Penn State Nittany Lions: Erick Smith


The ESPN 300 has been updated and the Big Ten saw plenty of movement for its commits, both up and down the list. Here is a look at the five biggest movers within the ESPN 300.

Smith shoots up the rankings
Defensive back Erick Smith (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) recently committed to Ohio State to join teammates Marcelys Jones and Marshon Lattimore as future Buckeyes. Previously ranked No. 228 overall, Smith moved up 45 spots to 183 in the new rankings. He is a big safety who will add a lot to the Ohio State defense in the future. Smith was an Army All-American and had an outstanding week of practice. His rise in the rankings was earned on the field and should make Buckeyes fans happy he will be in Columbus next season.


Ohio State has been on a roll on the recruiting trail in the past few weeks. The commitments the Buckeyes have landed, along with a few other happenings in the Big Ten, have impacted the class rankings.

Here is a look at the most recent trends within the Big Ten.


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Despite the dead period there was still plenty of action within the Big Ten on the recruiting trail. Here is a look at what happened throughout the conference this past week.

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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

December, 18, 2013
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The Big Ten was on fire after landing eight commitments this week. Based on that, here was sure to be movement in the class rankings so here is a look at how the Big Ten stacks up.

Trending up

To say it has been a good week for Ohio State would be an understatement. The Buckeyes landed two top-50 prospects in the 2014 class with linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) and receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer).

Ohio State had already moved up to the No. 8 class in the country, and it is now sitting with the No. 5 class overall after the outstanding additions.

Purdue also needs some recognition as the Boilermakers have landed nine commitments in the month of December. Defensive back Ladarius Wiley (Los Angeles/Cathedral) is one of the most recent, and he could end up being a steal for Purdue.

The Boilermakers quickly went from having very few commitments to only having one spot remaining in their class.

Penn State is another team who rose in the rankings, moving up to No 24 from 26 with the addition of ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln).


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Big Ten signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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Signing day is only 50 days away and there are plenty of questions surrounding the big day. Big Ten programs still have a ton of top prospects on the board, which means there could be some impactful decisions coming in the near future.

Here is a look at some of the top storylines in the conference leading up to signing day.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 9, 2013
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The Big Ten championship was the main focus this week, but that just gave coaches extra time to put in on the recruiting trail. Here is a look at what happened around the conference over the weekend.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

November, 18, 2013
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There were quite a few big games within the Big Ten this weekend, which means there were big recruiting implications as well. Here is a look at the happenings on the recruiting trail around the conference.


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An exciting weekend on the field for Big Ten schools translated over to the recruiting trail. There wasn't much action in terms of commitments, but it set the tone for the future for many teams.

Here is a look at what happened around the conference.

Biggest commitment:


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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

October, 18, 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.

[+] EnlargeDamian Prince
Tom Hauck for Student SportsOT Damian Prince, who is No. 22 in the ESPN 300, no longer seems like a sure thing for Ohio State.
@darkknight1093: Does the late offer to Frank Ragnow indicate that the Ohio State staff believes Damian Prince is trending away from the Buckeyes?

Brad Bournival: I won’t speak for the Ohio State staff, but I’m almost firmly convinced the Prince-to-the-Buckeyes ship has sailed. In fact, I would put it at 95 percent right now that he signs with Maryland in February.

That’s how confident I am that Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) he stays in-state at the end. When a program tells you it wants you to be the face of the program like the Terrapins have, it’s hard to argue against it.

@dannograef: Who is the biggest sleeper commit in the Big Ten?

Tom VanHaaren: It’s no secret that I think highly of Minnesota running back commit Jeff Jones (Washburn, Minn./Washburn), who completed his regular season with 39 touchdowns. I think he’s a candidate, I also like Illinois commit Mike Dudek (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley), Michigan commit Noah Furbush (Kenton, Ohio/Kenton) and Northwestern commit Dareian Watkins (Galion, Ohio/Galion). Penn State commit De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro) is in the ESPN 300, but doesn’t get talked about enough. He’s going to do big things for the Nittany Lions.

@HoosierHolmes: How much would making a bowl help Indiana’s recruiting efforts?

Bournival: To answer that question, I send you over to Penn State where recruits have gone on record to say they won’t choose the Nittany Lions because of the inability to go to a bowl for the next two seasons.

To be more precise, winning breeds winning and attracts more attention from bigger names. The proof is in the fact the same schools in the Big Ten stay on top of the recruiting rankings for that very reason. Kevin Wilson is slowly turning the program around. If he can end the five-year bowl absence this season, don’t be surprised to see a boost in recruiting as well.

@mike_albach10: I really like Malik McDowell's size and intangibles. What do you think his ceiling is?

