NCF On The Trail: Torrance Gibson

Big Ten 2015 recruiting in review 

February, 11, 2015
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The 2015 recruiting class is in the rear-view mirror, but there are still some important topics to discuss with the class. Here is a look at how the conference panned out and what could lie ahead for some of the prospects.

Overall the Big Ten had a productive signing day with a few teams having more success than others. Different teams had different needs, though, so we break down who had the best classes by position within the conference.

Quarterback
Ohio State: The Buckeyes landed two ESPN 300 quarterbacks, including five-star athlete Torrance Gibson and four-star Joe Burrow. Gibson is more of an athlete, while Burrow is more polished as a passer, but Ohio State continues to reload the position.

Sleeper pick: Michigan landed ESPN 300 quarterback Zach Gentry late in the process, flipping his commitment to Texas. The Wolverines also had early enrollee Alex Malzone already on board. Quarterback was a huge need for Michigan as there is uncertainty at the position, so the Wolverines did a good job of adding competition.


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Big Ten signing day primer

February, 3, 2015
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ESPNU will have 11 hours of coverage on national signing day (Feb. 4), with analysis and live commitments from some of the top prospects in the country. A few of those recruits are considering Big Ten teams, and there are some big questions going into signing day.

For team-by-team coverage of the Big Ten, check out the conference’s recruiting pages:
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Maryland
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Nebraska
Northwestern
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Rutgers
Wisconsin

Programming schedule:
Signing Day Special (8 a.m. ET- 5 p.m. ET): ESPNU or Watch ESPN

Here is a look at a few items to watch when all the action happens on the big day.

One storyline to watch: Michigan is currently sitting at nine commitments and is hoping to close out strong. The Wolverines are being considered by three prospects announcing on ESPNU: defensive back Iman Marshall, tight end Chris Clark and linebacker Roquan Smith.

There are a few other targets still out there, including Jarius Adams, a Rutgers commit. This class won’t make or break Michigan, but how the program closes could be impactful in the near future.

If the coaches can land one of the big three announcing on ESPNU, it would be a huge deal for the program. Marshall could be an immediate, impact-type prospect, and Clark would be a huge addition to the offense. Either of these would boost the depth and competition level on the roster and would be a huge positive for Michigan heading into spring ball. One recruit to watch: Torrance Gibson is currently committed to Ohio State but has been listening to overtures from Auburn, LSU and Miami. Other than a few tweets, the five-star prospect hasn’t been talking much about his commitment.

Gibson hosted coaches from Auburn, LSU and Ohio State on in-home visits, and now fans are waiting to see what he does. The opportunity to play quarterback is there at all the schools. Auburn might have the best opportunity for early playing time and be the best fit for Gibson.

He is still committed to the Buckeyes, however, and could very well stay that way. His decision hasn’t gone public yet, so this is definitely something to watch as we head into signing day.

One signing day surprise: It might not be too much of a surprise at this point, but it looks as though Ohio State will close strong. Wide receiver K.J. Hill and defensive back Damon Arnette could very well choose the Buckeyes.

It’s tough to put the Buckeyes in this category because Ohio State fans aren’t surprised by Urban Meyer's closing strong this late in the process, but besides Ohio State, Michigan and potentially Maryland, there might not be too many big surprises for the Big Ten.

The Terps have a chance to surprise, though, if they can pull in defensive lineman Austrian Robinson and ESPN 300 offensive lineman Isaiah Prince. It would be a big close for coach Randy Edsall and his staff, who have some positive momentum.

Running back Mike Weber could be on this list as well, if he doesn't announce anything until signing day. Weber is currently committed to Ohio State, but he has been listening to Michigan recently. He has kept quiet about his final decision, so there is still some intrigue with him.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

February, 3, 2015
Feb 3
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Signing day is almost here and this past weekend was a big, final push for a lot of Big Ten teams to pull in last-minute commits. Some of the teams within the conference have set themselves up well for signing day and were able to focus on the 2016 class.

Here is a look at the biggest news from the past weekend within the Big Ten.


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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.
Predictions are always difficult to make around signing day because recruits keep things so close to the vest. A few Big Ten teams are waiting to see what some of their targets will do on signing day, so here are a few predictions for some of those recruits.


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

February, 1, 2015
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The final recruiting visit weekend for the 2015 class was a last-minute effort to get prospects on board. A few Big Ten teams were hosting big visitors, so here is a look at the best of the weekend.

The Michigan State equipment staff opened the weekend by showing the fans what the locker room setup looks like for visiting prospects. This is where the jersey and helmet pictures come from and the recruits get a look at their potential future jerseys.


Ohio State is close to filling its 2015 class, but there are still some big targets on the board. Two of the bigger prospects happened to be on campus this weekend with defensive back Damon Arnette and linebacker Porter Gustin.

Gustin got a chance to see the new championship trophy and hang out on campus for his final visit.


The ESPN 300 prospect made the trip with most of his family, which gave everyone a look at what the Buckeyes have to offer.


While he wasn’t on a visit to Ohio State, Buckeyes quarterback commit Torrance Gibson was on a visit to Miami. Gibson has seen interest from the Hurricanes, Auburn and LSU in recent weeks and has Ohio State fans nervous about what he will do on signing day.


