While much of the sports world has screeched to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic, there is one particular corner of it that appears to be rolling along with little or no change: college football recruiting.
Prospects are forbidden from visiting campuses and coaches are not allowed to visit prospects currently, but that doesn’t mean that recruiting was ever going to stop. Just look at the amount of talent that committed to Big Ten schools in March.
Ohio State is once again off to an elite start with a class that will once again rank among the nation’s best, while Michigan has some blue-chip talent in the fold and Penn State is off to a big -- literally -- start in the trenches. But there are some perennial Big Ten East doormats who are making things interesting in the early going, too.
Here’s a look at where the Big Ten recruiting rankings stand entering April.
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14. Michigan State Spartans | National rank: n/a
The Spartans offseason has featured upheaval with Mark Dantonio’s sudden retirement in February and the subsequent hiring of Mel Tucker from Colorado. Given the circumstances, the timing is not ideal, and Michigan State was already operating from behind. It’s the only Big Ten team with zero commits at this juncture.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini | National rank: 69
Illinois got its quarterback for the 2021 class in December. DeSoto (Texas) quarterback Samari Collier is a three-star recruit, the No. 31 dual-threat quarterback in the country, the No. 132 prospect in Texas and No. 974 overall prospect in the class. He’s the lone commit for Lovie Smith so far.
12. Indiana Hoosiers | National rank: 58
The Hoosiers have one commit for 2021 so far: three-star defensive end Rodney McGraw. The 6-foot-5, 223-pound McGraw checks in as the No. 8 player in Indiana, the No. 24 weak-side defensive end nationally and No. 438 overall prospect. He committed at the end of January. Incidentally, Indiana’s 2020 class also ranked No. 12 in the Big Ten and No. 58 nationally.
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11. Northwestern Wildcats | National rank: 46
Northwestern picked up all three of its commitments in March, including two in the past week or so. Three-star offensive tackle Caleb Tiernan committed Saturday, and he’s the No. 11 player in Michigan, No. 32 tackle nationally and No. 370 overall prospect. The other two commits are three-star athlete Donnie Gray and three-star guard Josh Thompson.
10. Purdue Boilermakers | National rank: 42
Purdue added its third commit in March in three-star cornerback Brandon Calloway, who is the No. 84 player in California and No. 97 cornerback nationally. The Boilermakers’ headliner currently is three-star wide receiver Preston Terrell, who is the No. 9 player in Indiana, the No. 89 wide receiver nationally and the No. 572 overall prospect in the class.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions | National rank: 34
Penn State’s Class of 2021 is off to a literally massive start. Four-star offensive tackle Langdon Tengwall, who checks in at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, committed this month to join three-star guard Nate Bruce, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 320 pounds. Tengwall was a significant get for the Lions, and he’s the No. 1 player in Maryland, No. 7 offensive tackle nationally and No. 45 overall prospect in the class. The third commit for James Franklin is three-star athlete Liam Clifford.
Read more: How to fix Penn State’s biggest weakness in 2020; Kerry Collins praises James Franklin, and more
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers | National rank: 22
Scott Frost has a pair of four-stars atop his class in South Dakota linebacker Randolph Kpai, the top player in his state and the No. 16 outside linebacker in the country, and Nebraska offensive tackle Teddy Prochazka, who is the No. 2 prospect in the state and No. 22 at his poisition nationally. Prochazka is listed at 6-foot-8, 280 pounds, which is large. The most recent addition to the class in March was three-star linebacker Christopher Paul Jr., who is the No. 50 player in Colorado, the No. 26 inside linebacker nationally and the No. 641 overall prospect.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers | National rank: 20
P.J. Fleck has five commits in the fold for 2021 with four-star quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis as the top-rated recruit in the class. Kaliakmanis is the No. 6 player in Illinois, the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback nationally and the No. 293 overall prospect in the class.
6. Michigan Wolverines | National rank: 17
Jim Harbaugh snagged two commits in the past week with four-star guard Greg Crippen and three-star defensive end Dominick Giudice joining the fold. Crippen, a prospect from IMG Academy, is the No. 30 player in Florida, No. 11 guard nationally and No. 222 overall prospect in the class, while Giudice is the No. 38 player in New Jersey and No. 57 weak-side defensive end nationally.
Harbaugh’s headliner is five-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who is the No. 1 player in Illinois, No. 2 pro-style quarterback nationally and the No. 13 prospect in the class. McCarthy is one of four five-star recruits currently committed to Big Ten schools. It’s not a tough guess as to where the other three are committed…
Read more: NFL Mock Draft 2020: Eagles get a wide receiver, Ravens get a linebacker and a Penn State pass rusher goes in top 25
5. Rutgers Scarlet Knights | National rank: 11
Whoa, hello, Rutgers. It’s been a while up here. New coach Greg Schiano has gotten to work in his return to New Jersey, and there have already been plenty of rewards. Rutgers hasn’t signed a four-star recruit since 2017, but Schiano secured the commitment of four-star linebacker Khayri Banton last week. Banton is the No. 7 player in New Jersey, the No. 23 outside linebacker nationally and the No. 289 overall prospect in the class. Of the 10 commits in the class, five rank in the top 13 prospects in New Jersey. That’s a significant start for Schiano and the Scarlet Knights.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes | National rank: 10
Iowa picked up its eighth commitment in March in three-star athlete Cooper DeJean, who ranks as the No. 11 player in Iowa, the No. 52 athlete nationally and No. 614 overall prospect. It’s not a surprise that the top-ranked recruit in the class is an offensive lineman, with four-star guard Connor Colby, the No. 3 player in Iowa and No. 228 overall prospect leading the way.
3. Maryland Terrapins | National rank: 9
The Terps scored a major win last week when they secured the commitment of four-star defensive end Demeioun Robinson, ranked by some services as the top player in Maryland. In the 247Sports composite, Robinson is the No. 3 in-state player, the No. 2 weak-side defensive end nationally and No. 48 overall prospect. That’s a big win for Mike Locksley, who has nine commitment from prospects in the talent-rich “DMV” region.
Read more: A Penn State commit, Harrisburg’s Nate Bruce tries to put together 'OLU’ with the Nittany Lions
2. Wisconsin Badgers | National rank: 7
The Badgers are off to a nice start for 2021 with three four-star commits who rank in the top 200 nationally. They have commitments from the top five players in Wisconsin and the top player in Minnesota. The newest addition to the class in March was three-star linebacker Jake Chaney, who is the No. 106 player in Florida, No. 29 inside linebacker nationally and No. 723 overall prospect in the class.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes | National rank: 1
Surprise, surprise: The Buckeyes are on top. In its 15-member class, Ohio State has three five-stars and 10 four-stars, with all but three ranking inside the top 150 nationally. The recruits who joined the class in March are a talented bunch: five-star running back TreVeyon Henderson, four-star cornerback Jakailin Johnson, four-star running back Evan Pryor, four-star safety Andre Turrentine and three-star cornerback Devonta Smith. Not bad when much of the country is shut down. Ryan Day has the Buckeye machine rolling.