Big Ten West recruiting: Kirk Ferentz, Pat Fitzgerald lead a big month of June in the West
It was a busy month for Big Ten recruiting. In total, the conference racked up a total of 48 new commitments in June, including 46 for the class of 2017.
As a whole, the revitalized Big Ten is recruiting better than ever. Eight of the conference’s 14 teams find themselves in the Top 30 of the national team rankings according to 247Sports.com rankings, including two teams – Ohio State (No.1) and Michigan (No. 4) in the Top 5 nationally.
Inside the Big Ten, the West Division has seen some struggles, but Iowa and Northwestern have moved their way into the league’s Top 4 after a big month.
Using the rankings as our guide, let’s review the Big Ten West’s recruiting classes and all of June’s additions, starting with league’s best.
Iowa • 14 Commitments in 2017 • 6 New • B1G Rank: 4
It was a productive start to the summer for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Kirk Ferentz’s program has skyrocketed up to No. 4 in the Big Ten thanks to a big June that saw them reel in six new verbal commitments. Madrid, Iowa 3-star defensive end Coy Kirkpatrick got the month started when he decided to stay home on June 8 but it was the pledge of Belton, Texas quarterback Peyton Mansell on June 20 that really got the ball rolling toward Iowa City.
After the addition of Mansell, Iowa added four more players, addressing needs at wide receiver and in the secondary.
Mississippi (Lake Cormorant) 3-star wideout Brandon Smith and Bradley, Ill. defensive back Camron Harrell committed to Iowa on June 26. A day later, it was a pair 3-star prospects, wide receiver Gavin Holmes and defensive back Matt Hankins, who picked the Hawkeyes. Holmes, a former Duke commitment, and Hankins each visited Iowa the weekend of June 25-26 and became the third and fourth commitments from Texas for Ferentz and the Hawkeyes.
Northwestern • 17 Total Commitments in 2017 • 4 New • B1G Rank: 5
The Northwestern Wildcats are one of the Big Ten’s – and the country’s – biggest surprises so far for 2017.
Pat Fitzgerald’s program is taking a slow and steady approach, picking up multiple commitments in each of the last four months (three in March, five in April, one in May and four in June) and now sit with the nation’s 18th-ranked group.
In June, Glenbard North (Carol Stream, Ill.) 3-star wide receiver Jace James, the 10th-ranked player in Illinois, committed to the Wildcats on June 12. The next day Northwestern added two more verbals. Shoreman, N.Y. offensive tackle Ethan Wiederkehr chose Northwestern, pledging to Fitzgerald’s Cats over Maryland, Purdue, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Louisville and others while 2-star kicker prospect Charlie Kuhbander from Springsboro, Ohio chose Northwestern over Iowa State and Army.
Northwestern finished out their busy June with another 3-star wide receiver from one of the country’s biggest high school programs. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) standout Berkeley Holman, a 6-foot, 185-pound prospect committed to the Wildcats on June 18.
Nebraska • 10 Total Commitments in 2017 • 2 New • B1G Rank: 6
It felt like Nebraska and Mike Riley made a lot of noise on the recruiting trail in June and when the dust settled in Lincoln, two prospects officially entered the Cornhuskers commitment list.
The Huskers added offensive lineman Broc Bando, a 3-star offensive guard at Bradenton, Fla. stud-factory at IMG Academy. Bando is a 6-foot-5, 280-pound interior lineman ranked as the country’s 42nd-best at his position. He picked Nebraska over offers from Georgia and Louisville.
On June 29, Robert Porcher IV, a 3-star defensive end out of Orlando’s Dr. Phillips committed to Nebraska. The country’s 62nd-ranked end, Porcher is the son of the former Detroit Lions star with the same name. He visited Lincoln the weekend of June 25-26.
Riley’s program now has 11 commitments but the longterm success of this particular class may depend solely on how many of the Cornhuskers’ biggest targets from California end up choosing Nebraska come next February.
