Power Ranking Every Big Ten 2014 Recruiting Class

Andrew CoppensContributor IFebruary 5, 2014

Power Ranking Every Big Ten 2014 Recruiting Class

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    While you've been enjoying your planned or unplanned sick day from work, recruits across the country have been single-handedly saving the fax machine business (nevermind the ability to take a picture, save as a PDF and upload it from your mobile device). 

    Today is the rare day when fans can rejoice in the future prospects of their team, no matter how good or bad the season that was finished. Some may even call it a national holiday. 

    Could this be the class that saves Tim Beckman's job? Will Purdue make a quick turnaround thanks to the first full class for Darrell Hazell? What about the affects of Michigan State's Rose Bowl win? 

    Heck, will this be the class that starts turning around the prospects of the Big Ten as a whole? 

    The answers to those questions may not be known today, but it won't stop us from projecting into the future.   

    With all the names signed on dotted lines, crazy announcements done and 18-year-olds in the spotlight, it's time to start looking at how these classes actually shaped up. 

    Before we give you the winners and losers of the 2014 class from the Big Ten, here are the things under consideration in power ranking these classes: 

    • Player Star Rankings
    • Team Rankings
    • Needs Being Filled
    • Depth of Class
    • Historic Position of Class

    Let's get to it! 

     

    All Recruiting information courtesy 247Sports.

Top 5 Overall Classes

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    The fax machines have stopped humming around Big Ten country...well, everywhere except for Michigan State, where the school anxiously awaits the announced decision of Malik McDowell to become a reality with a national letter of intent. 

    With that, Bleacher Report breaks down the top five classes in the nation (hint, there's a Big Ten team on this list). 

    Now, we can get on to the reason we are all here—Big Ten recruiting. 

14. Illinois

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    Ward could be a game changer for the Illini defense.
    Ward could be a game changer for the Illini defense.Credit: 247Sports

    National Ranking: No. 71 

    Total Commits: 18

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 0

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 18

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Jihad Ward, Defensive Tackle (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    If there was one glaring need on the Illini team in 2013, it was some sort of pressure and help in the front four. Jihad Ward, the No. 2-ranked player out of the state of New York, provides that instantly for the team.

    He's got a college-ready body, and if he can put the mental aspect together quickly, look for Ward to be on the field a lot in his freshman year.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Austin Roberts, Linebacker (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    He’s got great size for a linebacker, at 6’3” and 230 pounds, and his tape screams of that of a playmaker. The only problem is that he played at a small Wisconsin high school. He’ll also have an opportunity to learn under the best player on the Illini roster—Mason Monheim.

    Expect to hear Austin Roberts' name by the time he’s done in Champaign.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    Ron Zook was a master recruiter; he just couldn’t get all the talent on the same page where it mattered most—the field. However, his replacement, Tim Beckman, has yet to prove he can haul in good recruiting classes or get everyone going in the same direction on the field.

    After a season in which the offense showed promise, this class needs to be full of hits on the defensive side of the ball in order for Beckman to keep his job. Unfortunately, Beckman has swung and missed on a number of talented players from the state of Illinois.

    He managed to land just one of the top 25 players in the state, according to 247sports. That’s not going to cut it when you are expected to compete for a bowl game at a bare minimum.

    When you are getting beat out by LSU, Michigan, in-state rival Northwestern and even Syracuse for talent from your own state, that’s not a ringing endorsement of where your program is going.

    On the plus side, Beckman is trying to answer his biggest question marks by going the experienced JUCO route. Brothers Tyrin and Tyree Stone-Davis from Los Angeles Pierce College could be immediate help at wide receiver and cornerback. If they can be immediate impact players, the Illini will have something to work with for the 2014 season.

13. Rutgers

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    Josh Hicks may be the missing link on the Rutgers offense.
    Josh Hicks may be the missing link on the Rutgers offense.Credit: 247Sports

    National Ranking: No. 57

    Total Commits: 26

    No. of 5-stars: 0 

    No. of 4-stars: 0

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 26

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Josh Hicks, Running Back (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Rutgers could use some dynamic playmakers on offense, and Josh Hicks represents just that. He’s also been one of the most rock-solid recruits in this class, committing in 2012 and sticking through it all. He’s the No. 12-ranked all-purpose back in this class and the No. 81-ranked prospect out of the state of Florida.

