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Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Big Ten 2014 recruiting scenarios

By Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival



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.

Worst-case scenario: Illinois would also like to add a running back to this class. Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) fits the bill, but it seems as though the Illini aren’t among his top suitors. The 2015 class is already becoming a focus for the coaches, but there are still some pieces that could help fill the 2014 class, including on the defensive front. Juco prospect Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City Community College).

Indiana
Best-case scenario: The Hoosiers close out strong with offensive tackle Lukayus McNeil (Indianapolis/Decatur Central), outside linebackers Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain) and Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic) and safety Micquell Cotton (O’Fallon/Ill./O’Fallon) and add either Craig James (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville) or Zavior Hoxie (Buford, Ga./Buford) at cornerback.

Worst-case scenario: Indiana somehow loses out on wide receiver Nikia Cathey (Memphis, Tenn./Westwood) and McNeil despite being the odds-on favorite to land each. The aforementioned cornerbacks go elsewhere, leaving a void in the secondary and Indiana is sent scrambling for linebackers as it looks to shore up some big holes on defense.

Iowa
Best-case scenario: The Hawkeyes land ESPN 300 offensive tackle Brian Wallace (St. Louis/Christian Brothers College) as well as three-star running back Chris James (Niles, Ill./Notre Dame) or Markel Smith (St. Louis/St. John Vianney). And for good measure, safety Payton Hendrix (Dallas/Bishop Dunne Catholic) also says yes to Iowa.

Worst-case scenario: After losing ESPN 300 offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls) to Alabama, the Hawkeyes miss out on Wallace. They have backup plans at running back and already have a strong secondary and linebacker unit intact, so the line remains their No. 1 priority.

Minnesota
Best-case scenario: The best case is that Minnesota keeps in-state prospect Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen) home to help boost this class. The Gophers would also like to add a receiver and Kendrick Holland (Winter Haven, Fla./Winter Haven) would be an excellent addition. Minnesota recently hosted Florida commit J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee) and his teammate D’Ernest Johnson, so in the best-case scenario the coaching staff would like to flip Jackson to Minnesota and reel in Johnson as well.

Worst-case scenario: Unfortunately for Minnesota, it isn’t likely that Jackson will flip. The Gophers need to hang on to in-state running back Jeff Jones (Washburn, Minn./Washburn) as well. Jones is having a monster season and could start hearing more from different programs. With only eight commits in the fold there is still a lot of work left for the Minnesota coaching staff.

Michigan
Best-case scenario: The Wolverines land Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) and John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly). That would be three more ESPN 300 prospects to add to an already stellar class. It would also give Michigan two prospects ranked in the top five of the class, a feat that Michigan hasn’t achieved since ESPN’s recruiting rankings began.

Worst-case scenario: The worst case is that all three take their visits and decide to go elsewhere. Hand still has visits to Alabama and Florida and McDowell is saying he plans on taking all five official visits before deciding. Smith is already taking visits and will actually be giving Michigan one of his final visits. Hand and McDowell seem likely to commit to Michigan, so losing those two would be a big blow.

Michigan State
Best-case scenario: ESPN 300 prospects Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway), Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook), Jamil Kamara (Virginia Beach, Va./Bishop Sullivan Catholic) all commit to the Spartans. Nicholson has already taken a visit and both Westphal and Kamara are planning to visit East Lansing. The Spartans would also like to land a running back out of Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), Chris James (Niles, Ill./Notre Dame) or even Minnesota commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn).

Worst-case scenario: Michigan State really needs playmakers on offense, so not landing another running back and missing out on Kamara would sting. The Spartans aren’t yet in Kamara’s top group, so it looks like it might be a long shot with him anyway. Not landing another defensive back in this class, whether it’s Westphal, Nicholson or another target, would be a big deal as well.

Nebraska
Best-case scenario: Nebraska needs help on defense, so the best case for the Cornhuskers is to hit on as many defensive targets as possible. Kalen Ballage (Peyton, Colo./Falcon) is an athlete and could help on either offense or defense. Ballage would be a big get as well as juco defensive end Claudeson Pelon (Mesa, Ariz./Mesa Community College), safety Josh Kalu (Houston, Texas/Alief Taylor) and running back Madre London.

Worst-case scenario: Since the defense is a concern, not landing some of the defensive targets including Kalu would be a big blow. The secondary and defensive line is a need, so missing on those targets is something that can’t happen in this class.

Northwestern
Best-case scenario: The Wildcats land ESPN 300 targets Parrker Westphal, Garrett Dickerson (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic) and Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central). Landing those three prospects would help continue the momentum this team has on the field and on the recruiting trail.

Worst-case scenario: Westphal is considering Northwestern, Michigan State and Vanderbilt, so there is a chance he goes elsewhere. Dickerson is considering Stanford, despite having his brother on Northwestern’s roster. Lee was supposed to take a visit, but then cancelled it and went to Louisville instead. He says Northwestern is still in the mix, but that could mean he’s headed elsewhere.

Ohio State
Best-case scenario: The Buckeyes land ESPN 300 standout teammates Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville) and Erick Smith and also nab inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) and three-star tight end Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional).

Worst-case scenario: The Buckeyes lose out to Alabama for Lattimore and Smith with teammate and Ohio State pledge Marcelys Jones leaving for the Crimson Tide as well. McMillan and Prince decide to stay at home and Gesicki chooses Penn State. While the Buckeyes have other prospects along the offensive line, losing standouts in the secondary and at linebacker would hurt.

Penn State
Best-case scenario: With limited spots remaining, the Nittany Lions land Holley -- their No. 1 target at defensive tackle – and are able to grab Mike Gesicki, who is making an official visit this weekend along with Holley. They pull Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) from Syracuse, while keeping offensive tackle Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon) in state.

Worst-case scenario: Holley, Bookser and Gesicki pick the Buckeyes, four-star defensive tackle Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel) stays put at Virginia Tech and Cabinda likes how he looks with the Orange. Penn State needs to fill the defensive tackle position badly and is looking for a defensive back after missing out on Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa).

Purdue
Best-case scenario: Three-star defensive end Renell Wren (St. Louis/Lutheran North), inside linebacker Damian Walker (Arlington, Texas/Mansfield Timberview), offensive tackle Marcus Applefield (Weeki Wachee, Fla./Weeki Wachees) and safety Juan Jenkins (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) choose the Boilermakers. Also, it would be nice if Nikia Cathey chooses the Boilermakers over Indiana.

Worst-case scenario: Outside linebacker Drue Tranquill (Fort Worth, Ind./Carroll) continues to gain steam with his play this year, but decides to bolt to Notre Dame, which has been courting him hard. The Boilermakers continue losing and find the going tough in landing the aforementioned players, leaving them scrambling over the final months for lower tier players.

Wisconsin
Best-case scenario: The Badgers hit it big with ESPN 300 with offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) after both take official visits this weekend, and are also able to grab ESPN 300 defensive end Kurt Holuba (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic) in what has been a great year for New Jersey athletes. If Mixon says no, they land Chris James.

Worst-case scenario: Both Mama and Mixon stay on the west coast and Holuba chooses Duke. Wisconsin has done a great job on the defensive line, so losing Holuba wouldn’t be too much of a hit and it has backup plans for Mama and Mixon. But with only one ESPN 300 pledge in Jaden Gault (Monona, Wisc./Monona) the class lacks star power and could go stagnant down the stretch.