VanHaaren: He is ranked No. 67 overall and the No. 4 defensive tackle. He is a giant, first of all. He has slimmed down some this season, but he is still head and shoulders bigger than everyone on his team. I think McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) would make an excellent 3-technique defensive tackle for any team in a 4-3 scheme. In Michigan’s defense, he would be able to slide outside to the strongside end spot in running situations and inside to tackle on passing downs. I think he is yet to tap a lot of his potential no matter where he ends up.

@WWEFan20134: Who do you think the final six will be for the class of 2014 for Ohio State football recruiting?

Bournival: With Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) picking Penn State I only see five. The others I feel much stronger about are Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.J./Nassau Community College), Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) and teammates Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville) and Erick Smith.

@Collin_Stauder: Could the play of Michigan State’s defense this year be enough to possibly sway (Parrker) Westphal or McDowell?

VanHaaren: Michigan State always plays good defense, so that’s not something new for those guys. I think that’s part of what attracted them to the Spartans in the first place, so I don’t think that’s a bonus at this point that will tip the scales.

I think the Spartans probably have a better shot with Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) than McDowell at this point, but at the same time I still think Northwestern has a lot to say in Westphal’s recruitment as well.

The play on the field has definitely helped attract some top prospects lately, but Michigan State needs to build on the Indiana win and show more than defense to some of their targets.

@buckeyefan686: Since the Buckeyes missed out on Gesicki who do you believe they land at tight end, or would they just not take one in this class?

Bournival: I think getting a tight end is an absolute must as I’m not convinced moving Sam Hubbard (Cincinnati/Moeller) over is the solution. Even though Ohio State doesn’t utilize the tight end much, there’s not a plethora of depth at the position. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will be back next season, but Blake Thomas’ career is likely done with the Buckeyes and Marcus Baugh is unproven at this point. Expect them to make a harder push for DeAndre Goolsby (Derby, Kan./Derby), who took an official visit for the Wisconsin game.

@hartley_nick: Any negative recruiting vibes with Michigan’s struggles on the field?

VanHaaren: Not yet. It was only one game and Michigan still only has one loss. It was an emotional loss for the fans because of how deeply they dig into things and diagnose the issues in specific games.

Recruits don’t tend to go that far into things like fans do. If you were to ask a recruit what they saw in that game, they would probably tell you two teams who fought hard into four overtimes and one came out on top.

If that type of play continues, though, and Michigan doesn’t show progress, then I think you could start to see some noise. I don’t think would be any issues with the 2014 class or even the 2015 kids that have already committed. If the season goes downhill, I think you’d see the most impact on uncommitted 2015 targets, but still that doesn’t seem too likely at this point.

 

Big Ten recruiting mailbag

October, 11, 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.

@darkknight1093: Will the 63-0 beat down of Maryland by FSU end up swaying Damian Prince away from Maryland and toward FSU or OSU?

Brad Bournival: Losses usually don’t carry much weight with potential recruits, as the focus is on the future. Maryland is still very much a player -- if not the leader -- for the ESPN 300 Prince. The fact the Terrapins have told the 6-foot-5, 286-pound Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara offensive tackle they want him to be the face of the program moving forward carries a lot of weight. I don’t think it hurt Maryland’s efforts much at all.

That said Prince does like Florida State, and Urban Meyer never gives up without a fight. I still think Prince winds up at Maryland.

@HammerJr5: Simple, but still important, does Ohio State or Michigan finish with a higher ranked class? And is it because of numbers or talent?

Tom VanHaaren: That’s a good question. Both programs are in on some top prospects and both already have some big commits.

If you look at where they’re at right now, Michigan is ranked ahead of Ohio State and has nine ESPN 300 commits to Ohio State’s seven.

Michigan has a realistic shot of landing Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), which would then give Michigan 11 ESPN 300 commits and two commitments in the top-five overall, with Hand and Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic).

That would be pretty tough for Ohio State to overtake, despite the fact the Buckeyes still have a shot with a few ESPN 300 prospects themselves. So I would have to go with Michigan if Hand and McDowell jump on board. If they don’t, then it could be close.

jbacevice@gmail.com: It’s about halfway through the high school regular season, are any Ohio State commits potential big risers in their ESPN rankings?

Bournival: The biggest name here is four-star athlete Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus). He wowed everyone at The Opening in July when he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash and hasn’t shown any indication that it was a one-time deal. With a 40.7-inch vertical jump and the ability to create mismatches, he could be one of the biggest movers when the next round of ESPN 300 rankings is updated. His versatility and unbelievable speed make him one of those to watch moving forward.

Q: Chris, Chicago: It seems like Parrker Westphal could end up anywhere at this point. Where do you think he ends up?

VanHaaren: That’s a good question. Westphal has kept everything very close to the vest his entire recruitment, but we know he is down to Michigan State, Northwestern and Vanderbilt.

He has taken a visit to Vanderbilt, will be in East Lansing this weekend and is planning to schedule a visit to Northwestern before deciding.

