'11 Team Rankings: Big Ten

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How did the class of 2011 shake out in the Big Ten?

How did the class of 2011 shake out in the Big Ten?

The finalizing of recruiting in the Big Ten for 2011 symbolizes the end of an extremely transitional year for the country’s most lucrative conference. (Well, at least it's over for now.) Heartland powerhouse Nebraska is now recruiting to the Big Ten, and it didn’t take long for the Huskers to assert their influence, finishing No. 2 in the league rankings this fall.

The regime change in Ann Arbor has come full circle as Michigan man Brady Hoke has concluded his first recruiting session. Yet, Hoke and Michigan – which spends barely half of what Ohio State spends on football – will likely need another year to see the full impact of the transition.

Ohio State, on the other hand, leads the league in football spending ($31.7 million) by a wide margin, and it clearly pays off on the recruiting trail. The Bucks have had the top class in this league three of the last four years and have been in the top two in seven out of eight years.

Michigan, which finished fourth in recruiting (and tied for seventh in league play) this season, was fifth in football spending ($18.3 million) last year.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (23 signees – 6 AC100)
Quarterback Braxon Miller, the nation’s No. 2 signal-caller, was supposed to be the QB of the future for Ohio State. With the suspension of Terrelle Pryor, Miller may have a chance to see the field right away (although it's a long shot). Miller and a couple of pass-catchers represent a small group of skill players that includes zero running backs. The youth already on the roster likely limited the need for offensive playmakers.

A pair of talented AC100 Grants leads a talented group that will play in the defensive back seven. Four linebackers and four defensive backs replenish the back end of a defense that loses a majority of its starters. The defensive line should be in great shape as potentially three AC100 recruits head an excellent D-line class.

Thirteen of Ohio State’s 23 signees hail from in-state. Six players from the Buckeye State landed in the AC100, and Jim Tressel signed five of them.

No. 18 Curtis Grant, LB (Richmond, Va.)
No. 30 Braxton Miller, QB (Huber Heights, Ohio)
No. 36 Doran Grant, CB (Akron, Ohio)
No. 48 Michael Bennett, DL/OL (Centerville, Ohio)
No. 80 Ken Hayes, DE (Toledo, Ohio)
No. 94 Steve Miller, DE (Canton, Ohio)
No. 111 Ryan Shazier, LB (Plantation, Fla.)
No. 178 Brian Bobek, OL (Palatine, Ill.)
No. 185 Chase Farris, DL (Elyria, Ohio)
N0. 209 Evan Spencer, WR (Vernon Hills, Ill.)

2. Nebraska Cornhuskers (19 signees – 3 AC100)
Athleticism should not be a problem at quarterback for Nebraska. Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling, two of the top ten quarterback recruits in the nation, are tremendous athletes who could end up playing a variety of positions (or even sports) if they do not stick at quarterback. Aaron Green is the nation's No. 4 running back, and along with five stellar offensive lineman and two athletic quarterbacks, the ground attack for Big Red should be just fine.

Bo Pelini used nine different states to compile his 19-man class, including powerhouses Ohio, Florida, Texas and California.

No. 25 Aaron Green, RB (San Antonio, Texas)
No. 85 Jamal Turner, QB/ATH (Arlington, Texas)
No. 100 Tyler Moore, OL (Clearwater, Fla.)
No. 101 Charles Jackson, CB (Klein, Texas)
No. 116 Bubba Starling, QB/ATH (Gardner, Kan.)
No. 251 Todd Peat, DT (Tempe, Ariz.)

3. Iowa Hawkeyes (24 signees - 1 AC100)
Kirk Ferentz went into 12 different states to put this excellent haul together - from New England out west to Nevada and back down south to Florida. AC100 running back/athlete Rodney Coe and a small but very talented three-man O-line group have the ground game in good shape for the forseeable future. A deep linebacking class isn't highly rated, but that seems to be the way Ferentz likes it. This might be Iowa's best class since that highly touted 2005 bunch.

