NCF On The Trail: Jalin Marshall

New Year's Day and national signing day used to be the two most disheartening days on the Big Ten football calendar.

Make no mistake, New Year's Day had been much more of a buzzkill. The Big Ten's poor results on an afternoon where it clustered its top postseason games on big stages damaged the league's reputation and depressed its fans.

National signing day had been a different kind of downer. Unlike New Year's Day, when the Big Ten's collective struggles were front and center, national signing day pushed the league off to the side. The Big Ten went from being embarrassed on Jan. 1 to being largely ignored on the first Wednesday in February.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesOhio State raised a trophy in January and raised expectations for the Big Ten on signing day.
Of course, this was ESPN's fault, as all things were/are. ESPN's in-season obsession with all things SEC spilled into its recruiting coverage, Big Ten fans contended.

Two things to note:

1. Recruiting rankings are inherently subjective

2. The numbers don't lie. Every recruiting list shows more elite prospects in the South -- many of whom choose to play for SEC schools -- than in the Midwest

The bottom line is signing day had become more of an SEC and ACC event than a Big Ten exposition. There's a reason why every year around this time, I snarkily ask our friends in ACC country if they're ready for the biggest day on their football calendar.

But signing day 2015, arriving in just 36 hours, could have a different feel around the Big Ten. For the first time in a while, the Big Ten is the most talked-about league in the sport. Ohio State just won the first College Football Playoff national championship, securing its first title -- and the Big Ten's -- in 12 seasons. The Buckeyes capped a Big Ten bowl season that far surpassed expectations (6-5 overall, 2-0 in New Year's Six games).

Michigan made the top coaching move of the offseason by landing Jim Harbaugh. Two former Big Ten quarterbacks shined Sunday night in Super Bowl XLIX, with former Michigan signal-caller Tom Brady coming away with his fourth ring.

The Big Ten has tangible momentum that it wants to sustain through the offseason, beginning with national signing day.

How realistic is that goal?

Signing day is largely about hype, and the Big Ten undoubtedly will be discussed more this year than in the past.

Ohio State's class, ranked No. 7 nationally by ESPN RecruitingNation, will be examined as the Buckeyes bring in standouts such as Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell, and hope to keep Torrance Gibson. Unlike many Big Ten coaches, Ohio State's Urban Meyer eschews redshirting and has quickly turned young players into key contributors. Meyer's first full class in 2013 -- featuring Joey Bosa, J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, Vonn Bell, Jalin Marshall and Darron Lee -- played a huge role in this year's title run.

Michigan's first class under Harbaugh also will be in the spotlight. It will be small -- the Wolverines have only nine verbal commitments -- but Harbaugh already has bolstered the quarterback spot with Zach Gentry, who had originally picked Texas. Michigan could finish strong with tight end Chris Clark, linebacker Roquan Smith and cornerback Iman Marshall, all of whom are announcing their decisions on signing day.

James Franklin's first full class at Penn State should get Lions fans excited for the future. Franklin and his staff put much of the group together last spring, landing 13 commitments before the end of May. They've upgraded their top problem unit, offensive line, with recruitsSterling Jenkins and Ryan Bates, to go along with junior college transfer Paris Palmer.

Michigan State is arguably the nation's top player development program. But after consecutive top-5 finishes, the Spartans' recruiting efforts are getting noticed. MSU is poised to sign a top-30 class and might have locked up its future offensive backfield with quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back L.J. Scott. Twin brothers Andrew and David Dowell, one-time Northwestern and Kentucky commits, recently switched their pledge to MSU.

Wisconsin and Nebraska also could end up among ESPN RecruitingNation's top 30 classes. Not surprisingly, the Badgers have seen attrition in their class after the surprising departure of coach Gary Andersen to Oregon State, but they've bolstered their offense with running backs Bradrick Shaw and Jordan Stevenson, tight end Kyle Penniston and quarterback Austin Kafentzis. Nebraska also went through a coaching change but has made a nice push under Mike Riley and his innovative recruiting approach, landing offensive lineman Jalin Barnett and holding onto defensive back Eric Lee and others.

