NCF On The Trail: Big Ten Conference

With a few weeks of senior film to evaluate, ESPN’s scouts have updated the ESPN 300. We are around the midpoint of the season as well, so teams are looking to finish off their classes and fill any remaining needs.

There is plenty to discuss at this point in the Big Ten. Here are five things to know within the conference:

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
As we get further into the season, more programs are starting to look at filling up their 2015 classes and looking ahead to offering 2016 prospects.

The Big Ten had plenty happen over the weekend, so here is the recap within the conference.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
Minnesota and Purdue ended up stealing the show over the weekend within the Big Ten. The two programs went back and forth with touchdowns, interceptions and exciting plays.

The Gophers were the home team and pulled out the victory in front of a few important visitors on Saturday.

Athlete Alex Barnes is still on the board and made his way to campus for the game. He chose a good game to visit for as the atmosphere and weather were both great.
Barnes could either be a running back or end up on defense, so his versatility would be useful at Minnesota. The Gophers also had a big defensive lineman in attendance with 2015 defensive end Anree Saint-Amour. Northwestern had a big game at home as well, hosting Nebraska. While the Wildcats got off to a good start, the second half was a different story in the loss to the Huskers.

It was still an exciting atmosphere and a good game for prospects to see the program up close.

The coaches made an offer before the game with 2016 defensive end Khalid Kareem, who traveled from Michigan for the visit. The biggest game of the weekend, though, was probably Ohio State and Rutgers. The Buckeyes were the home team and as usual, they had a ton of big recruiting targets on campus.

The coaches secured a commitment from 2016 tight end Kierre Hawkins and had the opportunity to impress a few other potential commits as well.

One of the bigger 2015 prospects on hand was offensive lineman Josh Wariboko, a former Oklahoma commit, who took an official visit to Ohio State on Saturday. Wariboko put an X in place of the letter M in his tweet, following suit with the Ohio State coaches as a shot at rival Michigan.

The Buckeyes got a double-dip visit with brothers Daniel and Josh Imatorbhebhe on Saturday as well. Daniel is a 2015 tight end while Josh is an ESPN Jr. 300 wide receiver, ranked No. 162 overall in the 2016 class. Getting both prospects on campus at once was a bonus for the Buckeyes and Josh will be a big target for the next class.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
Ohio State faces off against Rutgers this weekend, and the Buckeyes are going to be hosting some big-name prospects as well. A few other Big Ten teams will have important visitors on campus, but none bigger than Ohio State’s list.

Rutgers at Ohio State

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

UA jersey tour: Adam McLean

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
Adam McLean was presented with his Under Armour All America jersey on Monday in front of his classmates and teammates. The Penn State commit has been waiting for this day to come for quite some time, saying it’s an honor to be recognized as a player in the game.

There typically isn’t much news around a committed player when they receive their honorary jersey, but McLean said recently that he could have something new to report in the near future.

“I’ve been thinking about taking visits for a couple months now. I sat down with my athletic director and parents and I’m still committed to Penn State, but we think it’s best that I see what else is out there,” he said. “I’ve been committed for six months, so a lot of schools haven’t been talking to me, but I want to get back in touch with some coaches and just make sure my choice was right.”

Ole Miss and Texas A&M are schools McLean says he knows he would like to visit. Ole Miss recently jumped to the No. 3 spot in the AP poll, so there’s no surprise to see some interest, but the Rebels were also a part of McLean’s original top three.

He likely won’t take any visits until after his season, but schools including Michigan State, Florida State, Alabama and Miami also could be in consideration.

The Under Armour All-American has plenty of time to figure things out, so he isn’t in a rush. He also isn’t abandoning his commitment, but is looking to ensure he made the right choice the first time around.

What one player are you looking forward to competing against?: Whoever. I’m just excited to get up there and compete with the best.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: I would pick Taj Griffin. He has some speed. Get him on the outside and it’s a wrap. Speed kills, so I would go with him.

