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February 4, 2010

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big Ten

More Conferences: ACC | Big East | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC

Joe Paterno proved he can still get it done on the recruiting trail by reeling in the nation's No. 12-ranked class and top class in the Big Ten to Penn State.

Check out the breakdown of National Signing Day in a special edition of the Big Ten Blitz.

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big Ten
1. Penn State

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Headliners: Rivals100 prospects and Connecticut products Silas Redd and Khairi Fortt.
Sleeper: The Binghamton (N.Y.) area is not a football hotbed, but Daquan Jones is a nice pickup for Penn State.
Overview: Penn State landed the Big Ten's top recruiting class (No. 12 in the nation). The Nittany Lions are taking back the western half of Pennsylvania after signing LB Mike Hull, QB Paul Jones, OL Miles Dieffenbach and OL Thomas Ricketts - all four-star prospects. Jones and Robert Bolden are exciting quarterback prospects who were listed in the Rivals250. Penn State will be in good hands at linebacker with Fortt, Hull, and possibly Zach Zwinak - the nation's No. 2 fullback. Penn State did miss out on three of the top four players in-state, but landed seven of the top 11 players in the Rivals.com state rankings.
2. Michigan

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Headliner: Devin Gardner is the perfect fit for coach Rich Rodriguez's system.
Sleeper: Jake Ryan had an injury-riddled junior season, but he proved to be the top performer on a talented St. Ignatius defense this season.
Overview: Michigan picked up a huge commitment on Signing Day - Rivals250 safety Demar Dorsey. The Wolverines have 27 commitments in the class of 2010, and finished with the nation's 20th best recruiting class. Michigan finished quite strong after the season wrapped up, landing Rivals100 cornerback Cullen Christian following the Ohio State game. The Big Blue also picked up another four star prospect, DE Richard Ash, in December. Early commit Marvin Robinson gives Michigan a solid group of four-star defenders from the Sunshine State. In January, a very solid trio of three star Ohio prospects committed - Ryan, Jibreel Black, and Davion Rogers. Michigan closed strong and landed the Big Ten's second-best class.
3. Ohio State

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Headliner: Rivals100 OT Andrew Norwell broke his leg a few weeks into his senior season, but he likely would have made a five-star push at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Sleeper: Verlon Reed is the first Columbus city product to sign with Ohio State in several years.
Overview: Ohio State did not close well on National Signing Day, losing out on five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, Rivals100 OT Matt James, and four-star prep school OT Morgan Moses. Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville five-star athlete Latwan Anderson is still unsigned, with the Buckeyes under consideration. Ohio State signed 18 prospects, including eight four-star recruits. Three of those eight players are running backs. Rivals100 stud Roderick Smith is a big back with very good speed. He will remind OSU fans of Chris Wells. Rivals250 RB Corey Brown is a burner from the Philadelphia (Pa.) area. Carlos Hyde is a big fullback from Fork Union Military Academy (Va.). That trio will give Ohio State's running back group a big - and immediate - upgrade. Two of Ohio's very best in Norwell and Rivals250 CB Christian Bryant are also heading to Columbus.
4. Michigan State

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Headliner: William Gholston is the first Rivals.com five-star prospect to sign with Michigan State.
Sleeper: Tony Lippett played quarterback for Detroit (Mich.) Crockett, but showed potential as a receiver at the 2009 Penn State NIKE camp.
Overview: Michigan State added fullback Niko Palazeti on Monday, finishing up with 21 commitments in the class of 2010. The Spartans can bank on being a good pass-rushing team in the future. Gholston has the physical tools to be a dominant pass rusher at the college level and beyond. Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller product Marcus Rush consistently performs at a high level. In-state product Taylor Calero rounds out the defensive end group. Mylan Hicks, from Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance, leads a solid group of defensive backs. This class has versatility. The Spartans are bringing in four athletes, including Georgia standout Keith Mumphery - who chose Michigan State over Florida State, Nebraska, Arkansas, and others.
5. Iowa

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Headliner: A.J. Derby is Iowa's top high school prospect according to Rivals.com. His athleticism can be used at multiple positions for the Hawkeyes.
Sleeper: Anthony Hitchens is a big, powerful running back that put up great numbers his senior year at Lorain (Ohio) Clearview.
Overview: The Hawkeyes landed an in-state prospect on Tuesday, Wellman ATH Tanner Miller. The group of 21 commitments is led by four-star prospects C.J. Fiedorowicz, Marcus Coker, Andrew Donnal, and Derby. Those four prospects come from different states. Derby could help at linebacker, a position of need that was addressed well with commits from Austin Gray, James Morris, and Jim Poggi. Three-star athlete Christian Kirksey could play linebacker as well. The Hawkeyes hit Michigan hard, landing three prospects - Gray, three-star defensive tackle Carl Davis and WR Kevonte Martin-Manley.
6. Minnesota

