Big Ten breakdown: OSU lands top class

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Mike Weber announced his decision to stick with the Buckeyes at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

1. Ohio State

Recruits: 25

Overview: The Buckeyes locked up the top player in the state with five-star linebacker Justin Hilliard in the mix while also landing seven more four-star prospects from the state, including dual-threat quarterback Joe Burrow. The Buckeyes also were busy flipping committed players, something Urban Meyer has done often. Four-star linebacker Jerome Baker backed out at Florida to come to Ohio State and the Buckeyes flipped Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber from Michigan, then held on late when the Wolverines pushed hard.

Top player: Hilliard is the top linebacker in the nation and nearly every top program was after him.

Notable: Meyer has his third straight top-10 class with this group ranking No. 9, according to Four players already are enrolled at Ohio State.

2. Penn State

Recruits: 25

Overview: Coach James Franklin has his class in the top 15 after finishing in the top 25 last season despite taking over late. He hit the state of Pennsylvania hard and landed three offensive lineman from nearby, including four-star Ryan Bates, three-star Sterling Jenkins and junior college transfer Paris Palmer, who flipped from South Carolina. He wasn't the only player to flip — four-star Garrett Taylor from Michigan and three-star athlete Daiquan Kelly from Syracuse.

Top player: Palmer is the top-ranked player in the state and is 12th in the nation at tackle, according to He should contribute immediately.

Notable: The Nittany Lions were focused on getting cornerbacks and got a good start with John Reid before finishing strong by getting Taylor to flip.

3. Michigan State

Recruits: 20

Overview: The Spartans have seen their class steadily rise up the rankings with 11 four-stars. RB LJ Scott can compete for playing time right away, while QB Brian Lewerke fits the offensive style. Michigan State also made a late push by getting twins Andrew and David Dowell to flip from Kentucky as well as adding junior college S Drake Martinez. The Spartans also landed two true corners with four-star Josh Butler and three-star Tyson Smith. Four-star DE Raequan Williams was a big get late.

Top player: Scott put up huge numbers in high school and with the running back position up for grabs, he'll have a shot at significant carries this fall.

Notable: Michigan State continues to expand its reach and landed three players from Texas, including Butler, three-star OL Tyler Higby and three-star WR Darrell Steward.

4. Nebraska

Recruits: 20

Overview: Mike Riley has been scrambling to keep the class together after taking over for Bo Pelini. Four-star G Jalin Barnett was a key player. CB Eric Lee is a four-star who is enrolled, as is four-star athlete Avery Anderson. Carlos Davis is a promising defensive tackle that was a big win, as is his brother, Khalil, a four-star defensive tackle. Four-star WR Stanley Morgan is a weapon that could see early playing time.

Top player: Lee was the top-ranked player in the state of Colorado and is the 18th-ranked cornerback in the nation, according to

Notable: Three-star DE Reuben Jones was committed to Nebraska in November but flipped late to Michigan.

5. Wisconsin

Recruits: 20

Overview: Paul Chryst put the final touches on his first class and already has five players enrolled, including a pair of quarterbacks — four-star dual-threat Austin Kafentzis and three-star pro-style Alex Hornibrook. Four-star TE Kyle Penniston is also enrolled early. Chryst hit the offensive line hard with high three-stars Jon Dietzen and David Moorman.

Top player: Four-star RB Jordan Stevenson is a speedster who could be the latest in a line of talented Badgers running backs.

Notable: The Badgers bring in two quarterbacks after Kafentzis was recruited by former coach Gary Andersen and Alex Hornibrook followed Chryst after committing to Pittsburgh.

6. Illinois

Recruits: 24

Overview: The Illini was happy to lock up one of its four-star recruits when OL Gabe Meggison sent in his letter of intent. Combined with commitments from DT Jamal Miland, who also was considering Minnesota and Indiana, and four-star RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn of Nashville, Tenn., who turned down the likes of West Virginia and Louisville, Illinois is feeling good about building off 2014, when it reached a bowl.

Top player: Vaughn has a good combination of power and speed and could be a solid Big Ten running back.

Notable: The Illini already has nine early enrollees from the class.

7. Michigan

Recruits: 14

Overview: This is not a highly rated class, and no one expected it to be after the firing of Brady Hoke in early December and the formal introduction of new coach Jim Harbaugh on Dec. 30. What Harbaugh and his staff did do was go after recruits to help shore up an offense that has struggled that past few seasons. Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone remained committed through the upheaval, and Harbaugh flipped QB Zach Gentry from Texas.

