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National signing day storylines from elsewhere in the Big Ten

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Taking a look around the conference to see how other classes fared.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

We spent pretty much all day yesterday covering how Michigan’s 2021 class came together on the first day of the early signing period. Now it’s time to look around the rest of the conference and see how other teams are shaping up. Here are a few storylines from some of the other Big Ten programs.

Ohio State laps the field once again

The best thing you can say about Ohio State’s class from a Michigan fan’s perspective is it didn’t end up as the greatest class of all time like it was on track to finish in the spring. It fell all the way to second in the country, just a hair behind Alabama in total points and average ranking.

Michigan fans are rightfully excited about the five players in the top 100 they signed, which is more than the last three years combined. Ohio State signed five five-stars alone, and 12 prospects in the top 100.

Usually losing the second-best coach of a generation will hurt a program, but of course Ohio State only upgraded its recruiting success. And don’t look now, but the Buckeyes already have the No. 1 class in 2022 with nine prospects averaging .9564 on the composite.

Michigan State’s class sits in limbo

On the brighter side, all the hype surrounding Mel Tucker’s arrival to Michigan State and how he was going to modernize its recruiting has not materialized yet. Right now, the Spartans’ class has improved slightly from last year, moving up 11 spots to 33rd overall.

However, there is a good chance they lose a few of those guys propping up their rank. Four-star defensive tackle Rayshaun Benny, who you should all be familiar with, has not signed yet. He is going to push things back to February, giving Michigan a chance to continue pushing and hopefully flip him later on.

Their duo from St. Joseph’s in New Jersey, four-star running back Audric Estime and three-star guard Geno VanDeMark, also did not sign. After it was clear Notre Dame was going to miss out on Donovan Edwards, the Irish offered Estime earlier this week. Pretty soon, a bunch of crystal balls flipped to the Irish and Estime held off signing with the Spartans. He could flip before the signing period is over. VanDeMark looks more likely to stay, but does have other schools giving him something to think about.

If those guys do end up somewhere else, that would be three of Michigan State’s four highest recruits. To be fair, Tucker walked into unprecedented circumstances that he had to recruit around and he did flip top 150 linebacker Ma’a Gaoteote from USC today, so there are some glimmers of hope. But the upward turn is still at least a year away.

What happened to Penn State?

A while back, a report by Steve Wiltfong saying Penn State’s recruiting operation under James Franklin was much more organized and maximized their potential compared to Michigan’s. But during the recruiting dead period this cycle, Penn State’s class dropped well below their usual standards.

The Nittany Lions’ class is 21st in the country, their worst since Franklin’s first season. They have one top-100 player, offensive tackle Landon Tengwall, and only five four-stars in total. Instead of battling Michigan for second in the conference, they’re sitting at fifth behind Wisconsin and Maryland.

Penn State did only take 15 players, but their average ranking is the lowest since 2017 as well. It’s unclear what was causing these issues on the trail, but it certainly helps Michigan as they fight for position in their division.

Big Ten West steps up their game

As I alluded to in the previous section, the Big Ten recruiting crown usually goes through the East. But a handful of Big Ten West schools punched above their weight in 2021.

Wisconsin took third in the conference, moving up 10 spots from last year to 16th overall. Unsurprisingly, the class is buoyed by three offensive line commits, with five-star Nolan Rucci being the headliner. They also have three solid four-stars on the defensive line as well.

Iowa used one of its best in-state classes in a while to move from 36th to 22nd in the country. They took one of Michigan’s top offensive line targets, David Davidkov, as the top-ranked prospect in the class. Like Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes landed six four-stars to earn the sixth best class in the Big Ten.

Minnesota also bumped up over 10 spots, from 38th to 27th, and raised its average commit rating by .02. They have five four-stars in their class, but the biggest win to Michigan fans may have been three-star defensive tackle Jacob Schuster. The Washington native was expected to stay out west, but Minnesota convinced him to move to the Midwest for his college career. Their top signee, four-star cornerback Avante Dickerson, did fail to sign on the first signing day. It looks like he could end up at Nebraska.