    Hicks comes in to a backfield that lacks massive playmakers, so he could be in line for serious carries from the get-go for the Scarlet Knights.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Giovanni Rescigno, Quarterback (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Giovanni Rescigno was a late addition to the class, choosing the Scarlet Knights over interest from Eastern Michigan and Michigan. His addition is important because of the flip from former commit Tyler Wiegers. Rescigno is no slouch, though, and he could end up being a player at quarterback for Rutgers before his time is over.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    This class was shaping up to be a great one heading into its first season in the Big Ten, then the defections started and James Franklin swooped in to steal any thunder this class had.

    Losing Saeed Blacknall to the Nittany Lions shortly after Franklin’s arrival at Penn State was a devastating blow to the Scarlet Knights' class. In fact, thanks to it this class has a lot of the look and feel of the Illinois class. That is to say it lacks any of the best from the talent-rich state Rutgers calls home.

    Rutgers failed to sign any of the top 15 recruits in the state of New Jersey. The good news is that the program was in the mix and did have commitments from a few of those top-15 prospects, it just couldn’t seal the deal in the end.

    If the Scarlet Knights want to be more than also-rans in the Big Ten, they need to find a way to get commits to stay committed on a more regular basis. This was not the way Kyle Flood and Co. wanted to go into the B1G at all.

12. Purdue

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    R Brent Smith/Associated Press

    National Ranking: No. 72

    Total Commits: 18

    No. of 5-stars:

    No. of 4-stars: 0

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 18

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Gelen Robinson, Defensive End (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    The son of Purdue basketball legend Glenn Robinson, Gelen follows in his dad’s footsteps to West Lafayette, Ind., but it won’t be to play basketball. He’s one of the top 10 recruits out of the state of Indiana and easily the highest-ranked signee in head coach Darrell Hazell’s first full class.

    With the struggles the defensive line had all of last season, playing time is there for the taking for Robinson from the very beginning.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Brandon Roberts, Cornerback (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Brandon Roberts comes out of talent-rich Georgia, but he was just the No. 122-ranked player in the state. At 6’0” and 180 pounds, Roberts has the size to play right away, and with the lack of well-known wide receivers in the league in 2014, it may be a perfect chance for him to get playing time.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    Hazell’s first full class won’t blow people away, but it also is far from terrible. The most important thing is Hazell knows what he wants and went out and got players who fit the hard-nosed style of football this program is transitioning to.

    Nine of the signees are along the offensive and defensive lines, and that’s a great place to start establishing an identity. However, hitting on a few higher-end 3-star prospects would’ve taken this class closer to the top half of the Big Ten, instead of the bottom end of the rankings.

    Texas, Florida and Georgia are all heavily represented states in this class, and while none are top-flight prospects, Hazell did a good job of finding some hidden gems—and you have to start at the bottom to get to the top.

11. Iowa

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    C.J. Hilliard will have a lot to live up to at Iowa.
    C.J. Hilliard will have a lot to live up to at Iowa.Credit: 247Sports

    National Ranking: No. 52

    Total Commits: 21

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 0

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 21

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Markel Smith, Running Back (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    The Hawkeyes are rich in talent in the backfield, but in getting Markel Smith, they are getting perhaps the most dynamic back on the depth chart. He comes in with a college-ready body at 5’11” and 210 pounds, and that could help him get on the field this season.

    Smith ran for 2,416 yards, 33 touchdowns and averaged 7.1 yards a carry this season, and he finished his career with 7,144 yards and 90 total TDs. It earned him the Stltoday.com Offensive Player of the Year award.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Marcel Joly, Cornerback (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Last season, it was Desmond King shining as a freshman, and in 2014, the Hawkeyes may have a few cornerback prospects who will fill that role. While a lot of attention will be paid to Jalen Embry, Marcel Joly could end up being the better of the two. He’s got good size coming in at 5’11” and 182 pounds, plus he’s competed at the highest level in the tough D.C. area.