Nebraska was one of just two Big Ten teams in June to add a 2018 commitment, sharing that distinction with Michigan. The Huskers added a verbal pledge from in-state defensive tackle Masry Mapieu, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman out of York. He picked the home school over Iowa, Iowa State, UCLA and Central Florida.
Wisconsin • 10 Total Commitments in 2017 • 0 New • B1G Rank: 9
Paul Chryst and Wisconsin were one of just two Big Ten programs (Penn State was the other) who did not add a new commitment in the month of June.
Currently, Wisconsin has 10 commitments, good for ninth in the Big Ten. Badgers legacy Kayden Lyles, a 4-star offensive lineman out of Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.) High School is their top pledge and a Top 100 prospect nationally. After a tough go of things in the home state during the 2016 cycle, Chryst has bounced back strong to this point in 2017: the top four players in Wisconsin have all committed to the Badgers.
Illinois • 6 Total Commitments in 2017 • 2 New • B1G Rank: 11
This is a huge summer for new Illinois head coach Lovie Smith and so far things have been pretty good for the Illini.
June saw two new commitments – both from Illinois – bringing their 2017 total to six. The additions moved them up to No. 11 in the Big Ten.
Last month, Smith’s program picked up Auburn High School (Rockford) offensive tackle Vederian Lowe and St. Rita (Chicago) linebacker Marc Mondesir. Both players are 3-star prospects according to the 247Sports composite rankings, though Illinois is the lone offer at the moment for Lowe.
Five of the Illini’s current six commitments are from Illinois, an important piece of the puzzle if Smith hopes to be successful in Champaign. Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State have all had plenty of success there in recent years, a trend that Illinois will have to put an end to.
Minnesota • 6 Total Commitments in 2017 • 3 New • B1G Rank: 12
After a fairly successful recruiting effort in 2016, thing have not started out too hot for Minnesota in 2017, but June was a step in the right direction.
Tracy Claeys’ program added three new prospects, bringing their total to six for 2017. Each player that committed in June was from Minnesota and with that, five of the Gophers six pledges hail from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
East Ridge (St. Paul) kicker Grant Ryerse kicked off the commitments – pardon the pun – picking the Gophers on June 8. Ryerse is the country’s third-ranked kicker and a 3-star prospect according to the composite rankings. A week later, Dominick London, a teammate of Ryerse at East Ridge, followed his kicker’s lead and also committed to the Golden Gophers. London, Minnesota’s seventh-ranked player, is a 5-foot-8, 196-pound tailback who picked up his offer from Minnesota on June 9.
On June 20, the state’s fifth-ranked player – tight end Nathan Bursch – finished out a productive month for Claeys’ program. Bursch is a 6-foot-5, 235-pound prospect out of Woodbury Senior High School in St. Paul and the country’s 65th-ranked tight end.
Purdue • 6 Total Commitments in 2017 • 3 New • B1G Rank: 13
Darrell Hazell and the Purdue Boilermakers have – for the first time in a while – a heartbeat on the recruiting trail.
They added three commitments in June and jumped Indiana to No. 13 in the Big Ten, getting themselves out of the cellar for what feels like the first time in years.
Tijuan Mason, a 6-foot-6 defensive end, got the ball rolling when he picked the Boilermakers on June 13. Purdue was the only offer for the raw but talented lineman from Trezevant High School in Memphis. Cornerback Mitch West out of Montini Catholic (Lombard, Ill.) became the second 3-star commitment of the month on June 25, picking the Boilers over a handful of FCS offers, including North Dakota State.
The final pledge of June came courtesy of another 3-star prospect, Jacksonville (Fla.) University Christian offensive tackle Jylton Tusha. The country’s 140th-ranked offensive tackle had 11 scholarship offers and picked Hazell’s bunch over Cincinnati, Colorado State, Southern Miss, Ohio and others.