What was your earliest football memory?: I remember I had just turned 6, and I was playing for the ankle biters team. I was playing tailback and I scored four touchdowns in one game. Three different touchdowns I hit people with a stiff arm. I remember it like it was yesterday. After I got past that league I was always playing with guys older than me, so that was a good memory.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?: I wanted to be like Michael Strahan. I wanted to play defense like Strahan and I wanted to play offense like Mike Alstott. Freshman year I played linebacker, sophomore year I was a running back and defensive end, so it was around my sophomore or junior year that I got comfortable playing defense.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: Mike Tyson. I used to box, and it’s always been a passion of mine. I still do boxing training to work on my hands. When I was 12 I was going to fight in the 2012 junior Olympics on HBO. I was hardcore boxing, training with world champions. It got to where I needed to get serious about boxing or play football and I chose football. I dropped boxing and went to football full time.

Why do you wear your number?: I wear 42. No real reason, I just love the 40 numbers.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?: I’m a really good dancer. Hip hop, all kinds of dance. I can salsa. I think I just got it from my parents, they’re always dancing. As a kid I would always dance with my family and every school dance we would have I would always be the guy in the middle of the circle dancing. I was in a dance group for a little bit in middle school. Me and my friends started a dance group and we joined the talent show.

Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
If Michigan ever needed a win this season it was on Saturday, at night against Penn State. The Wolverines had the biggest target left on the 2015 board in defensive end Keisean Lucier-South on campus.

South has said that Michigan's losing season hasn't impacted how he feels about the program, but it's only a positive to have a win and an exciting atmosphere for his visit.

South also hung out with some of the Michigan commitments on the trip. Since a few of the committed prospects have taken visits or entertained visiting other programs, this was also a big deal for the staff to get them back on campus.

Quarterback commit Messiah DeWeaver, a 2016 prospect, made the trip up as well and had the chance to help recruit a few other targets in his class. One of those prospects was offensive lineman Clark Yarbrough, who tweeted out a few pictures that indicated he and his family were enjoying themselves.

Iowa had a big weekend as well, with a ton of top targets on campus. There were none bigger, though, than Ohio State commit Justin Hilliard.

The five-star prospect took an official visit to see Iowa and his older brother, C.J., who plays for the Hawkeyes. It is difficult to see Hilliard flipping from Ohio State to Iowa, and it probably wasn't a great sign for Hawkeyes fans he tweeted a picture of a block 'O' before he made it to Iowa.

Outside of Hilliard, there were plenty of other big recruits in attendance for the game against Indiana. That even included 2017 defensive lineman Juan Harris, who tweeted out his excitement for the program after the game.

Finally, Wisconsin had some important official visitors on campus for the game against Illinois, including Florida linebacker prospect Jordan Griffin.

This visit could help propel the Badgers further ahead in his recruitment, and could help get Griffin closer to a commitment if all goes as planned.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
Week six is here with recruiting presents for everyone. Unless you aren’t a fan of decommitments, prospects looking around, official visitors and surprise visits. In which case, there are no presents for you.

The Big Ten has all of those storylines wrapped up in one weekend, so here is a look at the most intriguing and important visitors within the conference.

Michigan vs. Penn State:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Before the season started, the Penn State game was supposed to be the marquee event for Michigan. Its annual night game at home, alternate uniforms and a big list of recruiting visitors was the expectation.

Fast forward to current time and you have a whole different outlook on this game. Fans have talked about boycotting the opening kickoff in protest of athletic director Dave Brandon. The team is 2-4 and rumors are swirling of potential coaching changes at the end of the season.

On top of that, and likely because of that, the visitor list is not what it was expected to be.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Help is on the way: Big Ten 

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
Recruiting is all about filling needs and replacing talent. With 25 ESPN 300 prospects committed within the Big Ten there is plenty of talent coming in to help teams with holes on the roster.

Some programs have different needs and different talent in their 2015 classes, so here is a look at each Big Ten team’s need and what kind of help is on the way.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
We are in the thick of the college football season and recruiting has started to heat up. With commits taking visits, offers going out and prospects committing, there is plenty to talk about within the Big Ten.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Juco recruits to watch: Big Ten 

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
Junior college prospects can be an excellent way for programs to fix immediate roster needs. Because the players already have experience outside of college, they typically come to campus well prepared to hit the field early.

RecruitingNation has put together the Juco Watch List for 2015 and there are a few Big Ten targets within the list.