    Rated as the No. 30-ranked player in Maryland, Joly’s tape looks really good, and he could be another impact player a year or two from now.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    Iowa is often the master of taking the undervalued recruit and turning them in to All-Big Ten-caliber players. However, this class leans way too heavy on making something out of nothing for my liking, especially on the offensive line.

    Losing out on Ross Pierschbacher, the state’s best player and a 4-star offensive lineman, really hurt the chances of this class being very good. The Hawkeyes had him until Alabama came calling, and it was over after that. Iowa couldn’t keep him from flipping.

    The one area that could be most interesting to watch is at running back, with Smith and CJ Hilliard coming out of the state of Ohio. Those two were very dynamic on film and could be a good one-two punch in the future. Look for Smith to be the one around as a true freshman, though.

    This is a typical Iowa class, but it had potential to be so much more, but the power of the SEC and losing out on battles to in-state rival Iowa State put a damper on the enthusiasm for this class.

10. Minnesota

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    National Ranking: No. 58

    Total Commits: 20

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 1

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 19

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Jeff Jones, Running back (4-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    There is no doubt who the biggest get for Minnesota in this class was. Not only was Jeff Jones the only 4-star in the class, he also was the best player in the state of Minnesota. After battling with and winning against the likes of Michigan, Florida and a ton of other Big Ten programs, the Gophers were able to keep him at home.

    He was the Team Nitro MVP at the Under Armour All-American Game just last month, and his stock quickly skyrocketed because of it. Minnesota is getting a game changer for its offense in Jones.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Gaelin Elmore, Tight End (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Minnesota won out over Wisconsin for a Wisconsin recruit. That’s important for a number of reasons, but as both teams competed hard for Gaelin Elmore’s commitment, the Gophers winning out was big. On the field, Elmore is a physical beast already at 6’6” and 247 pounds, and he could be an impact player for the Gophers in the passing game going forward.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    While this class wasn’t huge in numbers or big-named recruits, the Gophers have silently built a quality core of players that could address some of the needs for this program.

    Offensively, this team needed to get more athletic, and with Jones and Elmore, they got two players who can do that for them. Additionally, they got a potentially dynamic wide receiver in Melvin Holland Jr as well.

    The only thing that was disappointing in this class was the fact that Minnesota missed out on the top two offensive linemen in the state, and it did so to SEC schools. Had Frank Ragnow and JC Hassenauer committed to Minnesota, this would’ve been a very impressive class.

    Don’t be surprised to see a few of these guys become stars in the Big Ten in the next two or three years. There’s a lot of potential but few surefire hits in this class.

9. Indiana

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    Dominique Booth could step in right away at wide receiver.
    Dominique Booth could step in right away at wide receiver.Credit: 247Sports

    National Ranking: No. 49

    Total Commits: 28 

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 1

    No. of 3-stars or lower: 27

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Dominique Booth, Wide Receiver (4-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Indiana is in need of some help at wide receiver thanks to graduation and the early departure of Cody Latimer. That help should come early on from Dominique Booth, an Indianapolis product. He isn’t the tallest receiver out there, but he’s got the overall size to be a contributor right away in the rebuilt wide receiver corp.

    Having him be an early enrollee will also help make sure he can be a contributor from the start of the year. 

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Greg Gooch, Linebacker (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    The offseason saw a new defensive coordinator and a new 3-4 philosophy. Greg Gooch has the size and athletic ability to play a huge role in the aggressive scheme new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr wants to play. He is a top-40 inside linebacker by 247Sports, and watching his tape one gets the feeling the Hoosiers have themselves a steal out of the state of Florida.

    He committed to the Hoosiers just before national signing day and should be a huge help in implementing Knorr's 3-4 scheme. 

     

    Overall Thoughts

    Indiana’s 28-man class features a good emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, with 12 guys pledging to the Hoosiers. That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that this group had a chance to be even more dynamic.

