The Big Ten may not be known for the speed and athleticism of their fellow conference counterparts, but if there was ever a year to change that, 2014 may be it. Classes laden with immediate impact players and prospects who will undoubtedly change the look of the team litter Big Ten recruitment this year, so let’s take a look.
In a year where the arms race has only amplified with Urban Meyer’s recruiting presence in the Big Ten, the need to add playmaking prospects across the board has certainly not been lost among B1G coaching staffs, and there may not be a bigger addition to any team in the country than Jabrill Peppers.
Brady Hoke may have come under fire as Michigan stumbled to a 7-6 record in 2013, but he went a long way in improving the Wolverines with the addition of the 6-foot-1, 210-lb. Peppers. Ranked as the #1 overall cornerback in a very deep defensive back class, Peppers shined in the Under Armour All-American game and brings immediate size and athleticism to a wounded Wolverine team.
Michigan will also sign a 6-foot-7 tight end Ian Bunting, who will no doubt add to a frustrated offensive unit under new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (coming from the same position at Alabama). Bunting chose the Wolverines over Oregon, Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
But don’t feel bad for the Buckeyes. After an incredible run that started with 22 straight wins, the former Florida head coach and national title winner will sign one of the nation’s top classes this year, headlined by Dante Booker, Raekwon McMillan and Jalyn Holmes.
Booker and McMillan lead a linebacker-heavy class that also boasts Kyle Berger and Sam Hubbard. The 6-foot-3, 210-lb. Booker may hail from the same high school as LeBron James in St. Vincent-St. Mary, but he’ll undoubtedly be looking to make his own mark in the sports world as one of the top inside linebackers in the country.
Meyer also snagged a quarterback in Stephen Collier, a 6-foot-3, 206-lb. prospect out of Leesburg, Ga. Collier is known for his arm, but has elite pocket presence and runs with power when he knows it’s time to tuck and run.
While it has been some time since the pipelines of old at the University of Nebraska, the Huskers took a big step with their recruitment of offensive guard Tanner Farmer. At 6-foot-4, 315 lbs., Farmer stood out in Orlando at the Under Amour All-American game and possesses unparalleled raw strength. Nebraska will look to team Farmer up with another offensive guard in Lincoln’s own DJ Foster.
PSU made a splash with the hire of former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, and the new Nittany Lion head man didn’t waste any time. Though they lose wideout Allen Robinson to the NFL, they have several playmakers ready to step up, including Chris Godwin of Middletown, Del. Godwin carries good size at 6-foot-2, 205-lbs. and seemingly makes for the perfect replacement of the equally sized Robinson.
The Nittany Lions also bring in tight end Mike Gesicki, wide receiver Troy Apke, and defensive tackle Antoine White. White will be counted on after the Nittany Lions lost fellow D-line commit Thomas Holley to Florida.
It was an incredible run for the Spartans in 2013, with one of their best seasons in recent memory ending with a conference title and Rose Bowl championship. Known for a smashmouth defense, coordinator Pat Narduzzi did his best with the commitment of defensive tackle Enoch Smith Jr.
The Chicago product chose MSU over Notre Dame, Arizona, North Carolina State and Tennessee. Ranked as one of the top 20 defensive tackles in the class, Smith will help continue the stellar defensive line output with his power and strength.
The Badgers may have several young players at the quarterback position with returning starter Joel Stave still under center, but head coach Gary Andersen added to the position with DJ Gillins out of Jacksonville, Fla. The dual-threat quarterback is one of the most highly sought signal callers in the country, with top-end speed and great vision of the field.
These won’t be the only impact players to emerge from the Class of 2014, but are names you’ll want to remember come next fall. We’ll have more high-impact recruits coming your way - including Thursday’s rundown of the Big 12 - as the countdown to Signing Day continues.