With plenty of holes still out there to fill, Big Ten coaches are hoping to reel in some of these big targets. Below are just a few of the most important JUCO prospects within the conference.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
The slate of games this weekend churned out some exciting -- and in some cases, unexpected -- results for the Big Ten. Rutgers won its first conference game, Northwestern upset Wisconsin and Michigan State made a push toward the College Football Playoff.

A few of those teams had excellent opportunities to impress visiting prospects as well, so here is a look at some of the best recruit reactions via social media.

Michigan vs. Rutgers:

Rutgers won its first Big Ten conference game Saturday against Michigan in what turned out to be an exciting game. A blocked field goal and some explosive offensive plays gave the Scarlet Knights the win in front of several big recruiting targets.

Wide receiver Lawrence Cager is still considering Rutgers and picked a good game to visit for. The recruits could sense this was going to be an exciting game beforehand, as Michigan was in town and it was a night game.

Cager enjoyed himself, but there is still some steep competition for the 2015 receiver as he is also considering Ohio State, Notre Dame and Alabama, among others. Either way, this was an excellent opportunity for Rutgers to get him on campus.

While the game itself was exciting, there was also some pre-game excitement for the Rutgers coaching staff. Linebacker Jonathan Pollock decided to commit to the Scarlet Knights while on his visit and tweeted a picture moments after.

Cager and Pollock were also joined by 2015 defensive end Shareef Miller, among other prospects.

The reaction from the recruits so far has been positive, and all have said there is some excitement around the Rutgers program right now.

Michigan State vs. Nebraska:

This was the marquee matchup in the Big Ten this week, as both teams were ranked in the Top 25.

Nebraska made the game close late in the fourth quarter, but the Spartans dominated most of the game. The win for Michigan State helped solidify what prospects think about the program right now and the direction the Spartans are headed.

One of the bigger visitors on campus was 2015 linebacker Cassius Peat, who flew in from Arizona for his official visit.

Peat had plenty of other recruits around him, and that included 2016 Michigan State commitment Cameron Chambers, who was trying to recruit for his future team.

If Michigan State can close out its season strong and make it into the College Football Playoff, there's no telling what that could do for the future of Spartans recruiting. For now, a home win against a Top 25 team will do just fine.

Maryland vs. Ohio State:

The outcome wasn’t what Maryland had hoped for in front of a sold-out crowd, but the atmosphere and opportunity was still positive.

A few local prospects made the trip, including Maryland commitment E.J. Donahue.

Donahue had a good opportunity to help the coaching staff recruit, as there was a good list of uncommitted 2015 and 2016 prospects in attendance. In fact, there were even a few 2017 recruits, including Keyshwan Johnson Jr.

The California receiver made the trip with his dad, and there might have been a few reasons to pick this game as the younger Johnson's cousin, Michael Thomas, plays for the Buckeyes.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 3, 2014
Oct 3
Maryland, Rutgers and Michigan State are all hosting big in-conference opponents, which means they will all have important recruiting visitors on campus. The three programs have the biggest games within the conference and not coincidentally, they have also have the biggest visitor lists.

Here is a look at the top recruits visiting this weekend.

Michigan State vs. Nebraska

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

UA jersey tour: Chris Clark

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark was presented with his Under Armour All American jersey on Thursday in front of his classmates and teammates. The Michigan commit was excited for the honor and the opportunity to compete with the best players in the country.

It was also a bit of a break for the talented prospect, who has been paying close attention to the Wolverines' tumultuous season. Clark has been hearing from other schools, but along with many of the other Michigan commits, finds himself in a wait-and-see mode.

"All the Michigan kids have [been] talking in our group chat. All of us are just kind of waiting to see what happens with the staff," he said. "Obviously if there are changes made we are all given the opportunity to relook at everything. I'm going to wait and see what happens at the end of the season."

Clark was recently offered by USC and Texas, two schools that have been in contact heavily in recent weeks. He doesn't have any visits planned as of yet, but says if the Michigan staff were relieved of their duties, then he would look around.

The commitments, including Clark, are in an unenviable position as they have to worry about their future school, and they are also taking heat from fans on social media about staying loyal to their commitment.