    The good old flip occurred a few times to the Hoosiers in this class, and it cost them some of the more promising talent it was building up. Overall, though, there’s little question that Kevin Wilson is changing the game when it comes to recruiting in Bloomington.

    His new look staff will need to turn a lot of projects into shiny gems quickly to help turn around some key positions, but at least there are good projects to work with. Hitting on the top-two-ranked prospects out of any state, in this case New York, certainly helps matters.

8. Maryland

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    National Ranking: No. 43 

    Total Commits: 17 

    No. of 5-stars: 1

    No. of 4-stars: 3

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 13

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Damian Prince, Offensive Tackle (5-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Offensive line play is at a premium in the Big Ten, and Maryland got one of the best in the 2014 class in Damian Prince. He is rated as the No. 2 tackle in the country by 247Sports, and it is clear why Maryland went hard after the in-state prospect.

    Prince is a guy you can build a program around, and with the transition to the Big Ten getting a nasty, mauling-type lineman really helps the cause. 

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Daniel Ezeagwu, Cornerback (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Maryland struggled at times against the top pass games in the country last year. FSU racked up 431 yards, and Clemson put up 304 yards on them. To combat that, the Terps only signed a few defensive backs in this class, and Daniel Ezeagwu was one of them.

    At 6'2" and 200 pounds, he has the size to play corner or even a bit of safety in the future. He's a top-40 player out of Virginia and could be someone to watch for sooner than later. 

     

    Overall Thoughts

    Of the two newcomers to the Big Ten party, Maryland has won the recruiting race in year one. The Terrapins have three 4-star recruits, which is as many as the likes of Wisconsin and Michigan State. What puts them down the list, though, is the lack of depth in the 3-star recruit area.

    There is a lot to like in this class—from the top-10-ranked JUCO offensive tackle, Larry Mazyck, to upper-tier 3-star quarterback Will Ulmer and five players ranked inside the top 10 of their respective states. Acquiring that kind of talent bodes well for the Terps’ chances of competing in the Big Ten.

    Maryland did a pretty good job of addressing its most pressing needs along the offensive line and on the defensive front seven as well, but the offensive line is the true star of this class with Prince and 4-star offensive tackle Derwin Gray out of famed Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. 

    The question with this class is if it has enough talent from the lower end of the 3-star range. When you only have 17 players in a class, the margin for error is small. At Maryland, where the margin on the field is already small, head coach Randy Edsall and Co. better hope they’ve done their homework with the back end of this class.

7. Nebraska

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    National Ranking: No. 36 

    Total Commits: 25

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 2

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 23

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Nick Gates, Offensive Tackle (4-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Nick Gates comes to the Huskers as one of the most sought after recruits out west. He hails from the famed Bishop Gorman program in Las Vegas and could be the biggest star to come from the 2014 class for the Huskers. He’s got the right frame at 6’5” and 270 pounds, according to 247Sports, to be a dynamic offensive lineman down the road.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Jariah Tolbert, Wide Receiver (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Nebraska’s best recruiting was done in the last month or so, and one of those gets was Jariah Tolbert. Wide receiver has quickly become a position of strength over the past four years at Nebraska, and Tolbert could be the one who ends up contributing a lot down the road.

    Stealing him out of the state of Louisiana was also a nice little feather in the cap of the Huskers coaching staff as well.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    If we were handing out awards for the best close to a class, Nebraska would be near the top of the list. Over the last month of the 2014 recruiting cycle, the Huskers landed (nine) commitments that became signees.

    However, there are just two 4-star recruits in this large class. There's also a severe lack of any representation from the traditional Big Ten footprint. It means the Huskers continue to use the model that worked for them in the past, but it also shows some of the issues they’ve had in establishing a foothold in areas like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    As for this particular class, Nebraska continued to strike gold at the position that matters most in Lincoln, Neb.—running back. Getting running back Mikale Wilbon away from Vanderbilt helped give this class some much-needed momentum down the stretch. Adding two 4-star offensive linemen will be a major help as well.

