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National Signing Day 2014: Big Ten Class Rankings

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Big Ten 2014 College Football Recruiting Class Rankings

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Most of 2014's college football class members have put pen to paper on their National Letters of Intent across the country, faxed them in (who still uses fax machines?) and some are already even enrolled at their academic institution of choice.

Before the dead sprint into coverage of the already fast and furious assembly of the 2015 class begins in its absolute earnest, we've all earned a pit stop even if only for a few hours. It's time to see what presents await under the lights and tinsel hanging off goalposts that make up college football's Christmas tree.

Fans of Big Ten conference teams already had number of questions regarding what the future held for their respective clubs heading into this recruiting cycle. We're talking well before Michigan State took home the league and Rose Bowl trophies.

Then Penn State hired James Franklin and the poaching from Nashville began in earnest!

Would Urban Meyer continue to not only rake in the best athletes compared to every other conference crop but lock down the top in-state talent for himself? What effect would Franklin have now that he leads the Nittany Lions?

How would Wisconsin's Gary Andersen handle another cycle as head coach of the Badgers? Would the Spartans find an immediate replacement for Darqueze Dennard? Speaking of Michigan State, what would a National Signing Day be without some drama?

Wonder no more, weary recruiting traveler! Today, I unveil to you the potential stars (and busts) of the Big Ten's future with three of each team's top recruits.

Brandon Cavanaugh is a Big 10 writer for Follow him on Twitter @eightlaces, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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12. Illinois

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While the Illini are at the bottom of the heap, they did manage to snag a few building blocks for the future, or so they hope.

Defensive tackle Jihad Ward likely has a starting spot all but sewn up.

Quarterback Chayce Crouch gives head coach Tim Beckman another option post-Nathan Scheelhaase, and wide receiver Tyrin Stone-Davis gives whoever's under center a quality target.

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11. Purdue

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Elting didn't exactly set the world on fire last year, but to be fair he won the starting gig over another freshman and two sophomores.

If nothing else, new quarterback David Blough should push him to excel, if not give the staff another option at signal-caller.

Hopefully the Purdue defense can be somewhat re-energized with the addition of defensive ends Gelen Robinson and JaWhaun Bentley.

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10. Minnesota

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Not exactly the best class on paper, but Jerry Kill seems to get the most out of his players.

Dimonic McKinzy's a dynamic quarterback who should give the Gophers a spark, and they picked up some solid protection for him in center Connor Mayes.

At some point in the future, we may even see McKinzy connecting with incoming wide receiver Melvin Holland Jr.

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9. Iowa

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa signed a rather ho-hum class, but there are still some high quality players worth mentioning.

As of right now, athlete Jay Scheel could play a number of roles for the Hawkeyes. Honestly, he's the best of this bunch, so he needs to see the field immediately.

Quarterback Tyler Wiegers could develop into a special player down the road, and running back Markel Smith gives Iowa a stout back who appears perfect for the offense.

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8. Indiana

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Didn't think you'd see Indiana this high when it comes to football recruiting, did you?

The Hoosiers picked up a fantastic duo of wide receivers in Dominique Booth and Will Dawkins.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Tegray Scales may surprise.

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7. Northwestern

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After the season the Wildcats had, it's time for some good news. Northwestern had a rather impressive haul coming off such a disappointing season.

Cornerback Parrker Westphal will likely become a danger in the Wildcats' secondary down the line.

On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Clayton Thorson and running back Justin Jackson make for an excellent one-two punch.

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6. Wisconsin

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This was a solid recruiting effort from Gary Andersen and company. The Badgers still appear to be fans of what Russell Wilson brought to the table (what Wisconsin fan wasn't?).

They might be trying to find that magic again in quarterback D.J. Gillins.

Having a hoss like offensive tackle Jaden Gault in their backyard doesn't hurt, either. Gault's ranked as the No. 47 offensive tackle in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite Index.

Defensive end Conor Sheehy looks to give Wisconsin a good prospect to work with off the edge as well.

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5. Nebraska

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While Nebraska lost a couple of necessary defensive line commits, they did snag defensive tackle Joe Keels who will likely see immediate time.

Offensive tackle Tanner Farmer has the size, determination and attitude to give even the Husker starters a run for their money.

Finally, safety Byerson Cockrell will step into another huge area of need for the Big Red.

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4. Penn State

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Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

What James Franklin did upon walking into State College was nothing short of impressive.

He played the recruiting game brilliantly and ended up with a fantastic class littered with talented players. If he can show that Penn State's headed in the right direction (and don't be shocked when he does), he'll continue to stockpile this level of talent.

Quarterback Michael O'Connor isn't coming in to sit on the bench. When a guy like Allen Robinson walks out the door, having a talent like wide receiver Saeed Blacknall to develop is a delight. Then there's the matter of working with one of the best tight end prospects in the country in Mike Gesicki.

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3. Michigan State

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While I have the Spartans ranked No. 3, I could very easily put them at 2b.

Regardless of the drama going on with Malik McDowell, this is easily one of the best classes in the conference. We'll talk defense in a moment, but it'll be interesting to see if center Brian Allen can be the grinder Michigan State needs in the middle.

Wisconsin was beat up a bit this cycle by its conference-mates. Nebraska stole a defensive end in Keels while the Spartans yanked away stud defensive tackle Craig Evans.

Safety Montae Nicholson looks like another defensive back ready to make waves in the "No Fly Zone".

If McDowell does commit, this class is easily No. 2, if not 1b.

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2. Michigan

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Absolute stud and a half Jabrill Peppers gives the Wolverines instant star power, but no matter how good he is (and Peppers is that), one player does not a class make. Yes, even ones who could play either side of the ball.

Wide receiver Drake Harris comes in at the perfect time as Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess depart.

As one of the best prospects at his position this cycle, look for defensive tackle Bryan Mone to fight for some snaps.

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1. Ohio State

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Urban Meyer and company plants their flag atop Big Ten recruiting once more. Perhaps the most interesting statistic of this class is that there are more commitments from outside the state of Ohio.

The Buckeyes' haul is most impressive on the defensive side of the ball.

Linebacker Raekwon McMillan looks to have an excellent future as beast for Ohio State in the middle. Cornerbacks Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore both have the potential to be developed into elite Big Ten defensive backs not to be trifled with.

As we move onto the 2015 class, we'll see if anyone can knock the Buckeyes from their perch or at least cut into their talent pool.