National Signing Day 2014 preview: Big Ten

Gregory Shamus

Checking in on Maryland's future conference opponents ahead of the year's biggest day in college football recruiting.

Maryland is entering the Big Ten in just a few months now, so let's get acquainted with how some of the Terps' soon-to-be conference rivals are doing on the recruiting trail, right before Signing Day. All rankings and ratings used are from the 247sports composite.

1. Ohio State (22 commitments, .9273 averaging rating, 295.30 points)

The Buckeyes have a healthy lead at the top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings, with 16 of their 22 commitments being of the four- or five-star variety. Their top recruit, five-star Georgia inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan, is one of seven players already enrolled at the school, and they have simply an unfair amount of talent coming in to an already stacked Ohio State squad next season.

In terms of players still on the table, four-star offensive tackle Jamarco Jones is committed to the Buckeyes but is being pursued hard by Michigan State and could go either way. The Buckeyes seem to be on the outside looking in for five-star athlete John Smith, but made his final five schools. They're making a late push at another five-star prospect as well -- Michigan defensive end Malik McDowell, who is also considering Michigan State, Michigan and Florida State. Another blue-chip defensive lineman is on the table, as four-star Virginia tackle Derrick Nnadi is expected to choose between Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Florida State.

2. Michigan (16 commitments, .8990 average rating, 233.54 points)

Nine of the Wolverines' commitments are either four- or five-stars, with an impressive seven of their 16 pledges already enrolled in Ann Arbor. Five-star athlete Jabril Peppers, from New Jersey, is Michigan's top commit, but wide receiver Drake Harris, defensive tackle Bryan Moe and offensive guard Mason Cole are all high four-stars who have enrolled early.

The Wolverines are still in the picture for five-star defensive end Malik McDowell, the top player in their own state, but Michigan State seems to have the edge there. That's...it for Signing Day, it seems, as Michigan looks comfortable with a small and strong class.

3. Penn State (24 commitments, .8714 average rating, 222.63 points)

James Franklin has done some serious work since getting to State College, and the Nittany Lions have five four-star commits and 19 three-star pledges. Much of the work has been at the skill positions on the offensive side, with the four stars coming at wide receiver (three of them), tight end and quarterback. The top-rated recruit in the class is wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, and they've brought in a few Maryland targets -- notably former Terrapin commit Johnathan Thomas, Wise (Md.) safety Marcus Allen and DeMatha (Md.) running back Mark Allen.

The Nittany Lions are just about done with their class, with a way, way outside shot at Damian Prince and a slightly less outside shot at three-star cornerback Lamont Simmons.

4. Wisconsin (26 commitments, .8479 average rating, 210.09 points)

The Badgers boast a strong 2014 class that, per usual, is focused largely on line play. Their top two recruits will play in the trenches -- four-star offensive tackle Jaden Gault, the top player in the state and an early enrollee, and four-star defensive tackle Craig Evans (the second-best player in the state). The Badgers have two other four-star commits -- dual-threat quarterback D.J. Gillins and athlete Dareian Watkins, with a large group of three-stars supporting them. Like in previous years, Wisconsin dipped into Maryland for this class, grabbing three-star running back Taiwan Deal and three-star wide receiver Chris Jones out of DeMatha.

Wisconsin still has some targets left in the class. Four-star cornerback Chris Lammons will choose between them and South Carolina, four-star offensive tackle Kaleb McGary has narrowed his list down to Washington State, Washington and Wisconsin, three-star wide receiver George Rushing is expected to choose Wisconsin Monday night and three-star safety D'Cota Dixon is also considered a Wisconsin lean.

5. Nebraska (26 commitments, .8479 average rating, 199.87 points)

The Cornhuskers have certainly gone quantity over quality in this class, with an astonishing 23 three-star commitments and just two of the four-star variety. Those two four-stars both come on the offensive line -- offensive guard (and all-name team nominee) Tanner Farmer and offensive tackle Nick Gates. The Cornhuskers have a vastly different recruiting area than the other Big Ten schools, with a few kids from the Midwest and a lot of recruits from Southern states.

Nebraska has a few targets left in the class, led by three-star Louisville safety commit Michael Johnson and three-star offensive tackle Kenyon Frison. They've also shown interest in Seneca Valley (Md.) linebacker Daniel Appouh, but no offer has been extended as of yet.

6. Michigan State (20 commitments, .8603 average rating, 198.26 points)

Michigan State has a solid unit coming in already, but they're one of the teams that could make a big move on Signing Day. Four-star safety Montae Nicholson, a former Maryland target, is the Spartans' top commitment in the class, and they also have one of the top centers in the country coming in in four-star Brian Allen. Michigan State has stayed mostly within their own area, recruiting heavily from Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, but they've also branched out and grabbed kids from California and Florida, as well.

In terms of recruits still on the table, Michigan State is in good position with five-star  defensive end Malik McDowell, considered the best player in the state of Michigan, but they'll have to beat out Florida State, Ohio State and Michigan for his services. Four-star Ohio State offensive tackle commit Jamarco Jones recently took an official visit to East Lansing, and four-star Wisconsin defensive tackle commit Craig Evans took an unofficial (after taking an official there in December). Four-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage is also on the table, as are a few three-star recruits.

7. Northwestern (15 commitments, .8572 average rating, 181.81 points)

Yes, Northwestern. They've improved on the field under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and they're improving on the recruiting trail as well, finding themselves in the top half of the Big Ten recruiting rankings. It's a small class for the Wildcats, led by a group of four four-star commits -- cornerback Parrker Westphal, running back Justin Jackson, quarterback Clayton Thorson and defensive end Garrett Dickerson, with the first three hailing from Illinois. Dickerson was once a Maryland target, and Northwestern actually poached a player out of Maryland as well -- three-star Gaithersburg running back Solomon Vault, who did not receive an offer from the Terps.

