The Associated Press
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: Chicago Catholic League offensive player of the year Ricky Smalling from Brother Rice High in Oak Lawn is a four-star wide receiver prospect, making him the Illini’s highest-rated player at that position in a decade. His early verbal commitment was celebrated by fans who want to believe coach Lovie Smith is on the right track.
Best of the rest: DT Kendrick Green of Peoria surprised some when he picked Illinois over Iowa in December.
Late addition: DE Deon Pate of Jacksonville, Florida, came into the fold on Monday. He flipped from Appalachian State after visiting Champaign last weekend.
One that got away: Three-star WR Reggie Roberson had Illinois high on his list after de-committing from Kansas. On Monday, he pledged to West Virginia.
How they’ll fit in: Smalling and Carmoni Green are likely to see immediate playing time in a receiving corps that returns 2016 leader Malik Turner and the promising Mike Dudek, who has missed two seasons with ACL tears. Junior college transfer Dwayne Lawson, who started his career at Virginia Tech, was expected to challenge Jeff George Jr. at quarterback, but Lawson’s signing has been delayed because of a grades issue.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: S Juwan Burgess, Tampa. Coach Tom Allen wanted to get bigger and faster on defense and the 6-foot, 185-pound safety should help the Hoosiers do both.
Best of the rest: Bryant Fitzgerald, DB, Avon, and Harry Crider, OL, Columbus, were selected as the best players in the state at their position. Both could become key contributors next season. Also keep an eye on Nick Tronti, QB, Ponte Vedra, Florida, who led his team to a state championship and was named the state’s Mr. Football Award winner last year.
Late addition: Raheem Layne, DB, Sebastian, Florida, de-committed from Minnesota after the coaching change and signed with the Hosiers.
One that got away: Russ Yeast, ATH/WR, Greenwood. After transferring from Fremont Ross in Ohio, Yeast was named Indiana’s Gatorade player of the year and then chose Louisville.
How they’ll fit in: It’s a tough class to grade because Allen can use so many of these players in different spots. But the Hoosiers clearly added size and depth and only lost one recruit after the surprise coaching change in December.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: DL A.J. Epenesa of Edwardsville, Illinois. The son of former Hawkeye Eppy Epenesa, A.J. could have played anywhere in the country but chose to follow his father to Iowa City. Iowa has been known to get the best out of raw recruits, so it’ll interesting to see what Kirk Ferentz and his staff can do with a player with the potential to be a star as a freshman.
Best of the rest: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Mount Vernon, Iowa. At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, Wirfs could end up at either guard or tackle. Wirfs was also a state qualifier in wrestling and a state champion in the discus, traits that seem to make him a classic fit for a Ferentz-coached line.
Late addition: Nate Wieland, LB, Iowa City. Wieland was a star quarterback who’ll shift to linebacker. He wasn’t heavily recruited, but the Hawkeyes have been known to turn overlooked local kids into All-Big Ten types.
One that got away: WR Oliver Martin. A four-star recruit from Iowa City, Martin seemed like he might be destined for Iowa. But with offers from scores of big-time programs, Martin passed on the Hawkeyes — who currently don’t have a wide receivers coach — for Michigan.
How they’ll fit in: Epenesa and incumbent edge rushers Anthony Nelson and Matt Nelson could give Iowa a chance to be elite at rushing the passer in 2017, which will be crucial since the Hawkeyes will have a pair of new cornerbacks. The Hawkeyes will also have to hope at least one of their new wideouts can make an immediate impact.
Top 25 Class: Yes
Best in class: Anthony McFarland, RB, Bowie, Maryland. McFarland is the nation’s third-ranked all-purpose back and No. 2 player in Maryland by Rivals.com.
Best of the rest: Markquese Bell, WR, Bridgeton, New Jersey, Breyon Gaddy, DT, Virginia Beach; Deon Jones, DB, Oxon Hill, Maryland, Kasim Hill, QB, Washington, D.C.
