By Michael Briggs @MichaelSBriggs on June 24, 2014
The Big Ten did not fare well as a conference in the 2014 recruiting rankings, as Ohio State was the only representative to secure a spot in the top-15 in the nation, according to ESPN. As we've seen with Michigan State, teams can win games without a ton of four and five-star recruits , but these players clearly have an impact on the national title picture. Here are ten of the nation's top uncommitted 2015 recruits Big Ten programs could land.
Cole is a consensus four-star prospect (No. 137 in the ESPN300) who could end up playing either side of the ball in college. 24/7 Sports lists his front-runners as Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Tennessee, although a few other Big Ten programs (Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin) have also offered the Michigan native. It would be surprising to see Cole leave Big Ten country, with MSU and U-M looking like the most likely spots.
Another athlete hailing from the Midwest, Baker Jr. (ESPN300 No. 68) is one of Ohio's most sought-after recruits, making his leader unsurprisingly Ohio State, according to 24/7 Sports. While the recruiting service lists no other Big Ten program in his mix of top schools, just about every one has offered a scholarship to the Bendectine star who projects nicely at linebacker. Baker Jr. appears to be another player likely to stick around.
Although Kirk has made a name for himself out west, the 47th-ranked recruit in the ESPN300 has landed on the radar of a few Big Ten programs. Arizona's highly-regarded speedy pass-catcher recently narrowed his list of schools he is considering to 10, and Ohio State made the cut. It would be surprising to see Kirk turn down the SEC or Pac-12, but OSU has him high on their own list and has shown they can land players from anywhere.
Ofodile is another talented receiver who has garnered interest from several Big Ten programs, and it's easy to see why with his mix of size and speed. Although he resides out of Michigan State's usual recruiting territory, the Spartans have made a strong push for Ofodile and are listed among his top-eight by 24/7 Sports along with OSU and Northwestern. Ofodile's dad played for Mizzou, but it's possible he may want to pave his own path.
The former Michigan verbal commit Harris currently lists Ohio State as his leader, according to 24/7 Sports, but the Wolverines are still on the bruising back's radar after making his recent cut to eight programs. The nation's top-rated running back has already had a tumultuous recruiting process, but Harris reportedly plans on waiting until National Signing Day to announce his commitment. Will OSU land their next Carlos Hyde?
The 16th-ranked player on the ESPN300 for the class of 2015, Cornell has the choice of playing just about anywhere, but reportedly has strong interest in Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. The future defensive playmaker plans to make his decision on Aug. 28, with Ohio State looking like a front-runner for his services. It wouldn't be shocking, however, to see Cornell become a Spartan or Nittany Lion, either.
ESPN's 13th-ranked recruit for the 2015 class, Hilliard is a complete package at linebacker with sideline-to-sideline ability. 24/7 Sports lists Iowa, Michigan and Ohio State among the five-star prospect's leaders, along with Alabama and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes really want Hilliard, but his brother is an incoming freshman at Iowa, giving the Hawkeyes a leg up to land him when he makes his announcement on June 2.
ESPN's sixth-best prospect in the nation, Beckner Jr. represents the highest-rated recruit in Big Ten country but also happens to live right in Mizzou's backyard. Michigan is currently in the star defensive end's top-five, according to 24/7 Sports, and Greg Mattison would certainly love to get his hands on the 6-foot-4, 285-pounder. Keeping players like Hilliard and Beckner Jr. around will be crucial to the conference's future.
Sweat, a five-star recruit ranked fourth overall on the ESPN300, could be a future All-American if he fills out and continues to develop at the collegiate level. The lanky defensive end is a top target for the Buckeyes, where he will reportedly visit on July 25. However, with in-state power Virginia Tech all over him, along a mix of other college football powers, OSU is in for a tough race.
As the nation's top 2015 recruit according to ESPN, the Georgia-native Thompson recently mentioned that Big Ten powers Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State are among the schools he is considering attending — although 24/7 Sports lists Georgia, Auburn and Clemson as his leaders. It seems unlikely for a player of Thompson's stature to escape the clutches of the southern powers, but could a title quest from MSU or OSU change his mind?
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