Every B1G team's biggest remaining recruiting need
Now that the dust has settled and a large portion of 2022 recruits have officially signed, it’s time to evaluate each class and figure out where each B1G program needs to focus over the next few months in the transfer portal and for National Signing Day on Feb. 2.
No, that wasn’t a typo, Tom Allen really does have the No. 4 class in the Big Ten, with 5 4-star recruits signed. There is a notable omission from this very good class, though: a QB. And Indiana just so happens to be hurting at QB after Michael Penix Jr. transferred to Washington. Maybe QBs are best recruited now in the portal, anyways, but it sure would be nice to groom one for the future, too.
Illinois: Defensive line
The Illini did well in inking 6 offensive linemen, but they got only 1 defensive lineman, and he wasn’t a top-1,000 recruit. As Bret Bielema knows, this league is won in the trenches. And I’m sure the offensive line was a point of emphasis for him, especially given his comments earlier this season, but they have to pay some attention to the defense now, too.
Iowa: Offensive weapons
Given how this season went, that seems pretty obvious, right? Iowa needs more potential playmakers on offense because they was in short supply this season. On top of that, Iowa has had 6 players enter the transfer portal thus far, and 5 are offensive skill position players, and that doesn’t even include running back Tyler Goodson declaring for the NFL Draft. Iowa only has 1 wide receiver in this class, so it needs to add some outside threats through either transfers or high school seniors.
Maryland: Defensive line
Maryland has done well to build an offense that is liable to score 40 in a given week. Defense, though, is an issue, and Maryland signed just 1 defensive linemen. For a team that ranked 12th or worse in scoring defense, total defense, run defense and pass defense, it needs to add as many difference-makers as it can.
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Michigan: Offensive line
Perhaps the lone weakness of a class that ranks 9th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten is up front. Michigan signed only one offensive lineman, which is a bit concerning considering the Wolverines’ success, at least offensively, was predicated on dominating up front and running the ball. And that 1 signee was Michigan’s 17th-highest rated recruit, so it’s not like this is some plug-and-play guy.
Michigan State: Running back
Aren’t you a little surprised that after the season Kenneth Walker III had that Michigan State didn’t sign a single running back in its 22-member class? I know the Spartans got Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger coming in to pick up where Walker left off, but still, depth is a must at a position group where injuries mount. Look at Wisconsin, which had its top 3 running backs get hurt/leave the team, and it had a freshman step in and carry the offense. I’m sure Mel Tucker won’t have trouble recruiting running backs in the future, but the timing probably didn’t line up this year with Walker bursting onto the scene after many recruits had already committed elsewhere.
Minnesota: Running backs
Emphasis on the plural. OK, so this one is a bit in jest given Minnesota’s turnover at running back this season. The Golden Gophers appear to have gotten a good one with Zach Evans, who is their third-highest ranked recruit. But he’s the only running back signee! The demand for running backs is much greater at Minnesota.
Nebraska: Offensive line
Nebraska does not have a single offensive line recruit in this class and has added only 1 in the transfer portal. Meanwhile, 3-year starter Cam Jurgens is leaving early for the NFL. The Huskers need to build some depth up front. Even if a freshman isn’t going to come in and play right away, a thin class will come back to bite Nebraska in a few years.
Northwestern’s QB signee was actually going to play baseball at Notre Dame and walk on to the football team, so it’ll be interesting to see what his plans are in Evanston. But for a QB-needy program, I don’t think the 116th-ranked QB is the solution.
Ohio State: Cornerback
Remember when Ohio State was churning out first-round corners every year? Well, the momentum has certainly slowed on that front, as none of the 10 top-150 recruits that Ohio State signed were corners. The Buckeyes actually had commitments from 2 of the top 8 corners in this class, but didn’t wind up signing either. Ohio State has struggled in the secondary the last few years, so losing out on those guys could sting in the coming years.
Penn State: Offensive line
This one seems obvious. Penn State’s offensive line really struggled this season, whether protecting Sean Clifford or opening up holes for the running backs. The Nittany Lions couldn’t have run the ball much worse this year. The good news is that Penn State has the No. 4 and No. 11 running backs in this class, which is a ridiculous haul in the backfield. The bad news is that just 1 of Penn State’s top 14 recruits is an offensive lineman. Penn State needs to continue improving up front if it wants to win in the East.
Purdue: High-end wide receiver
The Boilermakers have been blessed the last 4 years with Rondale Moore and David Bell. Both will soon be in the NFL, leaving a void in West Lafayette. Milton Wright is the next go-to guy for Purdue, but it will need another soon after. There isn’t any high-end talent coming in out wide for Purdue in this class that comes even close to those guys.
Rutgers: Secondary help
A Rutgers squad with the No. 10 pass defense didn’t exactly load up on defensive backs to shore it up. The Scarlet Knights added only 2 DBs, and neither was among their top 12 signees.
Wisconsin: Backfield help
Wisconsin’s backfield situation has been an interesting storyline the last few years, with the preseason No. 4 back eventually taking over the workhorse role. With all that turnover at the position, it’s a little surprising that Wisconsin didn’t sign a running back in this class. I know Braelon Allen is a star, but injuries happen so often here that it makes sense to have a steady stream of ball carriers. Especially considering how good Wisconsin is at developing them.