    However, there’s a severe lack of “sexy,” if you will, with this class. Unless one pays attention to offensive linemen deeply, Nebraska’s class just doesn’t jump off the page.

6. Northwestern

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    Parrker Westphal is a rare impact freshman for Northwestern.
    Parrker Westphal is a rare impact freshman for Northwestern.Credit: 247Sports

    National Ranking: No. 45

    Total Commits: 16

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 4

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 12

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Parrker Westphal, Cornerback (4-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    If there is one player who could have a dynamic impact early on in his career at Northwestern, it will be Parrker Westphal. His stat lines in high school were simply ridiculous, which you can read on his timeline here.

    Additionally, he is a very good special teams player. So, during a year where there’s a lot of competition at cornerback, it could be in the return game where Westphal makes his earliest impact. He also brings a physicality to the corner position that is sorely lacking on this team. 

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: James Prather, Linebacker (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    At 6’4” and 235 pounds, James Prather has the size head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his defensive staff like for their linebackers. With Damien Proby taking his playmaking abilities elsewhere, Prather could be a name to watch for down the road. He will have to fight through a lot of younger players already in the program early on.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    What this class lacks in pure numbers, it more than makes up in quality of those 16 players who signed on Wednesday. Only traditional recruiting powers Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State had more 4-star recruits in the Big Ten than the Wildcats. Think about that for a second. Northwestern and the big guys of the Big Ten are being mentioned in the same sentence.

    No longer are the Wildcats doing less with more. Instead, this class is loaded with high-end talent at some of the most important positions of need. From a top cornerback, to a 4-star quarterback, running back and defensive end—this class addressed its biggest future needs in a big way.

    Only five of the 16 players in this class were not in the top 50 in their respective states. While those are just rankings, one has to be impressed by what this class did.

    Taking the average rating of the players would put them fifth in the Big Ten, and that’s because it’s not just the 4-star players who are good. Northwestern hit a home run by attracting some of the best high 3-star players in states like Texas, Ohio, New Jersey and Michigan—all states pretty heavy on talent.

    If this class was a 20- to 25-player class, Northwestern may be looking at a top-five class in the Big Ten this year. However, Northwestern is at least putting itself in the fight on a nearly annual basis now. Just ask Illinois what it's like to get beat like a drum on the recruiting trail against Northwestern. 

5. Wisconsin

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    National Ranking: No. 33

    Total Commits: 26 

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 3

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 23

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Jaden Gault, Offensive Tackle (4-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Jaden Gault was named an U.S. Army All-American, and during the week of practice in San Antonio, he stood out as one of the best O-linemen in attendance. Gault may not start right away given four starters return, but don’t be surprised to hear his name and Joe Thomas in the same sentence over the next few years.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Krenwick Sanders, Wide Receiver (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Wisconsin has rarely gone in to the state of Georgia, but that changed with Gary Andersen taking over as head coach. In his first class, he may have pulled one of the biggest gems out of the state in Krenwick Sanders. The Badgers got Sanders after he decommitted from Georgia, then fought off a late charge by Florida to hold on to him.

    Sanders may be a name that some know, but he is a high-rated 3-star player with clear 4-star talent on tape. There is no shortage of playing time available at wide receiver in 2014, so watch for Sanders to make a charge at some playing time come this fall.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    As far as putting your money where your mouth is, Andersen ranks right up there in the 2014 class. He talked a big game when he was hired about not being afraid to get into major recruiting battles for any player in the country.

    Wisconsin went out and got what it hopes is the quarterback of the future in D.J. Gillins, despite a line of schools wanting the Jacksonville, Fla., product. The nation's No. 7-ranked dual-threat quarterback heading to Wisconsin out of Florida was not something thought possible just a few years ago, yet Andersen got his QB.  

    Unfortunately, Wisconsin lost out for 5-star running back Joe Mixon and 4-star wide receiver Jamil Kamara. Had the Badgers landed those two, they’d be in the mix for the No. 2 spot in the B1G power rankings.

    Wisconsin made up for those misses by silently staying on targets it really wanted and flipping them—landing 4-star athlete Dareian Watkins and 3-star players Caleb Kinlaw and Derrick Tindal, to name a few.