I think all three schools legitimately have a shot, and it’s tough to tell where he’s leaning because he does keep things close. I tend to think he will stay closer to home, because he is very close to his family. I know some of the Michigan State commitments, including Enoch Smith (Chicago/Mt. Carmel), have been trying to recruit Westphal so that could help.

I believe Northwestern has a legitimate shot as well, especially since they’re the closest to home. He’s a closed book, though, so we’ll see what happens.

@buckeyefan686: Do you see OSU signing a class that appears to be too large at first in anticipation of transfers like we saw this past summer?

Bournival: The second Ohio State picks up another commitment, that will be the case, as it is at its limit right now. That said, the Buckeyes don’t appear done by any stretch of the imagination. They are in it for inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Cleveland Glenville teammates Erick Smith and Marshon Lattimore at safety and athlete, respectively, and are actively recruiting Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) as well as an offensive lineman. That would put them at 23 commitments.

Remember, the number of student-athletes under scholarship needs to be at 82 by August of next year. Transfers, medical hardships and players leaving for the NFL have an effect on that. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this class up to 23 or 24 by the time things are done.


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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Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville) and his teammate Erick Smith can relate to what many top-ranked prospects are going through this fall.

While the two ESPN 300 seniors might not have the circus surrounding them like Da’Shawn Hand (Woodridge, Va./Woodbridge) and Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), their days aren't much different.

Being a top recruit -- Lattimore is ranked 51st and Smith 231st in the ESPN 300 -- their cell phones run out of battery almost as soon as they turn their phones on.

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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

September, 6, 2013
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@bwessfootball: How do you see Penn State’s class rounding out? Would you say PSU is now the favorite for Montae Nicholson and Qadree Ollison?

Brad Bournival: The first part of that question is tricky as the Nittany Lions are still in on Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel), Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mount Lebanon), Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) and Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) but may not be the favorite for any of them. As far as Ollison goes, I fully expect him to be part of the 2014 Penn State class by Monday afternoon. The fact he’s visiting the Nittany Lions just before his announcement bodes well for Penn State. As far as Nicholson goes, the jury is still out on that one. He’s visiting Michigan State this weekend, but Pittsburgh is in his backyard and don’t count out Oregon or Florida State. The safety wants to set official visit dates soon so that could be telling.




[+] EnlargeDarius West
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comCould Michigan State land standout cornerback Darius West?
@Collin_Stauder: Any chance Michigan State grabs Nicholson or Darius West down the stretch?

Tom VanHaaren: That’s a pretty relevant question right now as Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) is visiting Michigan State this weekend and West (Lima, Ohio/Central) just recently took a visit to East Lansing.

I think you could probably even throw defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) in this question because he recently told me that he would like to get out to Michigan State for a game.

It was believed that Northwestern and Vanderbilt had the best shot with Westphal, but if he makes it out to East Lansing that might be an interesting situation. He was originally going to make a decision before his season, but it looks like he could take a few visits.

As for West, he is still committed to Kentucky and publicly is saying the visit to Michigan State wasn’t a big deal. I don’t think a prospect takes a visit this late in the game if it’s not a big deal. If Kentucky continues to struggle that could be something to watch.

Nicholson has had an interesting recruitment recently with Michigan telling him they aren’t recruiting him anymore. I believe he is open at this point, so this visit could help Michigan State. It’s too early to tell with him, though.




@DukeLukeofJuke: Do you see any dark horse recruits that few are connecting to Ohio State at the moment that could end up in Columbus by national signing day?

Bournival: The names are pretty standard at this point in recruits like Noah Brown (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII), Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau Community College), Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Erick Smith (Cleveland/Glenville) and Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville). If you’re asking me to go out on a limb, maybe someone like Gesicki or Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mount Lebanon) winds up with the Buckeyes. While it’s not much of a stretch, those two aren’t getting a lot of play lately in recent Ohio State news.




@ssullie71: Has Malik McDowell given a timeline when he will make his decision on colleges?

VanHaaren: He is saying going into this weekend that he plans on waiting to make a decision. This has been a hot topic, because I do believe there is a chance he makes a decision sooner than later.

McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) has been somewhat quiet about all this and doesn’t share much, so he could do anything. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him wait things out, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make a decision soon.

He initially had been saying he was going to wait until the Army All-American game, but I don’t think that will happen anymore.




jbacevice@gmail.com: Damon Webb is the face of the 2014 class for Ohio State. Eric Glover-Williams has that honor in 2015. Put your prognosticator glasses on, who takes that role in 2016?

Bournival: Early signs point to someone with a familiar last name. While there aren’t a ton of offers out there just yet to 2016 stars, I don’t think it will much matter as defensive end Nick Bosa (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) has all the tools to carry the flag if he picks the Buckeyes down the line.