As colleague Mitch Sherman wrote last week, Big Ten coaches had no consensus about whether the league's recent on-field surge would improve recruiting, especially for non-traditional powers. Maryland, despite losing two recruits to Indiana this past weekend, will be a program to watch Wednesday as linemen Austrian Robinson and Isaiah Prince make their decisions. Illinois hopes to upgrade its defensive line with Jamal Milan, who also is considering Minnesota and Indiana. Minnesota, Rutgers, Northwestern, Indiana and others look to lock up solid classes on Wednesday.

There will be Big Ten teams that don't move the needle regionally or nationally, as there are every year. But there's optimism about the league's overall recruiting efforts, fueled by the bowl/playoff momentum.

The Big Ten changed its fortunes on New Year's Day. National signing day looms, and league should gain a greater market share of the spotlight, providing a springboard to the offseason.

WR Johnson decommits from Ohio State 

November, 11, 2013
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When Lonnie Johnson (Gary, Ind./West Side) committed to Ohio State on Mother’s Day -- May 12 -- the four-star wide receiver did it with enthusiasm and excitement.

Eric Glover-Williams (Canton, Ohio/McKinley) knows all about the fact Ohio State has a chance to notch win No. 850 this season. He knows the Buckeyes are the favorite to win their 35th Big Ten title and, if the cards fall right, he knows an eighth national championship isn’t out of the question.

The ESPN Junior 300 athlete took pause after an improbable 13-10 win where his squad converted a fake field goal to win on the last play of the game, to look at Ohio State past, present and future.

Named the face of the 2015 recruiting class, the 29th-ranked junior in the nation pointed to the big numbers Ohio State has put up in the last 100 years and alluded to the fact it has had 78 consensus All-Americans and 369 first-team All-Big Ten picks as a big draw to become a Buckeye.

“You know you’re going to a place that always has a winning tradition and one that is known for winning championships and being in the big game,” Glover-Williams said. “They’re almost always great.”

But the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Glover-Williams wasn’t just talking about the teams of the past. Since he has been on the Buckeyes' radar the last 14 months, he has paid extra close attention to the school.

He saw a team bounce back from a 6-7 record in 2011 to become the only BCS team without a loss last season.

He knows the Buckeyes have won 18 games in a row and hold the nation’s longest winning streak among BCS teams with Alabama (10) its next closest threat.

He has also seen Ohio State hold on for wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern this season when both teams were nationally ranked.

“They can be great,” Eric Glover-Williams said. “I think they have a chance and I would like to see them play Alabama in the national championship. That’s something I hope I can see them do.

“Their success is all about the personnel on the field. They have to find whoever is clicking and keep doing what they do to win the game. I still think the same about Ohio State win or lose, but those games, they’re finding ways to win.”

While the Bulldogs standout loves to talk about Ohio State past and present, it only makes sense to talk about the future as he’s set to be a Buckeye in 2015.

Barring something strange happening, Glover-Williams knows players like Devin Smith and Braxton Miller will be out of the lineup at Ohio State when he gets there. That doesn’t mean the stable will be empty with J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones or Stephen Collier at quarterback.


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Collier ready to kick the Ohio State tires 

September, 17, 2013
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Stephen Collier Tom Hauck for Student SportsStephen Collier is salivating about being put in the helm of the Ohio State offense someday.
Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Lee County) sat at a restaurant on Saturday and started drooling, but it wasn’t over a dozen wings or a Screamin’ Nacho Burger.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Collier was seeing just how good Ohio State’s offense can be under Urban Meyer in a 52-34 win over California. That got the 2014 Buckeyes pledge thinking about a few years from now, when he could be leading the offense.

“Oh man, it’s going to be like a kid in a candy shop, and I’ll be that kid,” the quarterback said. “I’m so excited to play with that level of talent. It’s not every day you’ll be able to play with those kind of guys.


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From official visits past and future to a commitment, the Big Ten was buzzing with headlines this week.

Here’s a look at a few programs that highlight a busy week in this week’s Big Ten storylines.

Boiler Up


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Ohio State picks up commitment No. 18 

September, 9, 2013
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The one thing that is becoming abundantly clear is that Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class is all about speed.

Urban Meyer dipped into his bag of zoom yet another time Monday evening and picked up four-star athlete Noah Brown (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII).

After finishing up on an official visit in Columbus on Sunday, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Brown didn’t waste much time in picking the Buckeyes over Rutgers.

He is the 18th member of the Ohio State class and the sixth wide receiver/athlete in the class.