    This class isn’t the highest ranked in school history by accident. Andersen targeting and landing numerous players from Florida and Georgia has added to the team's athleticism. Now it will be on the staff to show how quickly that athletic ability can be turned into production on the field.

4. Michigan

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    National Ranking: No. 19

    Total Commits: 16

    No. of 5-stars: 1

    No. of 4-stars: 8

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 7

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Jabrill Peppers, Cornerback (5-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Like there would be any doubt that the only 5-star signee would be the star recruit.

    Jabrill Peppers is a game changer on defense, and naturally he is already being compared to the man at Michigan—Charles Woodson. He has crazy athletic ability to say the least, and whether he is an every-down player or not, Peppers will find a way to impact the Wolverines in 2014. Being really athletic and good at the return game helps those chances.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Maurice Ways, Wide Receiver (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Early enrollee’s Drake Harris and Freddy Canteen may get the headlines, but the tape from Maurice Ways is very impressive in his own right. At 6’4”, he has the height that will intrigue any coaching staff, but he does need to put on weight and figure out how to be more physical.

    Look for him to be a guy who won’t be heard from for a few years before exploding on the scene.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    This class is loaded, and it is one of the top 20 in the country, according to 247Sports; however, there’s just something missing for me to put it as the second best in the league.

    Yes, they did more with less than just about anyone not named Penn State, but that sound of crickets you’re hearing is the lack of commitments to the Maize ‘N Blue over the past six months or so. In fact, a look at the list of players in this class reveals that Michigan hasn’t had a commitment since August, even though it was saving a spot for Malik McDowell and a few other high-end recruits it was after. 

    In that respect, this class feels a little like something is missing.

    However, the good news is that there is a lot of quality in a very small class. Landing two 4-star receivers and getting a lot of help for the biggest position of need—offensive line—makes this a class worth liking a lot. Adding in a quality pickup or two along the defensive line also helps in getting this class toward the top of the B1G.

    It’s just difficult to get over the fact that absolutely nothing has changed with this class since August. A school like Michigan should be landing at least one or two of the big fish that sit out there at the end of the recruiting period, but the 2014 class was a swing and a miss on all of the names it was in the finals for over the past few months.

3. Michigan State

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    National Ranking: No. 25

    Total Commits: 23 

    No. of 5-stars: 1

    No. of 4-stars: 3

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 19

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Malik McDowell, Defensive End (5-star by 247Sports composite rankings) 

    Michigan State got its wish on national signing day, as McDowell announced for the Spartans. They beat out some of the heaviest of hitters on the recruiting trail in the process and landed a huge difference-maker along an already loaded defensive line.

    There's no doubt that McDowell will be the most talked about name in the class for the Spartans. He also happens to be the first 5-star player to sign with the Spartans since William Gholston in the 2010 class. 

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Madre London, Running Back (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Jeremy Langford broke out in a big way in 2013 and will enter this year as the go-to back, but if there is a clone of one Le’Veon Bell, look no further than Madre London. The 6’1”, 205-pound running back comes with a great pedigree out of famed St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and he’s got the skills to back it all up. His tape is pretty fun to watch, and you can see a lot of the smash mouth style of Bell in him.

    Look for London to be a classic name few talk about, but most will remember him when it's all said and done.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    The rich get richer, and at Michigan State, that means the defense went in to reload mode in the 2014 class. What was already a solid class on that side of the ball became a great one, as former Wisconsin commit Craig Evans mutually parted ways with the Badgers and committed to the Spartans on Monday night.

    It was followed up with the biggest signing in five years, as McDowell signed with MSU on national signing day, spurning his other finalists—Ohio State, Michigan and Florida State.

    Offensively, the Spartans got some great talent in the backfield. Not only did they get London's signature, but MSU added Gerald Owens and Vayante Copeland to the mix as well. They also got some help up front, especially with 4-star center Brian Allen, who was an early commit in the process.

