Big Ten Recruiting: Most Exciting 2015 Prospects to Watch at Summer Camps
Summer camps aren't just for on-campus visits anymore.
In fact, an increasing amount of players are taking their talents to a national level with camps like Nike's The Opening and the newer Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge becoming more popular.
They are great showcases for individual players, and a chance to compete against the best of the best nationally.
A great showing can really turn a recruitment around, and let's not forget it's also all about players forging relationships as well.
Just because the Big Ten hasn't hit it out of the park in recruiting over the last few years doesn't mean these events are any less important. In fact, one look at who is going to what camp makes this summer one of the most important in recent Big Ten history.
So, who should we keep an eye out for as we head towards big-time camps in just a few short weeks? Let's explore some of the biggest names to watch for with realistic Big Ten offers.
Matthew Burrell, OL
He earned an invite to the prestigious "The Opening" camp this fall, and you can bet that Ohio State will be watching intently.
According to the 247Sports Crystal Ball, Burrell has picked up 92 percent of the 25 predictions made. It could be a battle between Ohio State, Alabama and Texas for his signature next February, but the Buckeyes have to feel good about what is being predicted to date.
Looking at the OSU big board, Burrell is one of the top options at offensive tackle, and a good showing at The Opening could move him even further up the board.
Lawrence Cager, Wide Receiver
Ohio State may be the only Big Ten team in the mix for Burrell, but they are going to be in for a big fight for 4-star wide receiver Lawrence Cager out of Towson, Md.
Joining the Buckeyes from the Big Ten are Rutgers and Penn State, who, along with Ohio State, will receive on campus camp visits.
Not only that, but Cager received an invite to The Opening in Oregon this summer. There haven't been a lot of hints as to where he'll end up, but with three Big Ten teams receiving camp visits it's a good bet he ends up playing in the Big Ten East division.
Cager earned his invite to the prestigious "The Opening" thanks to a great performance at the New Jersey NFTC (Nike Football Training Camp).
The battle between division rivals will be very interesting to see play out this summer.
Kahlil McKenzie, Defensive Tackle
Last season, the Wisconsin Badgers got into one of the hardest fought battles of the 2014 recruiting process, just losing out on 5-star running back Joe Mixon.
In 2015, the Badgers could be in for more of the same with 4-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie.
Wisconsin's advantage is that McKenzie called Green Bay home for the first 16 years of his life, and only moved when his dad, Reggie McKenzie, took the general manager job with the Oakland Raiders.
The elder McKenzie was a star at the University of Tennessee, and Wisconsin's home-state pull may not be enough to win the battle. Oklahoma has also been mentioned as a top destination for the mammoth defensive tackle.
McKenzie will have a lot of recruiting eyeballs on him this summer after receiving an invite to The Opening at the Oakland NFTC (Nike Football Training Camp). Wisconsin fans will want to keep an eye out for this recruitment, and look for this to be a similar situation to the Mixon recruitment that went down to the final months.
Jashon Cornell, Defensive End
It's not often these days that the Midwest is the home of one of the best talents in the country—especially among the various recruiting services. However, defensive end Jashon Cornell from Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Minn. is bucking that trend.
He will be a participant in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in early June, and plans to make his college choice on the first day of school (Aug. 28). That doesn't give much time for potential choices like Michigan State and Michigan to make a final push for his services.
According to the 247Sports.com Crystal Ball predictions, Michigan State is the favorite with 54 percent of the predictions. Michigan is in the mix with six percent, but Notre Dame is seen as a real challenger to the Big Ten schools in this one.
Seeing him slip out of the Big Ten would be a huge blow to the conference.
Justin Hilliard, Linebacker
Keeping top-level talent inside Big Ten country has been a daunting task for conference schools as of late, and in the 2015 class one of the biggest challenges will be keeping 247Sports composite 5-star linebacker Justin Hilliard in the Midwest.
The Cincinnati, Ohio product has collected over 35 offers to date and is going to be a participant this summer in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.
Hilliard has a lot of interest in the two big-name Big Ten programs (Michigan and Ohio State), but has also had strong interest in the Iowa Hawkeyes as well. It all adds up to a 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction group that is 1-2-3 for Big Ten schools.
A recent visit and a scheduled second unofficial visit to Ohio State in the coming weeks show that the 5-star linebacker has very high interest in the Buckeyes. Could he be joining 2014 5-star prospect Raekwon McMillan in the mix at linebacker for OSU?
Only time will tell, but watch for Hilliard during the summer camp circuit. His commitment will be one of the biggest ones in the Midwest this recruiting cycle.
Torrance Gibson, Quarterback
Terrelle Pryor to Braxton Miller to...who? That is the million-dollar question facing the Ohio State Buckeyes at quarterback in the offseason.
Gibson recently narrowed down his list of schools to 15, and Ohio State came in at No. 4. Michigan and Nebraska also made the cut out of the Big Ten. However, Ohio State appears to be the Big Ten school with the most realistic chances of landing the most sought-after quarterback in the 2015 class.
Gibson earned an invite to The Opening, and his performance there, along with the connections he makes with other recruits, could be huge in the recruitment process.
With Auburn, LSU and Tennessee all ranking ahead of the Buckeyes on the initial list, Ohio State will have to work its magic this summer, and when he takes his official in the fall, to pull this one out.
Taking a 5-star quarterback out of Florida and away from the SEC would be a huge win for both the Buckeyes and the Big Ten.
Brandon Wimbush, Quarterback
Brandon Wimbush committed to Penn State live via Bleacher Report earlier this month, and the buzz surrounding his commitment was pretty high.
Urban Meyer of Ohio State had Wimbush as one of his top targets in the class, but lost out to James Franklin—something that doesn't happen too often.
Not only will this be one of Franklin's most important early commitments, but it showcased just how quickly he could go to work for the Nittany Lions on the recruiting trail.
However, just because he committed doesn't mean things are over. In fact, this summer may be the first opportunity for the general public to get to know who Wimbush is.
He'll compete with and against fellow top-rated quarterback Torrance Gibson in The Opening this June.
That alone should be reason for Big Ten fans to tune in to the goings on in Oregon. Should Gibson land at Ohio State, you can bet these two will be forever linked together and could provide some of the best quarterback battles in the Big Ten for years to come.