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Headliner: Rivals250 OT Jimmy Gjere participated in the U.S. Army All-American game.
Sleeper: With some added size and strength, Willie Tatum could be a force at outside linebacker.
Overview: The Gophers signed 24 prospects in the class of 2010. They lost out on Seantrel Henderson, but landed the other two impact players in state - four-stars Lamonte Edwards and Gjere. Minnesota signed five offensive linemen and six defensive backs, with five of the DBs being three-star prospects. Watch out for James Manuel, a standout from Indiana state champion Warren Central High School. He could be a big safety or play linebacker in college. The Gophers' class of 2010 will be represented by 12 different states. Florida leads the way with four prospects heading up to play for coach Tim Brewster.
7. Purdue

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Headliner: Pulling four-star recruits out of Florida is no easy task. The Boilermakers did it with Daytona Beach wide receiver O.J. Ross.
Sleeper: ATH Justin Sinz won the AP Wisconsin Player of the Year award in leading his team to a state championship.
Overview: Purdue closed with 24 commitments in the class of 2010, including a late pickup on Monday from three-star standout Rashad Frazier. The defensive end is considered somewhat of a sleeper because he has just one year of varsity football experience. Purdue is bringing in a solid group of receivers, led by Ross. His teammate, Chevin Davis, is also coming to West Lafayette. Davis is a three-star receiver. Charles Torwudzo brings size to the group at 6 feet 5, and 195 pounds. Sinz will likely be a tight end, along with Illinois product De'Ron Flood. Purdue went back to Illinois for two huge commitments - DT Bruce Gaston Jr. and QB Sean Robinson. Both are top-10 prospects in Illinois, marking the first time Purdue has signed two of the top-10 prospects in the Rivals.com Illinois state rankings.
8. Illinois

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Headliner: Four-star quarterback Chandler Whitmer was an Elite 11 participant.
Sleeper: Michael Heitz comes from a western Illinois village of about 800 people. Heitz performed well at multiple summer camps in 2009.
Overview: Illinois finishes eighth in the Big Ten recruiting rankings. Their 20 commitments come from 10 states. The Illini continue to do well in the southeast. Coach Ron Zook landed four Florida products, including Delray Beach three-star WR Darius Millines - who pledged to Illinois on signing day. Other Southeast three-star prospects include Memphis (Tenn.) LB Michael Brown, Slidell (La.) OL Alex Hill and Woodstock (Ga.) TE Evan Wilson. Earnest Thomas from Orchard Lake (Mich.) - one of the Midwest's best safety prospects - was a huge pickup on signing day. Three-star Tallahassee (Fla.) defensive end Brandon Denmark also committed on Wednesday.
9. Northwestern

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Headliner: OL Brandon Vitabile is one of the best center prospects in the nation. He has a nasty attitude on the field.
Sleeper: Tallahassee (Fla.) DB Daniel Jones is a rangy cornerback with a 3.9 GPA in the classroom.
Overview: The Wildcats signed a smaller class, landing just 17 prospects. However, 16 of the recruits are three-star prospects. The Wildcats are bringing in a pair of three-star quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and athlete Kain Colter. The Wildcats' class may be strongest at wide receiver, where they landed a trio of three star players - Rashad Lawrence, Tony Jones, and Jimmy Hall. OLB Chi Chi Ariguzo is an outstanding prospect that will bring a lot of athleticism and productiveness to the Wildcats' linebacker corps. DE Chance Carter is the only Illinois product in this class. He has a lot of upside with his 6-4, 235-pound frame.
10. Wisconsin

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Headliners: RB James C. White and DB Peniel Jean are two of Florida's top 75 prospects.
Sleeper: OT Dallas Lewallen earned an offer with a dominating performance at the Badgers' summer camp.
Overview: Wisconsin finished towards the bottom of the Big Ten recruiting rankings, but they should not be 86th in the national rankings. This is a better class than that, with 21 of their 24 commitments rated three-stars. Once again, the Badgers did very well in-state, landing seven of the top 11 players. Michael Trotter is the state's top prospect and perhaps the best tackling safety in the Midwest. His twin brother, LB Marcus Trotter, manned the middle for the state's most dominating defense at Marquette University High School. Wisconsin lists Marcus as a preferred walk-on. DT Bryce Gilbert and RB Jeff Lewis are talented players from the same high school - Brookfield Central (Wisc.). The Badgers continue to pull quality prospects out of Florida. Jean is good, and some feel White is a better prospect than Giovanni Bernard - his four-star teammate he shared carries with at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
11. Indiana

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Headliner: OLB Ishmael Thomas is a significant pickup for the Hoosiers. He could help open doors into the fertile Detroit Public School League.
Sleeper: Ryan Phillis is the lesser-known of the two defensive prospects at Youngstown (Ohio) Boardman. Fellow defensive end J.T. Moore is an Ohio State commit.
Overview: The Hoosiers held on to three-star defensive back Andre Kates, a junior college product that should help Indiana immediately in the secondary. Kates took a couple of other official visits and picked the Hoosiers over a pile of scholarship offers. Indiana did very well in Cincinnati, despite losing Jibreel Black to Michigan. DE Pete Bachman and WR Tim O'Conner come from powerhouse Elder High School. Fellow Greater Catholic League three-star product Cameron Cole is also heading to Bloomington. Fourteen of Indiana's 25 commitments project to play defense, including three-star OLB Ishmael Thomas. The Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance star is Indiana's highest rated defender coming out of high school.

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