Late addition: Four-star wide receiver Tahj Capehart flipped his commitment from Virginia Tech to Maryland. The Virginia Beach resident was one of the first recruits to fax his national letter-of-intent to the coaching staff, doing so at 7:50 on Wednesday morning.
One that got away: Five-star defensive lineman Josh Kaindoh de-committed in late November. Kaindoh, rated the nation’s second-best strong-side defensive end by most scouting services, wound up signing with Florida State.
How they’ll fit in: Eight of Maryland’s recruits enrolled early and began taking classes when the spring term began on Jan. 25. Five of those were defensive backs, a major need position for the Terps. Markquese Bell could contribute right away in the secondary. “When Markquese walks in the room he looks like an NFL safety,” coach DJ Durkin said. Cornerback Alex Woods is a transfer from Lackawanna Community College who was brought in to provide immediate help.
Top 25 Class: Yes.
Best in class: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Detroit.
Best of the rest: Cesar Ruiz, C, Camden, New Jersey; Luiji Vilain, WR, Alexandria, Virginia; Drew Singleton, LB, Union, New Jersey, and Littleton, Colorado, QB Dylan McCaffrey, the son of former NFL player Ed McCaffrey and brother of former Stanford star Christian McCaffrey.
Late additions: Aubrey Solomon, DT, Leesburg, Georgia, and Nico Collins, WR, Pinson, Alabama.
Ones that got away: LB Willie Gay chose to stay closer to home and attend Mississippi State and Utah DT Jay Tufele accepted an offer from USC.
How they’ll fit in: Peoples-Jones, ranked as one the top players at any position and The Associated Press Division 1-2 Player of the Year in 2016, will have a shot to step in and play right away because Michigan is without departed receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Peoples-Jones has already enrolled in classes, putting him in a position to practice with the Wolverines this spring. Vilain, Collins, Tarik Black, Brad Hawkins and Oliver Martin also will have an opportunity to compete for playing time.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: Kevin Jarvis, G, Park Ridge, Illinois. The 6-foot-5, 335-pound Jarvis did not allow a sack his senior season while helping Maine South to an Illinois state championship.
Best of the rest: Matt Dotson, TE, Kenwood, Ohio; Hunter Rison, WR, Ann Arbor; Antjuan Simmons, LB, Ypsilanti. Dotson caught 25 passes for 448 yards as a senior at Archbishop Moeller High School in Ohio. Simmons played linebacker and running back at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor.
Late addition: C.J. Hayes, WR, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Hayes flipped from Purdue to Michigan State late in the process, telling Scout.com it was a difficult decision.
One that got away: Ambry Thomas, DB, Detroit. Thomas signed with Michigan. He is the No. 2-ranked recruit from the state of Michigan according to 247sports.com.
How they’ll fit in: Coach Mark Dantonio says Jarvis has the potential to be dominant on the offensive line, and that Dotson should compete for playing time as a freshman. Receiver R.J. Shelton was a senior, and so was standout tight end Josiah Price, so if Dotson and Rison develop quickly, that would help a Michigan State team that went 3-9 this past season.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: Blaise Andries, OL, Marshall, Minn. The 6-foot-5, 299-pound tackle was widely considered the best prospect in Minnesota, and he chose to stay in-state even after the coaching staff he committed to was fired. The Gophers have struggled with injuries up front for several years, and Andries gives them a top-shelf road grader to build around.
Best of the rest: Tanner Morgan, QB, Union, Ky. Originally committed to Fleck at Western Michigan and followed him to Minnesota. Morgan is a strong-armed, pro-style QB who turned down an offer from Louisville.
Late addition: Demetrius Douglas, WR, Portland, Ore. The son of former Gophers standout Omar Douglas, Demetrius originally committed to Oregon before deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps.
One that got away: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, CB, Newark, N.J. Committed verbally to Minnesota on Sunday, but announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he was headed to rival Iowa.
How they’ll fit in: With a new regime in charge of a team that won the Holiday Bowl despite the drama that played out within the program, this recruiting class will likely have several members who can compete for playing time right away. That could include Morgan, who is part of a muddled quarterback group. Three-year starter Mitch Leidner graduated and three other quarterbacks have uncertain futures at the school as the investigation plays out.
