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Big Ten Recruiting Rankings: OSU vs. The Field

Yes, it's still the off-season. But that doesn't mean there's no football.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

#14. Purdue Boilermakers

The Boilermakers have one pledge - a lonely three-star quarterback named Griffin Alstott. Alstott has the athleticism to make a dent at the next level, but maybe not at quarterback. His mechanics are funky and his size isn't great.

#13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

First-year head coach Chris Ash has two recruits in the 2017 cycle, a 6'1" corner in Naijee Jones and a 6'0" receiver in Bryce Watts. I like Watts' game, but Jones is stiff around the hips and average athletically.

#12. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Tracy Claeys got his first commit of the cycle this Saturday, and he's a good one - Blaise Andries, all-around lineman and pancake maker. This will be a very important part of the program for Tracy Claeys to maintain success in; Minnesota has been impressive in recent years at grabbing under-rated but very talented recruits. If Minnesota falls behind here they'll be in trouble.

#11. Illinois Fighting Illini

Like Rutgers, Illinois has two prospects pledged to a first-year coach. Ryan O'Malley is a defensive tackle with good feet, strength and hustle; he needs to bulk up but he's a good prospect.

Mike Epstein is a recruit Michigan fans know well - Michigan has been after him hard and he's a good back with speed. I'd be surprised if the staff still pursued him, however, with three pledges of their own and perhaps a couple other running backs higher up on their recruiting board. That would be good news for Lovie Smith and the Illini.

#10. Maryland Terrapins

This past week was kind to the Terrapins, as D.J. Durkin received three commitments to bump his class up to five. One of them, four-star defensive tackle Cam Spence, is already recruiting his teammates at IMG Academy to join him in College Park - including five-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh.

#9. Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana brings four commitments to the dance, and all four are exciting prospects in their own way. My favorite, though, has to be Bryant Fitzgerald, who's a load at safety and a tough cover at running back. Check out the spin moves here on his way to a touchdown at the 40-second mark.

There is a 'face' of the class, though, and it's not Fitzgerald. Lynn Bowden is a four-star athlete out of Youngstown, Ohio, and he's one of the top ten players in the state. A quarterback in high school, he'll probably switch to running back when he gets to college. Make no mistake, he could play right away.

#8. Wisconsin Badgers

This ranking may be a bit unpopular. Wisconsin has no less than eight pledges, including one of the better quarterback prospects in the country and a quartet of promising linemen. At the same time, this class has plenty of 'good' or 'decent' talent but little game-breaking potential. (This is without a doubt the slowest class on this list, even accounting for the number of linemen they have.)

Wisconsin has long hung its hat on controlling the line of scrimmage. Credit: Kirby Lee, USA Today

At the end of the day, the fact is Wisconsin is missing the kind of athletes they would need to help grow the program. These guys are big, solid, and will probably develop into good players. Wisconsin firmly belongs in the middle tier of these rankings (#5 to #10). But at the same time Wisconsin fans should be hopeful that a few elite athletes are on their way, or else all that size won't do much good.

#7. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Quietly, Nebraska has been recruiting pretty well under Mike Riley. The Huskers have four commits in 2017 so far, highlighted by a phenomenal quarterback prospect (Tristan Gebbia) and a violent, athletic linebacker in Willie Hampton.

There are also two wide receiver prospects: Keyshawn Johnson, Jr., who reminds me of Amara Darboh with his size and move-the-chains ability, and Jaevon McQuitty, a 6'2", 193-pound speed demon who will become deadly with a veteran knowledge of route-running.

#6. Penn State Nittany Lions

Once again, we have a team with four prospects. Three of those are physically dominant front-seven defenders. The fourth is a quarterback with a lot of (on-field) resemblances to Johnny Manziel. An exciting class could be forming for Penn State fans.

James Franklin made a brash introduction to the Big Ten, but he's yet to deliver. Credit: Joe Robbins, Getty Images

#5. Michigan State Spartans

Mark Dantonio has secured five commitments, led by quarterback Rocky Lombardi and pass-rushing specialist Jack Camper. Both are highlight-reel players who, at three stars apiece, are flying well under the radar.

Highlights: Rocky Lombardi, Jack Camper

But the other three pieces of this class are pulling their weight, too. Two receivers: one, a speedster out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the other, a nice combination of athleticism and physicality. They have also gotten a 330-pound guard out of Park Ridge, Illinois with great balance and decent strength.

Mark Dantonio has had plenty to smile about on the recruiting trail. Credit: Jamie Sabau, Getty Images

#4. Northwestern Wildcats

The top four teams are a solid step ahead of the rest of the pack. Northwestern has secured ten commitments, third-most in the Big Ten. These guys have speed, but best of all they're physical around the line of scrimmage and on the defensive side. A Grade-A Big Ten recruiting class.

#3. Iowa Hawkeyes

The first two things to jump out at you are the overall numbers - Ferentz has already gotten eight players to commit - as well as the presence of one five-star defensive lineman, A.J. Epenesa. This is a spectacular start to the recruiting cycle and a worthy follow-up of last year's Rose Bowl appearance. Like Fitz at Northwestern, Kirk Ferentz has stepped up his game.

And while it's not sexy, the first thing to talk about with Iowa is the linemen. This is a spectacular class of big guys, and a solid level above even Wisconsin. There is A.J. Epenesa, who looks like an over-sized athlete chasing after the quarterback. There's Juan Harris, a 368-pound rock on the defensive line. Tristan Wirfs and Mark Kallenberger are two offensive linemen with great mobility and hands, and Coy Fitzpatrick has some really good strength at 260 pounds.

The skill players also bring a lot to the table, led by Ivory Kelly-Martin, who's simply tremendous.

#2. Michigan Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh has a class of eleven so far, four of whom are in-state recruits. The early storylines are a five-star quarterback and three running backs, but there will be a lot of movement between now and Signing Day. A.J. Dillon could end up at linebacker, but taking the ball out of his hands would spoil a whole lot of fun. Oh, and there's a fullback to tote the ball as well.

Highlights: O'Maury Samuels, A.J. Dillon, Phillip Paea

At the risk of oversimplifying the rest of the cycle, Michigan will need to add linemen on both sides of the ball while keeping their fingers crossed for Donovan Peoples-Jones. One of those, Jim Harbaugh is guaranteed to accomplish. The other one will be a roller-coaster ride.

#1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Well, this is hands down the best class. Ohio State has thirteen commits, led by an offensive lineman who absolutely looks like a college athlete who was sent back to high school to break up a drug ring with Adam Sandler. Shaun Wade, a 6'1" corner, is a freak athlete just like many Ohio State has gotten over the last few years. In fact, every single commit is a four-star - except for the kicker, who's a three-star.

Recruiting has been a staple of Ohio State's success, and 2017 is no different. Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

As far as any universal takeaways as we wrap this up, the Big Ten is doing quite well. The conference has never relied on getting five-star talent, but it is important to get a few, and the Big Ten has already done that (with four, in fact). And the elite talent is supported by a very good, deep crop of three-stars.

Also, a lot of these teams have gotten their hands on very athletic pro-style QBs, and supported them with athletic wideouts. The Big Ten has always fielded good running backs and linemen, but this has been a well-rounded effort from the Big Ten.