Written By Alex Compton
With just 10 days until signing day, there was a flurry of activity around the conference. Let's take a look around the Big Ten to see what has happened at every B1G school.
Illinois Fighting Illini
- As expected, top commit Kentrail Moran backed out of his U of I pledge this week. All signs point to Syracuse, but only time will tell. It’s always tough to lose a solid in-state prospect, but those around the program aren’t very concerned due to their existing depth and youth at the running back position.
- University trustees approved head coach Bill Cubit’s contract, which will pay him $1.2 million each season over two seasons. The deal makes him the lowest paid coach in the Big Ten, but he is not seen as a long-term solution in Champaign.
- The Illini snagged their best recruit of the class this week, when they locked up tight end Zarrian Holcombe over solid pursuit from Texas, Texas A&M, and Colorado. He is expected to make an impact right away, either as the #1 or #2 on the depth chart.
- IU nabbed a couple of solid prospects this week to add depth to an already solid 2016 class. Offensive lineman Mackenzie Nworah out of Manvel, Texas is a really nice prospect for line coach Greg Frey. He has a chance to be listed on the two-deep for next season, but absolutely projects as a starter after he spends a few seasons in Bloomington developing. The other commitment comes from Stone Mountain, Georgia, where defensive end Dennis “DJ” Wonnum picked IU this week. He has a plus frame at 6-foot-4, 225-pound, and has a rare blend of athleticism which makes him an interesting player to watch in new defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s scheme.
- On Friday, four-star wide receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick announced his final four schools, in which IU was included. The other three finalists are Louisville, Arizona, and Nebraska. The former Louisville commit also said he plans on announcing on February 1st, just two days before national signing day. He recently took an official to visit to Bloomington, and hosted Coach Wilson in his home this past Tuesday. All four of the schools make sense for him, but Nebraska is seen as the front-runner at this point. It would be a nice get for IU, but with so much playmaking talent coming back next season, it would not be a big hit if he went elsewhere.
- In other recruiting news, Saturday provided us with a “BOOM” for 2017, as Avon standout Bryant Fitzgerald committed to Indiana. Listed as a three-star athlete, he probably projects as a bandit or safety in Coach Allen’s defense, but there is still plenty of time until he arrives in Bloomington. He joins Tyler Knight and Josh Johnson in the 2017 class, which currently checks in at #4 in the conference.
- Former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld played in the East-West Shrine game Saturday and finished 6-of-13 passing for 46 yards and a touchdown.
- Make sure to follow us on Twitter (@Hoosier_Huddle) to stay up to date with all of the latest #iufb recruiting information!
- A relatively quiet week in Iowa City did see a slight shuffling of the coaching staff. Former linebacker coach Jim Reid was named as the new defensive coordinator at Boston College earlier this month, and head coach Kirk Ferentz filled the open position on Friday. He announced the promotion of recruiting coordinator and defensive assistant Seth Wallace, who will now take over as the LB coach.
- Iowa is making their final push on the recruiting front for the 2016 class, but that didn’t stop them from making a splash already in 2017. They shocked the nation by landing the top defensive end prospect in the class. A.J. Epenesa from Edwardsville, Illinois becomes the second-best recruit in Iowa history, and is the first five-star since 2005. Absolutely monster news in Iowa City, as he is a player that many have already compared to Ohio State superstar Joey Bosa. The Big Ten had better enjoy next season, because it will be the last one without Epenesa terrorizing quarterbacks for a while.
- New head coach DJ Durkin had himself a fantastic week recruiting (sort of), which he desperately needed. As expected, the Terps landed twin brothers Elisha and Elijah Daniels, who were both Minnesota commits earlier this month. Additionally, they were able to land two other highly rated three-star prospects. Defensive end Aaron Thompson and running back LaDerrian Wilson joined the Daniels twins as Florida prospects to pick Maryland this past week. Great week for Durkin, and he doesn’t appear to be done in Florida quite yet.
- While he landed some nice prospects, coach Durkin also lost his two best. Five-star linebacker Keandre Jones and four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins both decided to play for Ohio State instead of Maryland. They were both in-state prospects and were regarded as program saviors that would lay the foundation for making Maryland great. This is an absolute killer to what was turning out to be a great class for first year headman DJ Durkin. The commitments above were desperately needed to get back on track, and Maryland needs some more commitments to move inside the top ten of the B1G’s classes.
- DJ Durkin also went out and got his assistants pay raises, as they will make a combined $2.82 million in 2016, which is a little bit more than Edsall’s assistants made in his final season at UMD. Durkin himself will make $2.4 million next season.
- With Wes Brown’s status still up in the air for next season, Maryland was in danger of being very thin in the backfield. The commitment of the aforementioned LaDerrian Wilson and the addition of Virginia Tech transfer Trey Edmunds have eliminated those concerns. Edmunds projects as the starter for the Terps next year, and is going to be counted on to give the offense steady production behind what is expected to be a solid offensive line.