Despite the small size of their class, it appears the Wildcats are just about done with their haul. Three-star defensive end Xavier Washington is their only remaining target with a listed offer.

8. Indiana (25 commitments, .8314 average rating, 175.56 points)

The Hoosiers have recruited well under head coach Kevin Wilson, and received a blue-chip commitment in this class in the form of local four-star wide receiver Dominique Booth -- one of six commitments to enroll early for Indiana. The Hoosiers have recruited extensively in the state of Ohio, picking up solid three-star outside linebacker Tegray Scales and six other prospects from the state.

There's not much room left in Indiana's class, but they're still in the running for three-star cornerback Craig James, and are one of a number of teams attempting to flip Ole Miss linebacker commit Demarquis Gates. Three-star tight end Davi'on Riley, three-star defensive back Christian Campbell and Seneca Valley (Md.) linebacker Daniel Appouh are all players the Hoosiers are pursuing as well.

9. Iowa (21 commitments, .8340 average rating, 172.60 points)

The Hawkeyes haven't recruited well in quite some time, and this year is no different. Their top commitment is local three-star athlete Jay Scheel, and they missed out on Iowa's two blue-chip prospects (Alabama commit Ross Pierschbacher and Iowa State pledge Allen Lazard). Iowa has made a habit of stealing kids from Maryland's territory, and did that this year as well -- they have commitments from three-star St. John's (D.C.) cornerback Omar Truitt, three-star Gonzaga (D.C.) safety Miles Taylor and three-star Forestville (Md.) cornerback Marcel Joly.

There's not much left on the table for the Hawkeyes in this class, as it appears the only possible target left is three-star Western Michigan offensive tackle commit Chukwuma Okorafor, who received interest from the Terps.

10. Maryland (16 commitments, .8399 average rating, 170.01 points)

Like Northwestern and Michigan State, Maryland has a strong class that is hurt in the rankings by its small amount of commits. Four-star defensive end Jesse Aniebonam is the second-best commitment (besides Stefon Diggs) the Terps have received since Kenny Tate, and offensive tackle Derwin Gray is right behind him. In terms of other Big Ten school's territories, the Terps have three commitments from Pennsylvania and one from Ohio.

The big fish left for the Terps, obviously, is five-star offensive tackle Damian Prince, who is set to announce between Maryland and Florida on Signing Day. If all else stayed equal, Maryland would jump to seventh place in these rankings if Prince committed, with 188.51 points.

11. Rutgers (24 commitments, .8230 average rating, 166.62 points)

The Scarlet Knights have one of the largest classes in the Big Ten -- a curious situation due to the many decommitments they have suffered over the past few months. Their class is led by three-star linebacker Justin Nelson, a Maryland target from New Jersey, and three-star running back Robert Martin, a Maryland target from Pennsylvania. Former Maryland target Marcus Applefield has already enrolled at the school, and the Scarlet Knights also have commits from Terp targets Kevin Wilkins (a three-star offensive guard) and Jacob Kraut (a three-star fullback).

In terms of what's left on the table, the Scarlet Knights are pursuing local three-star wide receiver Tyrone Washington and are attempting to flip three-star wide receiver Shaedon Meadors from Appalachian State.

12. Minnesota (17 commitments, .8295 average rating, 159.40 points)

The Golden Gophers were a surprise success story in the Big Ten last season, but have not been able to turn that into great recruiting success. Their top recruit is three-star center Connor Mayes, from Texas, but they also snuck into Maryland's zone(ish) to grab three-star wide receiver Melvin Holland, Jr., who did not receive interest from the Terps.

Minnesota's biggest goal on Signing Day is locking down the commitment of four-star running back Jeff Jones, the top player in the state of Minnesota. He committed to the school in March 2013, and is considered a soft verbal at this point. The Gophers will have to beat out Iowa State, Florida and Michigan for his services. They're also still in the running for three-star cornerback Craig James, three-star safety Christian Campbell and three-star wide receiver Brayden Lenius.

13. Purdue (20 commitments, .8240 average rating, 155.70 points)

The Boilermakers' class is led by three-star quarterback David Blough, from Texas, who has enrolled early (alongside three-star center Kirk Barron). Purdue did manage to grab one of the top 10 players in the state of Indiana in three-star defensive end commit Gelen Robinson, but lost out on most of the other high-profile local recruits. The Boilermakers also managed to grab a Maryland target out of Maryland, securing a commitment from three-star DeMatha defensive end JaWhuan Bentley.

There's not much left for Purdue in the 2014 class, but they are in the running for four-star defensive tackle Poona Ford, who was previously committed to Louisville and is now also considering Texas and Missouri. Three-star running back Ashton Jackson and three-star Pittsburgh athlete commit Avonte Maddox appear to be the only other targets remaining.

14. Illinois (17 commitments, .8260 average rating, 151.95 points)

Oh, Illinois. Poor, poor Illinois. Maryland's not even in the Big Ten left, but we can tell you one rule -- never be behind Purdue in anything relate to football. Three-star defensive tackle Jihad Ward is their top commit, and he's a good one as one of the top five JuCo players at the position in the country. They've got a solid group of six early enrollees as well, led by three-star wide receiver Tyrin Stone-Davis. Still, the class is small, with a good amount of prospects that are not too highly rated.

They could easily jump Purdue on Signing Day, if things go their way. The Illini are still in the running for four-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage and Seneca Valley (Md.) linebacker Daniel Appouh, who appears to be considering every Big Ten team except Maryland.

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