No. 77 Rodney Coe, RB (Edwardsville, Ill.)
No. 152 Jordan Walsh, OL (Glen Ellyn, Ill.)
No. 246 Austin Blythe, OL (Williamsburg, Iowa)
No. 249 Ray Hamilton, TE (Strongville, Ohio)

4. Michigan Wolverines (20 signees)
Anytime a team has to deal with a coaching change, maintaining recruiting momentum can be very difficult. So Michigan fans will likely see Hoke's real recruiting ability in 2012. For now, a solid defensive-minded group should help to improve the Wolverines' biggest weakness. Four defensive backs, linebackers and defensive ends each can only help what has been a pathetic unit for the Maize and Blue. Two dramatic offensive scheme changes in less than four years will make fitting the right pieces into the right places interesting in 2011. Names like running back Justice Hayes and tight end Chris Barnett should be able find a home in any scheme, however.

As should be the case for Michigan, the states of Ohio and Michigan supplied a majority of the class. Thirteen of the 20 hail from one of those two states.

No. 131 Justice Hayes, RB (Grand Blanc, Mich.)
No. 172 Brennen Beyer, DE (Canton, Mich.)
No. 207 Blake Countess, DB (Owings Mills, Md.)

5. Michigan State Spartans (21 signees)
The crown jewel of this class is linebacker Lawrence Thomas. Ranked in the top 10 (11) nationally by two services and No. 150 by ESPN, Thomas has one of the most interesting evaluation lines. His size could push his hand down into the dirt at D-end, but he could also end up as a tackling machine in the middle. Thomas leads a great front-seven class that includes three ends, two tackles and four linebackers. A deep and talented offensive line group adds plenty of depth to the offensive front as well. Mark Dantonio teams have always been strong at the point of attack on both sides of the ball, and this class should help continue that trend.

No. 34 Lawrence Thomas, LB (Detroit, Mich.)
No. 258 Brandon Clemons, OL (Milford, Pa.)

6. Penn State Nittany Lions (16 signees)
Size is what keeps this class from national prominence. But the names JoePa did land were of the high-quality variety. The offensive line, in particular, is strong. Three nationally rated recruits, headlined by AC100 talent Angelo Mangiro, help to remedy what has turned into a question mark on recent Nittany Lion teams. A three (or four) man collection of talent at defensive end restocks the pass rushers as well. Depending on where athletes Bill Belton and Shyquawn Pullium end up, the wide receiver class could eventually be viewed as underrated.

No. 84 Angelo Mangiro, OL (Succasunna, N.J.)
No. 109 Anthony Zettel, DL/OL (West Branch, Mich.)
No. 170 Bill Belton, ATH (Atco, N.J.)
No. 181 Donovan Smith, OL (Owings Mills, Md.)

7. Wisconsin Badgers (20 signees)
This is a typical blue-collar Badger class, the only difference being the areas of focus. The secondary, wide receivers and tight ends got the most focus because of the youth and depth along both lines of scrimmage. Five DBs, three WRs and three TEs address the passing game on both sides of the ball. As has been the case in recent UW recruiting, the Badgers have dominated the in-state talent. This year they landed nine local prospects.

No. 174 Melvin Gordon, RB (Kenosha, Wisc.)

8. Illinois Fighting Illini (27 signees)
Ron Zook used 12 different states to land biggest class in the league. Talent-rich states like Florida, Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina have been Zooker stalwarts for players for years. Eleven line-of-scrimmage players should help the Illini improve up front, while three wide receivers, two running backs and three athletes should replenish the depleted offensive skill positions.

No. 241 Jon Davis, ATH (Lousiville, Ky.)
No. 262 Dondi Kirby, WR (Monroeville, Pa.)

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (24 signees)
Deep, six-man offensive line class leads Jerry Kill's first recruiting class.

10. Indiana Hoosiers (21 signees)
One of the better Hoosier classes in recent memory is headlined by talented defensive back group.

11. Northwestern Wildcats (17 signees)
Watch out if Pat Fitzgerald starts to land nationally rated players from Texas.

No. 203 Christian Jones, WR (Spring, Texas)

12. Purdue Boilermakers (15 signees)
The smallest class in this league is noticeably lacking in star power.

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