- Headlined by another sleepover, it was a solid week for Jim Harbaugh and company on the recruiting trail. They landed one of their top overall targets in four-star defensive back David Long. He chose Michigan after many considered him a Stanford lock up until the last few weeks. Long is now looking to get fellow four-star corner Lavert Hill in the Maize and Blue, and also plans on pitching the nation’s #4 tight end Devin Asiasi. Additionally, Michigan successfully flipped Virginia commit Stephen Spanellis. He is a three-star offensive lineman prospect out of Baltimore.
- After spending a night at his house, coach Harbaugh appears ready to gain a commitment from top-30 defensive end Connor Murphy. He is a three-star prospect, checking in at 6-foot-7/250lbs. Not a typo. 6-foot-7. Finally, one of the best tight ends in the Midwest still has Michigan as his leader and plans to make his decision some time in this coming week. Barring anything out of the ordinary on his Nebraska and Iowa State visits this weekend, all signs point to Chase Allen picking the Wolverines.
- While the recruiting process often seems like an exciting time for all, there is a dark side that rarely becomes public. That changed this week however; as it was reported that Jim Harbaugh pulled a scholarship offer from offensive lineman Erik Swenson. He had been a commit since 2013, and had dreamed of playing football at Michigan since the age of five. Citing a desire to go after other prospects instead, the staff reportedly made Swenson aware that his offer was no longer going to be available to him. With just over a week until national signing day, Swenson is now scrambling to find the best fit for him. Ohio State and Notre Dame both said they would have taken him at an earlier time, but would not pull scholarships from other players who had already committed to their schools at this point. It is a very tough situation for all, and I really hope everything works out for Swenson and his family.
- Three-star athlete commit Kiante Enis backed away from UM, but made it clear the decision was his. All signs point to IU….. but only time will tell.
Michigan State Spartans
- At a press event earlier in the week, head coach Mark Dantonio made it clear that he would not be sleeping over with any recruits, and also talked to the Detroit Free Press about how important in-state players are to the program. He said, “I think it’s the backbone of who we are, and we’ve been very, very successful with those guys throughout the years.” This is very different from Michigan’s approach to raid the entire country for the best talent. MSU is hosting Michigan’s only in-state commit this weekend, and rumor has it that he may be feeling some of that Michigan magic in East Lansing.
- In other UM/MSU news, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said he would not welcome a night game against the Wolverines in East Lansing. Although they want to host more night games moving forward, Hollis does not want to host Michigan at night because of the anticipated fan behavior. He highlighted the unruly behavior of fans during an Ohio State night game in 2014, and wants to stay away from this type of atmosphere in the future.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
- It has been extremely quiet in Minnesota this past week, but there is one major storyline that Gopher fans should be following very closely. More and more people are getting behind the idea that top commit Dredrick Snelson will not actually sign with the Gophers. This would be a huge hit for the class, as well as their offense for next season. With few impact players on the outside, Snelson was being brought in with the intention of playing major snaps on day one. With an official visit to Maryland this weekend as well as one scheduled for Penn State the following weekend, the chances that Minnesota actually lands him appear to be gone. Earlier this week, it was reported that he narrowed his schools down to Penn State, Miami (FL), UCF and Maryland, but he then came out and said that he hadn’t narrowed his choices. Regardless, many see him heading to Maryland to join his good friends Elijah and Elisha Daniels. The twins were recent Minnesota commits who flipped to Maryland. This is a major storyline to follow within the conference over the next few weeks.
- Some fantastic news for all college football fans came out of Lincoln this week, as a great rivalry has been scheduled to resume in the future. Nebraska will head to Norman to play the Oklahoma Sooners in 2029, and the Sooners will return the favor in 2030. This is an extension of the two game series between the schools that will begin with a game in 2021 in Norman. The players that will end up playing in the 2030 game are currently four years old and will probably ride to the game in a hover bus or something cool like that.
- Not much recruiting news for the Huskers, but they did make the final four for IU target Desmond Fitzpatrick which was mentioned earlier. They also landed a three-star DB in Tony Butler, who brought the class to #6 in the Big Ten.
- It would not shock anyone for IU target Collin Miller to commit to Nebraska at any point now after moving up his official visit to this weekend. He loved the offer and really enjoyed NFL star Randy Gregory telling him he “better join the family.” Tough blow for IU if it plays out like many are expecting it to.
- All has been quiet in Evanston over the past week. With 20 commits at this point, don’t expect too much recruiting news from the Wildcats over this last bit of time until national signing day. The class currently sits at ninth-best in the conference.
Ohio State Buckeyes
- After getting passed by rival Michigan for the top class in the conference, Urban Meyer and company turned up the heat and have now reclaimed the top spot. They were able to swipe Maryland’s top two commits Dwayne Haskins and Keandre Jones, and were also able to land a commitment from four-star receiver Binjmen Victor. The Florida prospect picked the Bucks over heavy pursuit from Tennessee and Florida.