"You're never disresepectful to the fans, but at the end of the day you can't listen to people on Twitter. They're just passionate about their teams, but we're still in high school," he said. "They have to understand that we would have to get to know a new staff if that happens and it would make sense for us to make sure we're still comfortable."

While Clark has all of that ahead of him, for now he is enjoying being an Under Armour All American and focusing on his team's season.

Five questions with Chris Clark

What one player are you looking forward to competing against?:

I'm really excited to go against the linebacker from Texas. Malik Jefferson. I'm excited to go against him because we went against each other a few years ago. I'm just excited to show people I can compete against the best players in the country.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: Probably Josh Rosen, the quarterback. I think he's by far the most gifted quarterback in the class. Where he's at, I think he's the best. He's a baller, so I would pick him. I was watching the Elite 11 and Trent Dilfer was saying he was almost uncomfortable because Josh is so smart.

What was your earliest football memory?:

In second grade, there was 10 seconds left in the game and we were down by three points. It was the first year we could wear pads. I ran a seam route, caught it and buried one of the coaches that was standing on the field. I ran him over and scored a touchdown with no time left to win the game. It was one of those memories you'll never forget.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?:

I really liked Jeremy Shockey as a tight end. I liked the way he played. He had swagger and he was tough, he's just a beast. I loved him when he was with the Giants.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?:

I would like, in the red zone, maybe split out wide and go against Richard Sherman. That would be cool.

Why do you wear your number?:

I wear No. 8. I've always wanted to wear a single-digit number, but there's no specific reason why I wear that number.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?:

I have a tattoo on my right arm. I come from a family where tattoos are outlawed. It has no meaning, I just got it when I turned 18. I feel like all tight ends have tattoos. For my size, I'm afraid of the dark, too.
Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is probably one of the highest-ranked prospects that no one knows about. Wilkins is perfectly fine with that, too, as he has made it a point to stay out of the limelight.

The No. 83 ranked prospect was presented with his Under Armour All-American jersey on Wednesday and said his process has been smooth sailing because of his plan to keep things to himself.

“I just wanted to let things happen on their own. I feel like there’s not really a point to getting all the media involved with everything,” he said. “It’s my process and I’m going to control it. I don’t want people to be in my ear about things and I just didn’t think adding the media to the process was necessary.”

Wilkins has done an excellent job balancing high school life with his recruiting process and is happy because of it. That doesn’t mean he isn’t serious about his recruitment, though, as things are starting to wind down.

The ESPN 300 prospect has already taken one official visit to Stanford and plans on taking four more out of a list of top schools.

“The last visits will be between Boston College, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame,” he said. “I’m coming closer to my decision. I don’t have a set date, but definitely in the next few months.”

Wilkins had plenty more to talk about after his jersey presentation and gave us a look at who he really is.

What one player are you looking forward to competing against? I haven’t really looked at the roster. I’m just overall excited to play against the top players. That’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my talents, get better and play against the best high school players from all over the country. I’m excited to play with the players and learn from them and get better from being in that environment.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be? I believe it starts up front so I would either go with a defensive or offensive lineman. Some of the guys I’ve met in my recruiting process like Adam McLean or Tim Settle, it would be one of those two. That would be cool and we would definitely have a good time knowing them.

What was your earliest football memory? My first memory, I wasn’t a huge fan of football when I was younger and every time someone would play I would ask why they were playing it. Then after being around my siblings they taught me how to play and ever since then I have loved it.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid? Any of the Patriots because they always have good players. Good players like Warren Sapp, even Michael Strahan.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: That would definitely be my favorite athlete, Paul Pierce. Just because I always wanted the chance to meet him and the chance to hang out with him would be great. Playing him in one on one, he’s a crafty guy so maybe in some way that would rub off on me. He’s just a great man, so I could learn a lot from him.

Why do you wear your number?: My favorite number is 42 and that’s the number I hope to wear in the Under Armour game. That’s the [year] my grandpa was born. My grandfather passed about four years ago now. The impact he had on my life was great. I take that number everywhere and know that he’s in my mind.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?: One is that I’m a mama’s boy. I love my mom deeply. The other is my obsession with the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. That was a show I watched growing up and my brothers were in to that when I was growing up. I always got into it and even today it’s my favorite movie. It’s just one of those things that sticks with you.