It’s time to dip into the Big Ten recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions. We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered. We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter to @bbournival or @TomVH. Feel free to email us as well at firstname.lastname@example.org or TomVHESPN@gmail.com.
@UMKirwin12: What three players in this class fit the biggest need for their team and will have the biggest impact on their freshmen season?
TomVanHaaren: There are names that stick out to me, but it doesn’t mean the other commitments in different classes aren’t important to their respective teams.
Peppers is the top-ranked cornerback in the nation and will provide Michigan with something the defense doesn’t currently have. He has excellent size and speed and will be able to cover receivers, but also help in the run game. He is versatile enough to stay in the game in any situation Michigan’s defense will be put in, which makes him very valuable.
For Michigan State, the offensive line has been a concern, so landing Allen is a big deal. He might not make an impact his freshman season, because that’s often difficult for offensive linemen, but he will eventually make an impact. He is the perfect fit at center and should help anchor the line for the future.
At Penn State, outside of Allen Robinson the second leading receiver was a tight end. There are some young receivers on the roster, but landing Thompkins was a big deal. He’s a playmaker and a fluid receiver that will help that offense once Robinson is gone. He isn’t talked about much, but he was an excellent pickup for the Nittany Lions.
@Wesley20: What is going on with Ohio State commitment Marcelys Jones?
Brad Bournival: There are rumors the offensive guard -- and first pledge of the 2014 recruiting class -- will take an official visit on Nov. 9 for the LSU game at Alabama, he texted me that he wasn’t.
The truth is, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jones joins ESPN 300 teammates Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith, who already have lined up official visits for that date, down in Alabama.
That said, I don’t think there is reason to worry. Urban Meyer knew Jones was going on the southern tour with his teammates back in July and if Jones heads to Alabama for the visit, he’ll clear it with Ohio State. Throughout all of this, the three-star guard has steadfastly said he was a Buckeye.
@GPF4GOBLUE: Is Michigan still the front runner in recruiting Malik McDowell?
VanHaaren: I believe so. McDowell has said that he wants to wait to make his decision, but it looks like nothing has changed.
McDowell’s parents accompanied him on his last trip to Ann Arbor and they were blown away. His father said he is rooting for Michigan, but letting his son make his own decision.
Anytime you can convince the parents to get on board that is always a positive. McDowell is saying he wants to take visits, but we will see how everything actually plays out.
Bournival: Cotton’s trip earlier in the month was a success and Young has an official visit lined up with Indiana on Sept. 20, which is the weekend the Hoosiers play Missouri.
Cotton has Indiana in the mix along with Iowa State and Syracuse, but I still think he’s the Hoosiers to lose.
As for Young, seniors take their official visits quite seriously, so Indiana grabbing one of the five allotted trips for the standout wide receiver out of Gainesville, Fla., is a big deal.
Matt, Chicago: Whose recruiting class in the Big Ten surprises you the most, or who do you think has a sleeper class for 2014?
VanHaaren: Michigan and Ohio State have highly ranked classes for a reason. They have outstanding prospects committed and are filling many needs. I am excluding them from this question because those two are somewhat expected.
I think there are two schools that stick out that people aren’t really talking about and those are Northwestern and Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have three ESPN 300 commitments with five commitments ranked as four-stars. The coaching staff is filling a need at receiver with Thompkins and also Chris Godwin.
Looking at Northwestern’s class, the Wildcats have done an excellent job playing off the success of the 2012 season and still have a chance to land some top players, including three ESPN 300 prospects. So for me, those two classes stand out for potentially adding excellent value to their respective teams.
@BuckeyesCubs10: Will anyone stop Ohio State and Michigan from having another 10-year war?
Bournival: It absolutely can happen. What Bill O’Brien has done in his short time at Penn State is amazing in its own right. He landed a top 25 class in his first full recruiting year with the Nittany Lions and is working on another this year despite the NCAA sanctions. When the sanctions are gone and if O’Brien is still there, he’ll likely be a thorn in the side of both the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
Then there is Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Badgers know exactly how to market their brand and remain a contender almost every year. The Cornhuskers have put together four straight seasons of nine wins or more as well. Both schools will be in the West Division next year, which isn’t the gauntlet the East is so a trip to the Big Ten championship game will be an easier road for both schools.