NCF On The Trail: Dareian Watkins

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.

Big Ten class ranking analysis 

December, 4, 2013
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The end of the regular season means coaches will have more time to focus on recruiting and closing out their recruiting class. The Big Ten has seen plenty of movement within the last week, so here is a look at where the conference stacks up in the recruiting class rankings.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 2, 2013
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This was the final week of regulation for Big Ten teams, so naturally it meant one last push with visiting prospects. A few teams hit big over the weekend and a few are still left with questions.

Here is a look at what happened over the weekend within the conference.


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The Big Ten has seen plenty of action recently with commits, decommitments and offers being sent out. Here is a look at the latest story lines within the conference.

MOVING ON FROM HAND

Michigan missed out on five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) on Thursday. Hand told the coaches Wednesday night, which gave them time to consider an offer to fill his spot.

The staff then promptly offered in-state prospect Jhonny Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs), who is currently committed to Missouri. Williams has now said he will visit Notre Dame, who also recently offered, and will most likely take a trip to Ann Arbor as well.

This could be interesting, as Williams only lives 30 minutes from South Bend and his father is a Michigan fan.

The Wolverines also offered three-star Cal running back commit Vic Enwere (Sugar Land, Texas/Fort Bend Austin), who has said he will likely take a visit as well.

[+] EnlargeTyler Wiegers
Tom Hauck for ESPNFour-star QB Tyler Wiegers decommitted to Rutgers and might take a trip to Iowa this weekend.
HAWKEYES UP

Quarterback Tyler Wiegers (Beverly Hills, Mich./Country Day) decommitted from Rutgers this week, something that’s starting to be a trend with its class.

The four-star quarterback is now considering Iowa, and could take a visit to see the Hawkeyes this weekend. If Wiegers does make the trip, a decision could come shortly after.

If he picks Iowa, Wiegers would be the second four-star commit for the Hawkeyes.

TRANQUILL FLIPS FOR IRISH

Linebacker Drue Tranquill (Ft. Wayne, Ind./Carroll) had been mulling a Notre Dame offer for quite some time, despite being committed to Purdue.

In a text message sent on Monday night, Tranquill made the decision to flip his commitment to Notre Dame.

“I’ve decided to play my next four years at the University of Notre Dame,” the text message said. “I have so much respect for Coach (Darrell) Hazell. I’ve never met someone with such high character. However, I’m ecstatic to go play for Coach (Brian) Kelly at the University of Notre Dame.”

RECRUITING OUT FRONT FOR WESTPHAL

Now that his season is over, ESPN 300 defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) is once again focused on his recruitment.

After much deliberation, the No. 96-ranked prospect is down to Michigan State, Northwestern and Vanderbilt.

He will be taking an unofficial visit to Northwestern on Saturday for its game against Michigan State and will then return again for an official visit in the first week of December.

That’s a huge opportunity for the Wildcats to seal the deal on one of the top remaining targets in this class.

SYKES SET TO RELEASE TOP LIST

Four-star linebacker Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic) has been receiving major interest as of late. His most recent offer comes from Notre Dame, which has sparked interest.

Sykes has been focusing on his season, but tweeted this week that he will release a top-five list next week. He is a major target for Illinois and he also holds a Purdue offer.

With the loss of Tranquill, the Boilermakers could really use some help at linebacker.

MINNESOTA ROLLING

The Minnesota coaching staff has seen a spark in interest from prospects they have been in contact with in recent weeks. Winning typically cures all, and that’s the case with the Golden Gophers right now.

In-state target Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen) says that Minnesota’s play on the field has definitely been something he’s taken into consideration.

“It’s huge, because I came into this fall, the one thing that Minnesota was lacking was winning,” Ragnow said. “I would’ve ruled them out if they weren’t winning. They always talked about winning and actually seeing it happen is huge.”

The Gophers are facing off against Wisconsin this weekend and will have running back target J'Vonte Herrod (Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb) on campus for the game.

Herrod isn’t quite sure when he will make a decision just yet, but the Gophers are likely his current leader.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

November, 20, 2013
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Commitments and decommitments within the Big Ten mean there has been movement in the updated class rankings. Here is a look at some trends and what might happen in the future from Big Ten teams.


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Here is a look at some of the top performances from Big Ten targets and commits for the week.

Illinois:
Mike Dudek: Dudek helped Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.) beat O’Fallon 38-7 with three touchdown catches on the night.

Julian Hylton: The three-star running back had 159 yards on 30 carries with four touchdowns in his game. He helped lead Lincoln-Way North (Frankfort, Ill.) to a 41-6 win over Thornton Fractional South.

Indiana
Coray Keel: The Indiana commit and Snellville (Ga.) South Gwinnett wide receiver registered five catches for 108 yards and scored a 70-yard touchdown in a 30-28 win over Snellville Brookwood.


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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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Here are the top performances by Big Ten commits and targets from the weekend.


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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.

 

Best Big Ten recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

Michigan and Ohio State both sit in the top 10 recruiting rankings this year after each landed top 10 classes in 2013 -- the Buckeyes were third, while the Wolverines were sixth.

That's why it should come as no surprise that the two schools have the top four recruiters in the Big Ten Conference for the Class of 2014 so far.

Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters in the Big Ten and why they deserve such high praise:


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B1G high school performers 

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
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Here are this week's top performances from Big Ten commits and targets:

Illinois

Mike Dudek: Seven receptions, 97 yards, one touchdown, 103 kick return yards and a touchdown in a 40-25 win over Waubonise Valley.

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B1G high school performers 

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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Here are this week's top performances from Big Ten commits and targets:

Illinois:
Julian Hylton: Hylton led Lincoln-Way North (Ill.) with 34 carries, 153 yards and two touchdowns in a 22-21 win over Lincoln-Way Central.


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There are still big holes to fill in recruiting for the 2014 class and top targets still on the board. A lot of position groups are being addressed in recruiting, but not many have been completely filled.

Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the most important position for each Big Ten team in the 2014 class.


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B1G high school performers 

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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With the start of high school football this past weekend, there were plenty of big performances on the field. Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival outline a few top performers from Big Ten commitments over the weekend.

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The hottest team in the Big Ten right now isn't Michigan or Ohio State or Penn State or any of the traditional power schools in the conference. It's Northwestern and coach Pat Fitzgerald.


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