Penn State is also close to filling its 2015 class, especially after the commitment of defensive back John Petrishen on his visit.


Because the 2015 class is so close to being full, the Penn State coaching staff was able to hold a junior day of sorts and host some of the top targets in the 2016 class as well. That included all of the 2016 commits with Shane Simmons, Miles Sanders and Jake Zembiec.


Penn State added to that 2016 commit list over the weekend when Detroit defensive back Lavert Hill announced his commitment to the Nittany Lions on the visit.


What would a visit weekend be without a few cookie cakes, right? Illinois went with a giant cookie cake that looks to resemble a football for Cameron Watkins’ visit.


Michigan had a few big visitors on campus as well, including Washington State wide receiver commit Deontay Burnett.


The Wolverines are looking to add a receiver to this class, which is why Ole Miss receiver commit Van Jefferson was also visiting. Jefferson grew up in Michigan while his father, Shawn, was the wide receivers coach for the Detroit Lions until 2012.


Wisconsin hosted a somewhat new target this weekend in linebacker Jake Whalen. He has been on the Badgers’ target list for a while, but he was only recently offered a full scholarship.

Iowa had been looking good to land Whalen, but now with the Wisconsin offer, that decision could go for the Badgers.


Nebraska received some good news from a few of the visitors in Lincoln on Sunday. Defensive end Alex Davis tweeted he was decommitting from Georgia Southern and committing to Nebraska.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
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This was one of two remaining weekends for recruits to take visits until national signing day. The weekend was full of news including over 10 commitments in the SEC. Here’s a closer look at some of the top news from around the conference this weekend.


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After parting ways with TCU, Devonte Fields ended up at Trinity Valley Community College and he could be heading back to the Division I ranks after signing day.


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SEC's top recruiting visits 

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
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Signing day is less than two weeks away, and there are only two remaining weekends for prospects to take official visits. Other prospects who have already taken all five of their allowed official visits will take unofficial visits to help decide where they will want to attend school. Here is a closer look at some of the top visits to watch in the SEC over the weekend.

Alabama

The Crimson Tide have already put together an unbelievable class, and are hoping to top it off with one or two more prospects. Long-time Georgia commit Terry Godwin will take an official visit to Alabama just a week after taking a visit to Auburn last weekend. Georgia still appears to be the front-runner, but anything can happen when a recruit goes on a visit.

Auburn safety commit Darrell Williams is also visiting Alabama this weekend. Williams had heavy interest in Alabama before making his pledge to Auburn early in the process. He will certainly be one to watch.

LSU

The Tigers, after the commitment of ESPN 300 defensive back Donte' Jackson this week, are up to 17 commits, including seven ranked in the ESPN 300, and are hoping to add a few more key prospects on signing day. Five-star Ohio State athlete commit Torrance Gibson, fresh off an Auburn visit, will visit LSU. The dual-threat quarterback has been concerned about the logjam at quarterback at Ohio State, and both LSU and Auburn run offenses that suit his playing style.

In addition to Gibson, another five-star prospect -- defensive back Iman Marshall -- will also take a trip to Baton Rouge. Marshall has kept his recruitment close to the vest, but the Tigers have already put together an incredible defensive back class. Four-star offensive lineman Toby Weathersby will also take a visit to LSU this weekend. Running back commit Derrius Guice will visit LSU this weekend, and announced on Twitter that he will take a visit to Alabama next weekend. Obviously the LSU coaching staff would like to nail down his commitment and prevent Guice from taking that final visit to Alabama.

Florida


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
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National signing day is less than three weeks away and it’s coming down to crunch time. This past weekend was one of three remaining weekends for recruits to take official visits before signing day and some of the top prospects took full advantage of the available weekend. Auburn had a monster recruiting weekend and, though not to the same extent, so did Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others. Here’s a closer look at the top news from this past weekend.


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Torrance Gibson has stuck to his guns about his pledge to Ohio State for months now, but a trip this weekend to Auburn has him thinking long and hard about his future. And his future will be the focus of one of the biggest recruiting battles in the country leading up to signing day.


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Ohio State is coming off a national championship and has a three-headed quarterback dilemma that most schools would love to have. The Buckeyes are not complaining about their unusual predicament but it has caused their five-star quarterback commit Torrance Gibson to consider some of his other offers.

The 16th-ranked player in the nation took an official visit to Auburn this weekend and though he remains committed to Ohio State, the Tigers gave him a lot to think about.

"I sat in Coach [Gus] Malzahn's office and he told me that I'm their guy,” Gibson said. "He said he wants me to come in and I would get a fair opportunity to play quarterback and I believe him.

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SEC's top recruiting visits 

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
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With national signing day less than three weeks away, it is officially crunch time. There are only three recruiting weekends left for visits, and most schools plan to take full advantage of those available weekends. Here are a closer look at some of the top visits around the SEC this weekend.

Auburn


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The ESPN 300 has been updated and the Big Ten still has big targets on the list. We are winding down toward signing day, so those elite prospects don't have much time left to make decisions.

Here is what you need to know with the updated list within the Big Ten:


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