National Signing Day: Where Iowa stands among Big Ten's early signing period classes

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

After a bizarre fall football season where some states didn’t play and those that did played in front of bleachers a whole lot emptier than normal, the early signing period is finally here.

And, like usual, the Big Ten Conference is signing some of the country’s top talent.

According to the 247Sports Composite, seven of the top 25 recruiting classes in the national rankings belong to Big Ten schools. That’s second only to the SEC’s eight.

When looking at individual prospects, seven of the country’s top 25 recruits have signed with Big Ten schools, again, second only to the SEC’s eight.

Here’s USA TODAY Sports’ breakdown of the early signing period efforts in the Big Ten:

Ohio State coach Ryan Day watches during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Rutgers on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 49-27. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Ohio State continues to dominate

When it comes to Big Ten recruiting, Ryan Day and his Buckeyes continue to exist on a level entirely their own. So far in 2021, Ohio State has signed five five-star recruits and seven more in the top 100.

Consider this: Their lowest-ranked signee is No. 411 in the country.

What will be the Michigan fallout?

Although nothing has been publicly stated, many assume Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh’s job is in jeopardy after his most disappointing season in Ann Arbor. Although the Wolverines did sign huge targets in five-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy and four-star running back Donovan Edwards, they also lost four-star defensive end Quinton Somerville to UCLA and  four-star linebacker Branden Jennings to Maryland.

Mike Locksley keeps doing his thing

After bringing in the country’s No. 31 recruiting class last year, second-year Maryland head coach Mike Locksley has signed what will likely wind up a top-25 class. The headliners are four-star defensive end Demeioun Robinson and Jennings, the Michigan flip. Locksley is known as an offensive guru, so what might be most impressive is the fact that his nine highest-rated 2021 recruits are all on the defensive side of the ball.

Despite rough start to year, Iowa brings in best-ever class

Kirk Ferentz was able to sign arguably his best-ever recruiting class on Wednesday, despite his program getting the wrong kind of attention when allegations of racial bias against Black former players emerged shortly before the season began. Iowa lost just one commitment in Florida three-star defensive back Jordan Oladokun, who is Black.

More:Bain: 10 thoughts on Iowa football's 2021 early signing day class

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz gets his team ready for Wisconsin on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

Big Ten’s top early signing classes

1. Ohio State: Buckeyes are in a league of their own. Day has as much recruiting momentum as any college coach in the country right now.

2. Michigan: Despite the turmoil facing Michigan’s program, the Wolverines have been able to sign one five-star recruit and seven four-star targets so far. Not bad for most programs ... especially one that seems to be in a state of disarray. 

3. Wisconsin: About as consistent as you can get on the recruiting trail, the Badgers have landed yet another solid class full of four-star and high-three-star talent.

4. Maryland: Locksley has the Terps competitive for some of the country’s premier prospects. Robinson committed to Maryland back in May over just about every school you can imagine.

5. Iowa: You expect the Hawkeyes to sign elite offensive linemen, which they did. But this receiver trio of four-star recruit Keagan Johnson and three-star talents Brody Brecht and Arland Bruce IV is Ferentz’s best in a long time.

6. Penn State: Another potential fallout situation to watch. The Nittany Lions have signed five four-star recruits, and that’s great. But if James Franklin gets fired, who leaves?

Iowa high school tight end Thomas Fidone, the nation's top-ranked tight end recruit, will play at childhood favorite Nebraska.

7. Nebraska: Despite an iffy first few years on the field, Scott Frost continues to recruit well. His 2021 class is no different, headlined by the country’s No. 1 tight end in Iowa four-star recruit Thomas Fidone.

8. Minnesota: The Gophers signed a potential star quarterback in four-star Illinois product Athan Kaliakmanis, who was an early verbal pledge that remained loyal. He’s one of four four-star signees so far.

9. Michigan State: Mel Tucker was able to secure a huge, last-second addition in four-star linebacker Ma’a Gaoteote, who flipped from USC on Wednesday.

10. Indiana: The Hoosiers signed two of the country’s most exciting skill-position prospects in Atlanta receiver Jaquez Smith, a four-star prospect, and Indianapolis quarterback Donovan McCulley, who’s considered a top-10 dual-threat talent.

11. Rutgers: Greg Schiano landed a pair of four-star recruits from New Jersey in Alijah Clark Khayri Banton.

12. Northwestern: The Wildcats were able to fend off much of the rest of the Big Ten for four-star Illinois linebacker Mac Uihlein, who is Pat Fitzgerald’s gem of the class.

13. Purdue: Although it’s a significant drop-off from last year, Purdue’s 2021 class does include a pair of talented receivers in Preston Terrell and Deion Burks, plus offensive lineman Marcus Mbow, who was one of the best remaining Midwest talents.

14. Illinois: The Illini have already lost two pledges since firing Lovie Smith.

Top 2021 signees of the early signing period

Jack Sawyer, DE (247Sports Composite No. 4): A five-star pass-rusher with a college-ready, 6-5, 250-pound frame. College choice: Ohio State

Emeka Egbuka, WR (247Sports Composite No. 9): The best receiver in the class, this 6-1 Washington product can catch anything thrown his way. College choice: Ohio State

Nolan Rucci, OT (247Sports Composite No. 15): A massive, 6-8, 295-pound immovable object who could be among the Big Ten’s best before long. College choice: Wisconsin

Donovan Jackson, OG (247Sports Composite No. 17): Another huge (6-4, 310 pounds) lineman who moves incredibly well for his size. College choice: Ohio State

J.J. McCarthy, QB (247Sports Composite No. 22): A 6-3, 190-pound pro-style quarterback who has all the makings of an excellent college signal-caller. College choice: Michigan

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.