appeal with a solid 2014 class that includes ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita) and a few other good looking commitments.

We’ll see where things stand after he takes his trips.

Iowa adds cornerback

Cornerback Josh Jackson (Corinth, Texas/Lake Dallas) committed to Iowa on Thursday. He confirmed his commitment in a text message.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior becomes Iowa's 13th commit and the unranked defensive back becomes the third player to be taken in the secondary in the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class. He joins cornerback Omar Truitt (Washington, D.C./St. John’s College) and safety Jyaz Jones (Dallas/South Oak). Jackson’s commitment continues the youth movement at Iowa, as six underclassmen will return next season from Iowa’s two-deep chart.

"I think it's going to be great," Jackson said. "With the guys coming in, we'll definitely make a big impact in the Big Ten and for the team."

Defensive end Torey Hendrick (Brooklyn, N.Y./ASA College) hasn’t broken down his top five yet, but the junior college sensation already knows one he’ll take a visit to Iowa.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hendrick hasn’t set a date, but Iowa City be a destination. Expect Kansas to maybe earn a visit as well.

Hendrick currently has offers from Arizona State, Florida State, Kansas State, North Carolina State and Rutgers to go with Iowa and Kansas.

Lacrosse commit getting looks
Jason Alessi (Birmingham, Mich./Brother Rice) is committed to Michigan for lacrosse, but that might not be the sport he ends up playing in college as he is starting to get noticed for football as well.

Alessi is a 2014 defensive back who already holds football offers from Cornell and Air Force. He has heard from Yale, Harvard and most recently Michigan State.

The 6-foot, 170-pound safety took a visit to East Lansing last week and is now waiting for the Spartans to make a move. The coaching staff told him they want to watch film on his first few games this coming season and then make a decision.

If he has a good start to the season the Spartans might not be the only team to come calling.

Linebacker U looking again
Penn State has opened up its search to replace outside linebacker Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle), who decommitted from the Nittany Lions before pledging to Michigan.

With Syracuse commit Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) already in the mix of candidates, Penn State has offered outside backer Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central). That means Northwestern has some company in landing the standout as Lee will travel to California on an official visit when the Golden Bears play the Wildcats on Aug. 31. Lee currently has a top five of Cal, Louisville, Northwestern, Oregon and Virginia Tech.

London a wanted man

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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

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Who's left in the Midwest 

August, 13, 2013
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Marshon LattimoreBrad Bournival/ESPNMarshon Lattimore, the No. 51 prospect in the ESPN 300, might go to an Ohio State feeder school, but programs such as Alabama and Michigan are making a push for him.
There are currently 198 committed prospects within the ESPN 300. That means that it’s a dogfight for the remaining 102 uncommitted prospects.

The Big Ten schools are recruiting prospects within the ESPN 300 from across the nation, but as always, the Midwest is a big focus. There are currently 11 prospects from the Midwest in the top list that are uncommitted.

Here is a look at those Midwest prospects and where they’re at in the process.


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Parrker WestphalChantel Jennings/ESPN.comSeveral Big Ten schools are hot in pursuit of ESPN 300 cornerback Parrker Westphal, and the Bolingbrook, Ill., prospect would like to make his college choice soon.

Colleges and high schools alike are getting into camp season, which means football is almost here. That also means that prospects are starting to narrow their lists and think about official visits. There are some big names still left on the board for Big Ten teams, with plenty of options across the board.

Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look, team by team, at the top prospects on the board in 2014:


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Big Ten recruiting storylines: Aug. 8 

August, 8, 2013
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Big Ten fodder is never hard to find, especially in recruiting. Here’s a look at a few programs that highlighted a busy week in this week in Big Ten recruiting:

Another Wangler on campus


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