Top player: Brian Cole is the No. 2 player in Michigan, a four-star athlete from Saginaw Heritage. He had a number of offers and can play a number of positions, so he offers plenty of versatility. He, like fellow freshman Alex Malzone, will get a jump on this class since he enrolled early and will participate in spring practice.

Notable: Michigan signed two players who are Wolverines legacies, not to mention share their father's names. Jon Runyan Jr., is an offensive lineman, whose father was an All-American lineman; and Tyrone Wheatley Jr., a tight end/defensive lineman, is the son of the former running back, who currently coaches that position at Michigan.

8. Maryland

Recruits: 16

Overview: It was a smaller class for the Terrapins but they landed a couple of top guys they were targeting, including DE Adam McLean and OL Quarvez Boulware. Maryland missed out on four-star OL Isaiah Prince, who once was committed before choosing Ohio State. Another top target, DT Austrian Robinson, went with Mississippi.

Top player: McLean, who worked hard to convince others to join him at Maryland, is versatile and could end up playing at tackle.

Notable: Maryland had two players — S Jameel Cook and ATH Mike Majette — decommit and go to Indiana.

9. Northwestern

Recruits: 20

Overview: Northwestern suffered a blow when WR Grant Perry bailed and signed with Michigan, but expect plenty of contributions from this class as it tries to rebound from a 5-7 season. DL Jordan Thompson turned down offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan State, and while Northwestern added five defensive backs and four wide receivers.

Top player: Thompson, despite suffering a knee injury as a senior, was productive against the run and pass and compiled 44 tackles.

Notable: Coach Pat Fitzgerald said Northwestern offered 96 players this recruiting season and the 20 that signed combined for a 3.43 high school GPA.

10. Iowa

Recruits: 21

Overview: The Hawkeyes stayed close to home to land the bulk of their class as nine players hail from the state of Iowa. It is the most coach Kirk Ferentz has signed during his 17 seasons as coach. Included in the nine are six linemen, with three capable of playing on either side. DT Garret Jansen, originally committed to Cincinnati, switched, and QB Drew Cook won a 1A state championship in Iowa.

Top player: OL James Daniels is the only four-star in the class and chose Iowa over Ohio State.

Notable: RB Karan Higdon flipped to Michigan, a contributing factor in Mike Weber sticking with Ohio State over Michigan.

11. Rutgers

Recruits: 25

Overview: Kyle Flood welcomed his fourth class and said they are still getting used to life in the Big Ten. "We feel like we made a really good first impression and players that come here need to come here with the expectation of being Big Ten champions because that's what we're working toward every day," he said.

Top player: DE Marques Ford was a late gem after Tennessee backed out on its offer to the four-star

Notable: Four players are already enrolled, including DB Blessuan Austin, DL Jon Bateky, and LBs Isaiah Johnson and Deonte Roberts.

12. Minnesota

Recruits: 24

Overview: Jerry Kill was able to improve his ratings after another successful season. Seven defensive backs were in the class. Southfield native Dior Johnson and Ray Buford Jr. have the potential to contribute right away. The Gophers also brought in three running backs to try and fill the void created by the departure of David Cobb, including Jonathan Femi-Cole, Colton Beebe, Shannon Brooks and James Johannesson.

Top player: Johnson is a four-star who should contribute right away for the Gophers.

Notable: In addition to 24 scholarship players, Minnesota brought in six preferred walk-ons

13. Indiana

Recruits: 22

Overview: It was a fairly uneventful day as Indiana landed all the players it expected by late morning, including WR Camion Patrick, transferring from East Mississippi Community College. Indiana also added two Alabama-Birmingham transfers, RB Jordan Howard and WR Marqui Hawkins.

Top player: WR Leon Thronton has size, but his quick feet and ability to change directions are what set him apart.

Notable: Former Indiana CB Michael Hunter announced he was transferring to Oklahoma State as a graduate transfer.

14. Purdue

Recruits: 27

Overview: The Boilermakers signed a huge class but its ranking is still low, despite bringing in Indiana Mr. Football Markell Jones and Kentucky Mr. Football Elijah Sindelar. Only two players are nationally ranked, including Sindelar (No. 22 pro-style quarterback). OL Matt McCann is rated No. 68 at his position. Jones is a running back who also had offers from Toledo and Western Michigan.

Top player: Sindelar is a quarterback with all the tools but needs to be refined to be a contributor in the Big Ten.

Notable: Only four of Purdue's 26 players in the class are from Indiana.