Commentary

Class of 2008 Big Ten team recruiting needs

Originally Published: August 30, 2007
By Steve Muench | Scouts Inc.
Illinois
Wide Receiver
Arrelious Benn, out of Washington, D.C., ranked as the No. 3 receiver in his class, and Illinois did extremely well to get him. He does an excellent job of tracking the ball and has the body control to make spectacular catches downfield. However, there are plenty of questions about his supporting cast, and the Fighting Illini have to get younger here since this unit consists of three seniors and two juniors. Of course, it doesn't help that Derrick McPhearson and Jody Ellis were both kicked off the team because for off-the-field problems either.
Inside Linebacker
The anchor of this defense the past three seasons has been Jeremy (J) Leman, whose eligibility runs out at the end of the year. Backup Sam Carson III had a strong spring and is expected to step into the starting lineup next year. Problem is he's a junior, so he'll be gone at the end of the 2008 season. Illinois did a good job of starting to build a strong front seven during the off-season, but it needs to continue that process by signing a talented middle linebacker next year.
Offensive Center
Illinois signed Mark Jackson, out of Columbus, Ohio, and all indications are he'll be ready to step into the starting lineup when junior Ryan McDonald steps down. However, backup Eric Block is also a junior, so the Fighting Illini need to add some depth here. It's also worth noting that converted defensive lineman Brandon Jordan may be a better fit at tackle than he is at guard. Keeping that in mind, Illinois should look for a lineman versatile enough to provide depth at all three interior line positions.

Indiana
Cornerback
Depth and talent are both concerns here. First off, starters Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors are both seniors and No. 3 Chris Phillips is a junior. Secondly, the Hoosiers failed to sign any corners last year. Third, and most importantly, Indiana had one of the most porous pass defenses in the nation last year. Though inconsistent play at safety is also to blame, the Hoosiers need more out of their corners.
Tight End
Last year Indiana didn't feature the tight end, but it wasn't by choice. In fact head coach Bill Lynch, the former offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, wants to get his tight ends more involved in the passing game. The problem has been the lack of ideal talent at the position. Well, now the Hoosiers have an opportunity to upgrade because former quarterback Blake Powers and Nick Sexton are both seniors. The focus should be on tight ends fast enough to stretch the field with the athletic ability to get open underneath.
Inside Linebacker
Adam McClurg is a senior and there are concerns about who will replace him. While backup Matt Mayberry runs well and excels in pursuit, he is a former safety who lacks ideal size and will struggle to hold his ground when teams run at him. True freshman Tyler Replogle, out of Centerville, Ohio, has some upside and could push Mayberry for playing time next year, but there's no guarantee he'll pan out. Ideally, the Hoosiers sign an inside linebacker that can push Replogle for playing time and allow Mayberry to slide outside, where he is a better fit.
Steve Muench played four years of Division I-AA football before joining Scouts Inc. in 2002. He has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc., but his current focus is on the NFL draft.

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