Three-plus years seems like an adequate leeway period when grading out the Big Ten’s relative hits and misses from college football’s Class of 2013 — especially since a number of recruits have already moved on to the NFL.
For this exercise, Land Of 10 will be working exclusively off the rankings from 247Sports.com. Spoiler alert: It also promises to heap extra praise onto Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, given the Buckeyes’ recent record-breaking accomplishment with the NFL draft (more on this later).
BIG TEN: 247Sports.com’s Recruiting Rankings For 2013
1. Ohio State (second nationally)
2. Michigan (seventh overall, on Brady Hoke’s watch)
4. Penn State
5. Michigan State
HITS: Draft viability at the top
Eight of the top 15 players from 247Sports.com’s listing have already been drafted into the pros (Robert Nkemdiche, Jaylon Smith, Vernon Hargreaves III, Laremy Tunsil, Su’a Craves, Derrick Henry, Jalen Ramsey, Laquon Treadwell) — including Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Round 2, New York Jets), the highest-ranked Big Ten recruit from 2013.
Ohio State safety Vonn Vell was the next highest-rated Big Ten performer from the class. Back in the spring, Bell (61st overall pick, New Orleans Saints) became one of seven Buckeyes to go in the first two rounds.
Digging deeper, thanks to Urban Meyer and his relentless staff, Ohio State now owns the NFL record for most players taken in the opening four rounds of the same draft (12); and five (Bell, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apple, Darron Lee) hailed from the vaunted Class of 2013.
MISS: Derrick Green’s unfinished symphony
At his preps peak, Green was a 5-star tailback out of Virginia and viewed as the next great workhorse back at Michigan. But injuries and competition struggles limited Green to less than 900 combined rushing yards (and seven TDs) for the Wolverines.
But the kid’s journey isn’t complete. During the spring, Green graduated from Michigan and subsequently transferred to TCU, where he has been granted a chance to compete for reps with the Horned Frogs’ high-octane offense.
Michigan’s other tailback from the Class of 2013? De’Veon Smith was ranked in the low 200s coming out of high school, but he’s been a rock-steady presence at the college level, tallying 1,457 total yards and 13 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
MISS: The top 15 pro-style QBs
This underwhelming lot of blue-chippers — with the notable exceptions of Hackenberg (top-ranked QB), Joshua Dobbs (double-threat star at Tennessee) and Jared Goff (No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft) — hasn’t experienced an abundance of personal or team success.
Heck, even Hackenberg — a high-upside prospect for the Jets — dealt with proficiency struggles at Penn State, never completing 60 percent of his passes in a single season and averaging only 2,819 yards passing and 16 TDs over three years.
On the unsung side, Rutgers’ Chris Laviano (20th-ranked QB) and Michigan’s John O’Korn (24th overall) can still become heavy hitters at the Big Ten level.
In 2015, Laviano posted four different outings of three or more touchdown passes. Against Indiana, Laviano racked up 386 yards passing and three TDs; and in the season finale, the Rutgers QB humbled Maryland’s defense for 344 yards passing and four TDs.
Rutgers has a quartet of seniors leading the primary pass-catching slots — wideouts Andre Patton (34 catches, 432 yards, 1 TD last year), Janarion Grant, Carlton Agudosi and tight end Nick Arcidiacono, a receiving/blocking stalwart for the Scarlet Knights.
As a freshman at Houston in 2013, O’Korn passed for 3,117 yards passing and 29 touchdowns (one rushing). He would eventually transfer, once the Cougars offense favored a dual-threat quarterback.
Jake Rudock made great strides in his one season with Michigan (graduate transfer from Iowa). In 2015, the eventual NFL draftee accounted for 3,017 yards passing and 24 total touchdowns. Those numbers would be a good starting point for O’Korn … presuming he’s the Wolverines’ opening-day starter.
WAIT AND SEE: QB Johnny Stanton
In 2013, Stanton was among the nation’s most highly regarded dual-threat quarterbacks, supposedly a perfect fit for the Nebraska offense. However, he would fight an uphill battle in Lincoln, losing out to Tommy Armstrong Jr. (6,691 yards passing, 68 total TDs), who’s on track to becoming the most prolific passer in school history (passing yards, passing touchdowns).
But Stanton still has a chance at college glory. He transferred to UNLV, and by most accounts, currently stands atop the Runnin’ Rebels depth chart at quarterback.
