Recruiting the class of 2021 has been notoriously difficult due to the ongoing pandemic. Depending on state-by-state restrictions, some of the top recruits played full, complete seasons while others had little to no senior season at all. Similarly, ranking these recruits seems exponentially more difficult. Let’s take a look at the top 25 recruits to commit to Big Ten schools for this upcoming fall, based on 247Sports rankings:
1. Jack Sawyer (Pickerington, OH) SDE Ohio St.
2. Emeka Egbuka (Steilacoom, WA) WR Ohio St.
3. Nolan Rucci (Lititz, PA) OT Wisconsin
4. Donovan Jackson (Bellaire, TX) OG Ohio St.
5. Terrence Lewis (Miami, FL) ILB Maryland
6. TreVeyon Henderson (Hopewell, VA) RB Ohio St.
7. J.J. McCarthy (Bradenton, FL) QB Michigan
8. Kyle McCord (Philadelphia, PA) QB Ohio St.
9. Donovan Edwards (West Bloomfield, MI) RB Michigan
10. Jakailin Johnson (Saint Louis, MO) CB Ohio St.
11. Mike Hall (Streetsboro, OH) DT Ohio St.
12. Landon Tengwall (Olney, MD) OT Penn St.
13. Demeioun Robinson (Gaithersburg, MD) WDE Maryland
14. Jordan Hancock (Suwanee, GA) CB Ohio St.
15. Evan Pryor (Cornelius, NC) ATH Ohio St.
16. Reid Carrico (Ironton, OH) ILB Ohio St.
17. Giovanni El-Hadi (Sterling Heights, MI) OT Michigan
18. Junior Colson (Brentwood, TN) OLB Michigan
19. Thomas Fidone (Council Bluffs, IA) TE Nebraska
20. Marvin Harrison Jr. (Philadelphia, PA) WR Ohio St.
21. Jayden Ballard (Massillon, OH) WR Ohio St.
22. Branden Jennings (Jacksonville, FL) OLB Maryland
23. Ben Christman (Richfield, OH) OG Ohio St.
24. JP Benzschawel (Grafton, WI) OT Wisconsin
25. Riley Mahlman (Lakeville, MN) OT Wisconsin
The Rich Get Richer
The immediate, obvious takeaway is that Ohio St. dominated the rest of the conference at attracting top talent. Of course different programs develop players at different levels, and recruiting rankings aren’t everything. However, countless studies have shown that recruiting rankings significantly impact what echelon of college football a team may fall in. Ohio St. has dominated the Big Ten recruiting rankings even more than they’ve dominated on the field. For context, over the last 11 years, Ohio St. has led the Big Ten recruiting rankings 10 times (except 2019).
This year, 13 of the top 25 incoming freshmen are headed to Columbus. Michigan has the second most with a distant four. Maryland and Wisconsin have three of the top 25 while Nebraska and Penn St. each have one. At this point, Ryan Day has proven to be every bit the recruiter that Urban Meyer was.
Wisconsin Continues to Haul In Lineman
The Badgers’ three highest-rated recruits are all projected to be offensive tackles, are all between 6’7” - 6’8”, and all weigh 285 - 295 pounds. Wisconsin definitely has a type. Rucci in particular is going to Madison as just their fifth five-star since 2001 and the second-highest rated recruit since the rankings were invented. JP Benzschawel looks to follow a family lineage at Wisconsin as his father Scott, uncle Eric, brother Beau, and brother Luke have all played for the Badgers.
Nice to see you here, Maryland and Nebraska
Mike Locksley has quietly put together some solid classes at Maryland over the past few years. This year, his class is highlighted by five-star Terrence Lewis, the number one rated inside linebacker in the country. He also brought in Demeioun Robinson and one-time Michigan commitment Branden Jennings. Jennings had originally committed to Florida St. before flipping to Michigan. He then subsequently flipped to Maryland in December and signed his LOI. The Terrapins now have a solid foundation for their linebacking corp for years to come.
If you were caught by surprise when you saw a Nebraska commit on this list, you’re not alone. Thomas Fidone, a tight end from near the Iowa/Nebraska border, was a priority for Jim Harbaugh early on in the recruiting cycle. As the highest-rated player from the state of Iowa and the number two overall tight end, it makes sense that Michigan would have him high on their board. However, Fidone chose his childhood favorite team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Michigan needs to close the gap
Yet again, Jim Harbaugh has put together a nice class in Ann Arbor with some top talent in J.J. McCarthy and Donovan Edwards. However, Ohio St. has continued to recruit at a historic pace. Until either the Buckeyes regress to the mean or Harbaugh can find a way to bring in even more blue-chip recruits, the gap between Ohio St. and Michigan will only continue to widen. So far things do not look promising as Quinn Ewers, the number one overall prospect in 2022 has already committed to the Buckeyes.