Top 25 Class: Yes.
Best in class: WR Tyjon Lindsey out of Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas. Riley and receivers coach Keith Williams earned a big victory by getting the four-star to de-commit from Ohio State in mid-January. Lindsey’s combination of speed and strength make him a great fit for Riley’s offense, and he also could be a factor in the return game.
Best of the rest: QB Tristan Gebbia of Calabasas, California. The all-time leading passer in the CIF Southern Section, Gebbia is a four-star January enrollee who will join the competition with junior Tanner Lee and redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien in the spring.
Late addition: DB Elijah Blades of Pasadena, California, is a four-star who’s ranked among the top 50 players in the country by 247sports.com.
One that got away: WR Jamire Calvin, a four-star WR out of Los Angeles, made a signing-day decision to go to Washington State after verbally committing to Nebraska last week.
How they’ll fit in: All three receivers are four-stars and will be in line for playing time with the departure of three seniors at that position. LB Avery Roberts and DE Guy Thomas have a chance to play right away in the new 3-4 system being installed by new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: Earnest Brown, a four-star recruit from Aubrey, Texas, is rated the No. 6 DE in the nation by 247sports.com. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder recorded 80 tackles last season for Billy Ryan High, with 36 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Best of the rest: DT Sam Miller of Houston made 220 career tackles at Stratford High. The 6-3, 260-pounder is ranked among the top 20 players at his position in the country and No. 2 in Texas, according to Scout.com.
Late addition: LB Chee Anyanwu, a three-star recruit from Buford, Georgia, gave his verbal commitment on Jan. 21. Most of the work on this class was finished by late summer.
One that got away: TE Bryce Wolma, a three-star from Saline, Michigan, flipped from the Wildcats to Arizona in April.
How they’ll fit in: The Wildcats are losing three senior LBs who were listed as backups and DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, who ranked among the Big Ten leaders with 10 sacks. There’ll be opportunity for immediate playing time in the front seven, especially for Brown, who stuck to his commitment despite getting an offer from Ohio State last spring.
Top 25 Class: Yes
Best in class: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, South Grand Prairie, Texas. With the loss of starters Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore, the 6-1½, 190-pound Okudah could start immediately. He could also get a look at safety to fill the hole left by All-American Malik Hooker, who declared for the draft.
Best of the rest: Chase Young, DE, Hyattsville, Maryland. The 6-5, 251-pounder enters crowded field of Ohio State defensive linemen, including veteran starters Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis. He’s been rated the second-best defensive end prospect in the nation.
Late addition: Thayer Munford, a 6-foot-6, 320 pound offensive tackle from Massillon, Ohio, chose Ohio State Wednesday over 15 other offers.
One that got away: Four-star wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey from Las Vegas committed to the Buckeyes last summer, then backed off and chose Nebraska.
How they’ll fit in: Okudah, 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade from Jacksonville, Florida, and the other DBs will get a chance to contribute immediately. Five-star recruits Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis could provide some depth on an offensive line that struggled at times last season. Running back J.K. Dobbins — rated the best all-purpose back in the country despite sitting his entire senior season with an injury — could be utilized in all sorts of ways in an offense that lost its best playmaker, H-back Curtis Samuel, to the draft. Baron Browning can play all three linebacker spots and could see significant minutes right away. Four-star dual-threat quarterback Tate Martell from Las Vegas also joins a crowded stable of quarterbacks led by J.T. Barrett, and will compete with Joe Burrow and others to be Barrett’s backup.
Top 25 Class: Yes
Best in class: Lamont Wade, CB, Clairton, Pennsylvania. Analysts consider Wade the fifth best cornerback recruit in the country. Penn State coaches like his versatility — he excelled in coverage at Clairton HS and his 5-foot-9 frame didn’t limit him in run support, where he was often a physical menace.
Best of the rest: CJ Thorpe, OG, Pittsburgh.
Late addition: Ellis Brooks, LB, Richmond, Virginia.