CLASS OF 2013: HINDSIGHT TOP 15
1. Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott (No. 69 overall)
2. Iowa CB Desmond King (no 247 ranking)
3. Ohio State DE Joey Bosa (No. 37 overall)
4. Michigan CB Jourdain Lewis (No. 115 overall)
5. Northwestern LB Anthony Walker (758th overall)
6. Ohio State safety Vonn Bell (No. 26 overall)
7. Michigan TE Jake Butt (No. 172 overall)
8. Nebraska DE Randy Gregory (No. 8 JUCO ranking)
9. Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg (No. 13 overall)
10. Ohio State LB Darron Lee (No. 663 overall)
11. Ohio State CB Eli Apple (No. 48 overall)
12. Wisconsin QB/safety Tanner McEvoy (41st-ranked college transfer)
13. Illinois DE Dawuane Smoot (no 247 ranking)
14. Michigan RB DeVeon Smith (No. 27 overall)
15. Rutgers QB Chris Laviano (No. 631 overall)
BIG TEN: Seven greatest two-year tailback stints of the modern era
1. Montee Ball, Wisconsin — 3,753 rushing yards, 61 total TDs (2011-12)
2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin — 4,196 rushing yards, 44 total TDs (2013-14)
3. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State — 3,699 rushing yards, 41 total TDs (2014-15)
4. Anthony Thompson, Indiana — 3,479 rushing yards, 51 total TDs (1988-89)
5. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin — 3,566 rushing yards, 36 total TDs (1996-97)
6. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin — 3,559 rushing yards, 35 total TDs (1998-99)
7. Archie Griffin, Ohio State — 3,272 rushing yards, 20 total TDs (1973-74)
LUCKY NO. 67
In hindsight, it’s hard to believe 66 outside-linebacking prospects ranked ahead of Northwestern’s Anthony Walker just three short years ago.
In that span, Walker (career: 4 forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks, 28 tackles for loss) has arguably developed into the Big Ten’s most bankable linebacker — above Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan.
However, this doesn’t mean Walker’s a shoo-in for Von Miller or Ray Lewis comparisons at the NFL level. He also has the size (6-foot-1, 235 pounds), impact burst, lateral quickness and top-end speed to be an All-Pro safety. That decision will have to wait for another day, though.
In the meantime, Walker seems content leading a Northwestern defense that posted top-25 rankings in five vital categories last year — scoring defense (12th nationally), total defense (12th), fewest first downs allowed (19th), rushing defense (21st) and passing defense (23rd).
ACCENTUATING THE POSITIVE
Citing 247 Sports, only two Big Ten recruits were listed among the top 25 receivers in 2013 — Ohio State junior Jalin Marshall (career: 74 catches, 976 yards, 12 TDs) and James Clark (zero receptions with the Buckeyes).
However, this might not be a bad thing. Only Ole Miss’s Laquon Treadwell (Illinois native; now with the Minnesota Vikings) stands as a lock for NFL greatness; plus, the conference has some underrated finds in the rankings’ second and third waves, namely Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton (127 catches, 1,479 yards, 8 TDs), Minnesota’s Drew Wolitarsky and Wisconsin’s Robert Wheelwright.
From a non-Big Ten perspective, Greg Ward Jr. ranked as the 141st wide receiver — the same Ward who’s currently a Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback with Houston … and a primary reason why John O’Korn is competing for playing time at Michigan.
THE KING AND I … OWA
In advance of the 2013 college season, Michigan State was absolutely stacked at the cornerback slot, starting a pair of eventual NFL first-rounders (Darqueze Dennard, Trae Waynes). However, that doesn’t fully absolve the Spartans from passing on Detroit native Desmond King, scholarship offer-wise.
In fact, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio recently acknowledged his mistake from three years ago, respectfully labeling King as the one who “got away.”
Well, Michigan State’s loss was Iowa’s gain. On his way to becoming a Consensus All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner last year, King (11 career INTs, 26 passes defended) also claimed the Big Ten title with interceptions (eight).
Fast forward to the present: King leads his own stacked secondary at Iowa. The offense, led by QB C.J. Beathard, RB Akrum Wadley, RB LeShun Daniels, WR Matt VandeBerg, has star power, as well, meaning the Hawkeyes could realistically carry an undefeated record into the Nov. 12 showdown with Michigan, another local powerhouse that once doubted King.
THE JURY’S STILL OUT
Four Big Ten schools claimed five of the highest-ranked defensive ends from 2013 — Ohio State’s Joey Bosa (26 career sacks; No. 3 overall pick in 2017 NFL Draft) and Tyquan Lewis (8 sacks, 14 tackles for loss last season), Michigan’s Taco Charlton (5.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL last year), Wisconsin’s Chikwe Obasih and Penn State’s Garrett Sickels.
At the time of this writing, though, Bosa remains the only rookie holdout from the 2016 draft class (a touchy subject in San Diego). As for Charlton, Lewis, Obasih and Sickels … ready or not, they’re all expected to be major contributors to their defensive fronts.
THE FRIDGE ‘LITE’?
In 2013, Henry Poggi was one of the most coveted recruits at defensive tackle. Now, the fleet-footed Poggi (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) could be the nation’s largest fullback, bulldozing rushing lanes for the Wolverines’ stable of tailbacks.
Even with Poggi’s prodigious size, he would still need at least 100 more pounds to resemble William “Refrigerator” Perry, the NFL’s celebrated defensive tackle/fullback from the 1980s; and given how Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was part of that fun-filled Chicago Bears culture 30 years ago … it would surprise few if Poggi evolved into a short-yardage folk hero for the Wolverines.
Just don’t expect Poggi to endorse the McDonald’s (now-defunct) “McDLT” sandwich when his college eligibility expires. Poggi seems like a better fit for the Big Mac.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.