We all know is brother Joey is already making a name for himself as a freshman at Ohio State, but Nick could be even bigger. St. Thomas Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo has already said he thinks everyone will know all there is about the sophomore by the time he finishes with the Raiders. Buckeyes assistant Mike Vrabel is high on Nick already, but not just because of his play. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound defensive end’s character and maturation at such a young age is what many are talking about.

Big Ten recruiting mailbag

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
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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. Feel free to email us as well at bradbournival.espn@gmail.com or TomVHESPN@gmail.com.

@UMKirwin12: What three players in this class fit the biggest need for their team and will have the biggest impact on their freshmen season?

TomVanHaaren: There are names that stick out to me, but it doesn’t mean the other commitments in different classes aren’t important to their respective teams.

The commits that stick out, though, are Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers, Michigan State commit Brian Allen and Penn State commit De’Andre Thompkins.

Peppers is the top-ranked cornerback in the nation and will provide Michigan with something the defense doesn’t currently have. He has excellent size and speed and will be able to cover receivers, but also help in the run game. He is versatile enough to stay in the game in any situation Michigan’s defense will be put in, which makes him very valuable.

For Michigan State, the offensive line has been a concern, so landing Allen is a big deal. He might not make an impact his freshman season, because that’s often difficult for offensive linemen, but he will eventually make an impact. He is the perfect fit at center and should help anchor the line for the future.

At Penn State, outside of Allen Robinson the second leading receiver was a tight end. There are some young receivers on the roster, but landing Thompkins was a big deal. He’s a playmaker and a fluid receiver that will help that offense once Robinson is gone. He isn’t talked about much, but he was an excellent pickup for the Nittany Lions.

@Wesley20: What is going on with Ohio State commitment Marcelys Jones?

Brad Bournival: There are rumors the offensive guard -- and first pledge of the 2014 recruiting class -- will take an official visit on Nov. 9 for the LSU game at Alabama, he texted me that he wasn’t.

The truth is, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jones joins ESPN 300 teammates Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith, who already have lined up official visits for that date, down in Alabama.

That said, I don’t think there is reason to worry. Urban Meyer knew Jones was going on the southern tour with his teammates back in July and if Jones heads to Alabama for the visit, he’ll clear it with Ohio State. Throughout all of this, the three-star guard has steadfastly said he was a Buckeye.

@GPF4GOBLUE: Is Michigan still the front runner in recruiting Malik McDowell?

VanHaaren: I believe so. McDowell has said that he wants to wait to make his decision, but it looks like nothing has changed.

McDowell’s parents accompanied him on his last trip to Ann Arbor and they were blown away. His father said he is rooting for Michigan, but letting his son make his own decision.

Anytime you can convince the parents to get on board that is always a positive. McDowell is saying he wants to take visits, but we will see how everything actually plays out.

@HoosierHolmes: How is Indiana looking in regards to Micquell Cotton and Kenric Young?

Bournival: Cotton’s trip earlier in the month was a success and Young has an official visit lined up with Indiana on Sept. 20, which is the weekend the Hoosiers play Missouri.

Cotton has Indiana in the mix along with Iowa State and Syracuse, but I still think he’s the Hoosiers to lose.

As for Young, seniors take their official visits quite seriously, so Indiana grabbing one of the five allotted trips for the standout wide receiver out of Gainesville, Fla., is a big deal.

Matt, Chicago: Whose recruiting class in the Big Ten surprises you the most, or who do you think has a sleeper class for 2014?

VanHaaren: Michigan and Ohio State have highly ranked classes for a reason. They have outstanding prospects committed and are filling many needs. I am excluding them from this question because those two are somewhat expected.

I think there are two schools that stick out that people aren’t really talking about and those are Northwestern and Penn State.

The Nittany Lions have three ESPN 300 commitments with five commitments ranked as four-stars. The coaching staff is filling a need at receiver with Thompkins and also Chris Godwin.

Looking at Northwestern’s class, the Wildcats have done an excellent job playing off the success of the 2012 season and still have a chance to land some top players, including three ESPN 300 prospects. So for me, those two classes stand out for potentially adding excellent value to their respective teams.

@BuckeyesCubs10: Will anyone stop Ohio State and Michigan from having another 10-year war?

Bournival: It absolutely can happen. What Bill O’Brien has done in his short time at Penn State is amazing in its own right. He landed a top 25 class in his first full recruiting year with the Nittany Lions and is working on another this year despite the NCAA sanctions. When the sanctions are gone and if O’Brien is still there, he’ll likely be a thorn in the side of both the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

Then there is Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Badgers know exactly how to market their brand and remain a contender almost every year. The Cornhuskers have put together four straight seasons of nine wins or more as well. Both schools will be in the West Division next year, which isn’t the gauntlet the East is so a trip to the Big Ten championship game will be an easier road for both schools.

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