- A study released this week named Ohio State Football as the most valuable program in the NCAA, checking in at a value of $946.6 million. Compare this to studies done by Forbes, and this number is shocking. The OSU football program is more valuable than 19 of 30 NBA teams, and all but three NHL teams. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the numbers are accurate, and made sure to indicate that fan support is the only reason why.
- Running back Curtis Samuel had foot surgery this week, and it reportedly went as planned. Although it will cause him to miss the first part of spring practice, it shouldn’t prevent him from being the starter in the first year following the departure of Ezekiel Elliott.
- Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner will move up to the box permanently next season, as he has been removed from his position as offensive line coach to focus solely on calling plays. To help with this change, Urban Meyer brought in former Maryland offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Studrawa also served on Meyer’s staff at Bowling Green from 2001-2002. Moving Warinner to the box last season led to the offense’s best two games of the season, so Meyer brought in Studrawa to make Warinner’s move to the box permanent. In two games with Warinner calling plays from upstairs last season, the Buckeyes put up 42 and 44 points on Michigan and Notre Dame, respectively.
Penn State Nittany Lions
- Head coach James Franklin announced the addition of Tim Banks to the staff. Having served as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Illinois for the past four seasons, Banks will serve as co-defensive coordinator in Happy Valley. Banks will serve alongside Brent Pry, who was hired after former defensive coordinator Bob Shoop left for the same position at Tennessee.
- No commitments this week, but this is a huge weekend for Franklin and his 2016 class. They have 15 prospects on campus this weekend, and hope they can seal the deal with many of them. Two commits that did not show include top kicker Quinn Nordin and four-star linebacker Brendan Ferns. Nordin decided to visit Baylor instead, and is looking more and more like he will attend either Baylor or Michigan. Ferns has been quiet as of late, which has PSU fans worried. He will announce on February 1st, and many see him heading to either Ohio State or West Virginia.
- Exciting news out of West Lafayette this week, as Purdue announced the scheduling of a game with Louisville and a series with Boston College. Purdue and Louisville will square off in Lucas Oil Stadium on September 2, 2017. This will be the first meeting since their only meeting on September 19, 1987 when the two teams played to a 22-22 tie. Additionally, Purdue will take on Boston College in 2018 and 2020. 2018 will feature a game at Ross-Aide stadium, with the Boilers heading to Boston College Alumni Stadium in 2020.
- Offensive line coach Jim Bridge has left the program for a position at Duke. Bridge was at Purdue for the last three seasons, and will work with tight ends and special teams at Duke. This is the fifth coach to leave the staff, as O-Coordinator John Shoop, D-Coordinator Greg Hudson, and defensive line coach Rubin Carter were all fired after the IU game. Running back coach Jafar Williams has accepted the same position at Rutgers.
- Jackson Anthrop, younger brother of former Purdue receiver Danny Anthrop, has committed to Purdue. He scored 55 touchdowns and rushed for 9 yards per carry last year at Central Catholic, but will transition to a slot receiver in college. He is unranked by Rivals.com.
- Two-star Louisiana quarterback Jared Sparks has flipped from Southern Mississippi and has committed to Purdue. He is 6-foot-1 and is listed as a dual-threat quarterback. Expect him to redshirt this season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- As previously mentioned, Chris Ash has hired Purdue running back coach Jafar Williams to the same position. This hire finishes off his first staff at RU, and will look to help him get the program moving in the right direction.
- In an attempt to compete with the facilities that other Big Ten schools have, Rutgers has announced the “R Big Ten Build” initiative to attempt to raise $100 million for upgrades and additions. The first phase of the initiative will be to construct three projects: a Multisport Training Complex adjacent to the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), a Lacrosse and Soccer Training Complex, and a Football Training Complex/Expansion of the Hale Center.
- Head coach Chris Ash has been in contact with four-star lineman Erik Swenson. Swenson, as touched on earlier, reportedly had his scholarship pulled by Michigan after being committed since 2013. The plan is to get him on campus before national signing day in an attempt to grab a commitment. They will have to beat out Wisconsin, Northwestern and Oklahoma, who have all been pushing the hardest for him since the reopening of his recruitment.
- Head coach Paul Chryst had his contract extended until 2021. His original contract was set to expire in 2020. It was a solid first year in Madison for Chryst, as he went 10-3 and beat USC in the Holiday Bowl.
- Wisconsin’s #2 commit will take an official visit to UCLA. Garrett Rand, a four-star defensive tackle will head to Los Angeles after feeling uneasy about Wisconsin’s search for a new defensive coordinator.
- Speaking of the defensive coordinator search, it is nearly over. The final two candidates appear to be current outside linebacker coach Tim Tibesar and former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. They have both been interviewed multiple times, but the edge appears to be on Tibesar’s side at this point. The UW staff is hesitant to hire Wilcox due to his firing after two seasons at USC. Former DC Dave Aranda left for the same position at LSU after the offer more than doubled his salary from $520,000 to $1.3 million per season.