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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 Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: reasons for LSU fans to be patient, Ohio State's start, and Sonny Dykes reloading.


Patience is a virtue for LSU

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Ohio State picks up commitment No. 17 

August, 16, 2013
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Urban Meyer loves speed. He just can’t help himself.

What the two-time national champion picked up on Friday, when four-star athlete Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus) became Ohio State’s 17th commitment in the 2014 class, will have Meyer smiling for the next four years. Erasmus assistant coach Ray Lizzi confirmed the commitment.

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This month is very important for Ohio State, as the staff is set to host its senior advanced camp on Sunday. Hundreds of prospects will be in attendance, including several top targets. Here are five storylines to watch this week:


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Wilson a big addition to receiving unit 

February, 4, 2013
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In getting ESPN 150 athlete Dontre Wilson (Desoto, Texas/DeSoto) to alter his college choice from Oregon to Ohio State on Sunday, the Buckeyes not only shored up the wide receiver position in the recruiting class of 2013, they picked up an instant threat in the slot.

It’s a position that should look good for a long time to come for the school as the 55th-ranked player in the nation -- he’s No. 5 at the athlete position -- joins Jalin Marshall (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) as a slot receiver, giving Ohio State two 150 seniors at the position.

Wilson also complements Taivon Jacobs (Forestville, Md./Suitland) and Corey Smith (Akron, Ohio/East Mississippi Community College) on the outside and gives the Buckeyes multiple weapons across the board.

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Four-star WR likes Ohio State's mix 

January, 27, 2013
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They’re still kicking. But so is everyone else.

That’s what one four-star wide receiver from Urban Meyer’s old stomping ground had to say about the Ohio State Buckeyes and his recruitment.


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WR James Clark ready for a 'break' 

January, 20, 2013
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Less than two weeks before signing day, the opinions of recruits can change rapidly. That played out on Sunday with a receiver from Florida.


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When Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) announced he was planning to take official visits to Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee shortly after his team’s state runner-up finish, BuckeyeNation said the trip to Ohio would be important.

Developments since then prove just how vital this weekend will be for the Buckeyes as they try to round out an already stellar defensive recruiting class by adding the ESPN 150 safety.


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Hackenberg, Olsen earn UA Game starts

January, 3, 2013
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Black Team offense

Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)

Running back: Alvin Kamara

Receiver: Alvin Bailey (Florida), Robert Foster (Alabama), Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington)

Tight end: O.J. Howard (Alabama)

Offensive tackle: Darius James (Texas), Denver Kirkland

Offensive guard: Grant Hill (Alabama), Joas Aguilar (Texas A&M)

Center: Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame)

Captains: Kelvin Taylor, Hunter Bivin, Robert Nkemdiche, Ben Boulware

Black Team defense

Defensive end: Robert Nkemdiche, Elijah Daniel

Defensive tackle: Greg Gilgmore (LSU), Kennedy Tulimasealii (Hawaii)

Inside linebacker: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Outside linebacker: Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas

Safety: Keanu Neal (Florida), Leon McQuay III

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Tarean Folston (Notre Dame)

Black Team special teams

Long snapper: Tyler Kluver (Iowa)

Kicker/punter: Sean Covington (UCLA)

White Team offense

Quarterback: Kevin Olsen (Miami)

Running back: Keith Ford (Oklahoma)

Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ryan Green (Florida State), Jalin Marshall (Ohio State)

Tight end: Hunter Henry (Arkansas)

Offensive tackle: Derwin Gray (Maryland), Dorian Johnson (Pittsburgh)

Offensive guard: Patrick Kugler (Michigan), David Dawson (Michigan)

Center: Scott Quessenberry (UCLA)

White Team defense

Defensive end: Carl Lawson (Auburn), Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Defensive tackle: Henry Poggi (Michigan), Kelsey Griffin (South Carolina)

Inside linebacker: Reuben Foster, Yannick Ngakoue

Outside linebacker: Trey Johnson

Safety: Max Redfield, Antonio Conner

Cornerback: Gareon Conley (Ohio State), Shaq Wiggins (Georgia)

White Team special teams

Long snapper: Brendan Turelli

Kicker: Ryan Santoso (Minnesota)

Punter: Shane Tripucka

Captains: Ryan Green, Hunter Henry, Patrick Kugler, Reuben Foster

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