One that got away: Dylan Rivers. The Virginia linebacker flipped his commitment to Virginia Tech just 10 days before signing day.
How they’ll fit in: With most of its starters returning, Penn State will likely take a stash-and-develop approach this class. Watch the front seven, however. Penn State likes to use a deep rotation and considering the Nittany Lions are thin at DT and LB, a few new defenders could earn early playing time.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: S T.K. Jallow, East Mississippi C.C. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Jallow not only fills a big need, he arrives on campus with experience and could become an immediate contributor.
Best of the rest: WR Isaac Zico, Georgia Military College, and Wright, Coffeyville C.C., should help fill the void left by four receivers who graduated. Smart, Northeast Mississippi CC, has the size to start at tackle in the Big Ten immediately.
Late addition: WR Terry Wright. In the weeks leading up to signing day, he made the rounds visiting schools such as Boise State and Houston. But when Wright made his decision Sunday, Purdue came out the winner.
One that got away: WR C.J. Hayes. The 6-3, 200-pounder from Kentucky originally committed to the Boilermakers in June and stuck to that commitment — until Tuesday, when he announced he’d play at Michigan State.
How they’ll fit in: New coach Jeff Brohm only nabbed two players from Indiana. But by bringing in seven freshmen from Florida and three from Georgia, there’s a chance those newcomers could emerge as key contributors this fall, too.
Top 25 Class: No
Best in class: Micah Clark, OL, Holmdel, New Jersey, who already has enrolled and will participate in spring drills next month.
Best of the rest: Bo Melton, WR, Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. The son of a former Scarlet Knight receiver Gary Melton had roughly 30 offers but went to school attended by his parents. Tyshon Fogg, LB, Baltimore. Ranked second best in Maryland and No.23 overall by Rivals. Samuel Vretman, OT, Cheshire Academy, Connecticut. Johnathan Lewis, QB, Jersey City. “He’s big, he’s got a strong arm and he makes great decisions. He can run,” Ash said.
Late addition: Raheem Blackshear, RB, Warminster, Pennsylvania. The Archbishop Wood Catholic was the last of Rutgers 29 recruits, announcing his plans at 2:30 p.m. He rushed for 1,257 yards and 19 touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 433 yards.
One that got away: Bryce Watts, CB-WR, Toms Rivers. He signed with Virginia Tech after Scarlet Knights cornerbacks coach Aaron Henry left for North Carolina State.
How they’ll fit in: After failing to win a conference game last season and posting a 2-10 overall mark, the new class is going to get a chance to compete for starting jobs. Ash refused to say whether they would make Rutgers a better team. He likes their character and competitive spirit, noting that they are big, strong and fast.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: OG Kayden Lyles, Middleton, Wisconsin. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound son of former Badgers player Kevin Lyles and the younger brother of QB Kare Lyles, who redshirted last season. Lyles was raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, before moving to the suburb of Madison for his senior year .
Best of the rest: OT Tyler Beach, Grafton, Wisconsin; OG Logan Bruss, Kimberly, Wisconsin; Coan; WR Danny Davis , Springfield, Ohio; OG Alex Fenton, Menomonie, Wisconsin; TE Jake Ferguson, Madison, Wisconsin; WR Cade Green, Austin, Texas; RB Jonathan Taylor, Salem, New Jersey; LB Andrew Van Ginkel , Rock Valley, Iowa; QB Danny Vanden Boom, Kimberly, Wisconsin.
Late addition: Davis. Four-star recruit announced his decision at afternoon news conference at school. Also took official visits to Kentucky and West Virginia.
One who got away: DL Juan Harris, Janesville, Wisconsin. Many of state’s top prospects stay home, but Badgers weren’t among his finalists. Three-star recruit from Parker High School picked Indiana over several other Big Ten offers.
How they’ll fit in: Van Ginkel is the most likely to see immediate playing time this season, with the loss of Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt at the outside spots. Van Ginkel started his college career at South Dakota and was the Missouri Valley conference freshman of the year in 2015. He played last season for Iowa Western Community College.
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)