2021 Big Ten West Recruiting Rankings
1. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin appears to be done with all the cute recruit-to-a-type stuff – which is really code for “we can’t get the good recruits.” Obviously it has all worked out just fine for the program over the years, but it hit a hard ceiling on how high it can get. With this class, it’s upping the potential with a loaded group of offensive linemen and defensive backs leading the school’s best haul of talent in a long, long time.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
It checks boxes. The Huskers are getting even more athletic, they’re getting more pass catching options, and they’re doing enough for the offensive line to hope to be better in the near future. There might not be a lot of obvious star power, but in come the tight ends – who could be positioned elsewhere – in come the linebackers, and in comes a good overall class that probably won’t get enough attention.
3. Iowa Hawkeyes
This isn’t a backhanded compliment, but it’s a fantastic class for Iowa. There aren’t any superstars who were wanted by the elite of the elite, but it’s a class full of prospects who fit what Iowa likes to do but with a little more talent than normal. There isn’t a whole lot for the skill spots or the defensive line, but the offensive front is loaded and at least one of the good-looking linebackers will end up being a big deal.
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers
There are a whole lot of good prospects, but not too many elite ones. That hasn’t mattered in the past under PJ Fleck – he’s finding guys who turn into stars around a good base of prospects – and now he’s bringing in a slew of good-looking receivers looking to follow in the NFL footsteps of some recent playmakers, and there’s a little something for everywhere on both sides.
5. Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern has to nail it when it comes to its recruits and it did that. It’s not a big class and there’s no strength-in-numbers thing here, but the top gets are all starting-caliber. Few programs in the Big Ten do a better job of micro-targeting – you can’t just get anyone to play for Northwestern – and this class should be a perfect example.
6. Purdue Boilermakers
It’s not great, but this is coming off a terrific 2019 recruiting season. There are a few stars, and there’s quality over the quantity, but it’s a smallish class without a lot of pop. The offensive linemen are solid, and there are a few good receivers who’ll quickly be a part of the fun, but there isn’t enough of a splash, Expect the 2022 group to be a whole lot stronger.
7. Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois had a way of signing one or three really, really big prospects a year under Lovie Smith, but that’s always dangerous – if they don’t all work out the class is just okay. Bret Bielema didn’t get any time to work in a lost recruiting year, and it’s a smallish class without any true sure-thing superstar.