    Michigan State’s class may not have a ton of names that jump off the page as flashy, but this class is all quality and very deep at positions that needed an upgrade. Whether it was thanks to departures or overall depth issues. The 3-star depth is just so solid as well.

    With McDowell choosing the Spartans, this class became one of the best in school history. The momentum Michigan State got toward the end of it all puts it over the top of in-state rival Michigan.  

2. Penn State

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    National Ranking: No. 22

    Total Commits: 25

    No. of 5-stars: 0

    No. of 4-stars: 5

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 20

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: De’Andre Thompkins, Wide Receiver (4-star by 247Sports)

    With Allen Robinson gone, there will be a need for a dynamic playmaker in the receiving corps, and that’s where De'Andre Thompkins can step in. He isn’t the tallest of the receivers in the class, but he possesses some great speed, and Thompkins will have the advantage of a full spring with the new coaching staff.

    Look for this coaching staff to find a way to get him involved early in his career.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Troy Reeder, Linebacker (3-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    PSU and linebackers, who would’ve thunk. However, Troy Reeder isn’t exactly a household name, and part of that is because of where he is from—Delaware. However, Reeder is one of the top-25 inside linebackers in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, for a reason.

    He’s got a lot to offer based on his tape, and he may be a player suffering from a lack of attention to the state he is from more than anything else.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    Bill O’Brien left behind a really good recruiting class, but in the past three weeks, James Franklin has made this a scary-good class. He’s managed to bring along a few Vanderbilt recruits, flip a 4-star wide receiver and add a few more of his touches to the class.

    It is scary to think how this class would’ve shaped up had 5-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley stayed committed to the Nittany Lions.

    The greatest compliment this class can have is to say that no one would know the school is under NCAA sanctions based on what it looks like on paper. Penn State has pulled that off for each of the past three years, and this class appears to have addressed the needs at linebacker and wide receiver.

    It also gave Franklin some true depth at quarterback to work with behind Christian Hackenberg. The defensive line also got some quality help in this class.

    When you go down the checklist of needs and wants, Penn State was able to overcome the toughest of circumstances and come out with nearly all of its to-do list crossed off.

1. Ohio State

15 of 15

    National Ranking: No. 3

    Total Commits: 23

    No. of 5-stars: 1

    No. of 4-stars: 15

    No. of 3-stars or Lower: 7

     

    Star Recruit of the Class: Raekwon McMillan, Linebacker (5-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    Losing Ryan Shazier is a massive blow to the Buckeyes, but landing Raekwon McMillan and getting him on campus early could make up for that loss right away. McMillan is the No. 1-ranked inside linebacker in the 2014 class, and his tape shows why he is worthy of that lofty ranking.

    McMillan is college-ready in a lot of ways, but getting on campus makes him a near-lock to be the starting middle linebacker for Ohio State this season.

     

    Underrated Recruit of the Class: Terry McLaurin, Wide Receiver (4-star by 247Sports composite rankings)

    In a class as chock-full of top-rated talent, calling a 4-star player an “underrated” recruit feels a bit strange. However, Terry McLaurin’s name is not on the tip of most people’s tongue, but he’s got the talent to make a difference sooner than later on the edge. McLaurin oozes speed and has room to grow into his frame a bit.

     

    Overall Thoughts

    Nothing to see here; it’s the same old story for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. The haul they already had was good enough for the No. 1 ranking in the Big Ten, but it wasn't official until Jamarco Jones reaffirmed his commitment to the Buckeyes on national signing day. 

    There isn’t a single team in the Big Ten that can touch this class on paper. It has it all, from three 4-star offensive linemen to three 4-star wide receivers, and the list goes on and on.

    The only question mark in this class is at quarterback, where Meyer picked up 3-star dual-threat prospect Stephen Collier. His tape is good, but with Ohio State about to lose Braxton Miller for good after this upcoming season, Collier isn’t the replacement.

    Ohio State showed the rest of the Big Ten just how a great recruiting class is put together; consider the gauntlet thrown, everyone else. Will the Big Ten up its game and start competing at a higher level on the recruiting trail?

     

    Andy Coppens is the lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.