Big Ten recruiting, 2013.
You may be aware that the Big Ten has not been too good at football of late. You are probably also aware that Ohio State and Michigan are locked in a titanic struggle for the sexiest recruiting class, one featuring players like Jabrill Peppers, Vonn Bell, Derrick Green, and Jalin Marshall. The opposing sides in The Game had top five recruiting classes last year according to the 247 composite rankings, with OSU second and Michigan fifth. So far this year Michigan is first and Ohio State ninth.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is flailing. The next Big Ten team on the list was #22 Nebraska; #30 Penn State—NCAA-crippled Penn State—followed. That concludes our list of Big Ten teams with better-than average recruiting classes amongst the 60 or so BCS teams.
Here is a team that finished higher than all but the mentioned Big Ten teams.
Kentucky. A team that stopped releasing attendance numbers. Mississippi State, Vandy, Baylor, and Virginia beat all these teams plus Penn State out. It was not so good out there last year.
Surely that's a flu…
Kentucky has six OH commits. Non-MI/OSU B10 combined: 7.
…mother of God. Everyone on that list has a Big Ten offer from a school that has been something other than a depressing blight on the idea of sport during the last ten years. (Ok, it depends on how you classify Illinois. They went to a Rose Bowl, but also: Illinois.) What's more, Tennessee has gotten in on the raiding, snatching three kids out of the Midwest.
What follows is a brief survey of the Big Ten's footprint recruiting areas. Prepare for carnage. Before we start, I should mention that despite being under extraordinarily punitive NCAA sanctions, Penn State has four-star recruits from Delaware and North Carolina and is currently holding on to a top 20 spot in the rankings. They'll slide back down to where they were last year before things are said and done because they will have a tiny class, but Penn State is retaining its recruiting cachet as well as—probably better than—they could have hoped. Once they're out from under the yoke they should quickly excise themselves from Little X talk.
Nebraska, too, consistently recruits at a level above most of the rest of the league even if they're off to a poor start this year. This is more about the conference's traditional middle class.
DeShone Kizer's top three is Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee. He has an offer from only the latter.
Ohio State is going for half of the 16 consensus four-stars, with six already in the boat and the probable acquisition of the two main Glenville kids this year. Michigan has one, Michael Ferns. Northwestern has one, Dariean Watkins. The four other guys are probably headed to Alabama or OSU (Derek Kief), ND or Kentucky (Darius West), Louisville (Daniel Cage), and somewhere in the SEC (DeShone Kizer).
Yes. There is one four-star in Ohio who will head to a Big Ten program not named Michigan or Ohio State.
It gets worse. One of the next nine guys (QB Chris Durkin, MSU) is committed to a Big Ten school. Three are headed to Kentucky or Tennessee. None of the other five have publicly stated a leader but Kentucky and Louisville are involved with three and two more are up in the air.
It is likely that only two or three of the top 25 guys in Ohio end up in the rest of the league.
TOP 25, APPROX. NUMBER OF RECRUITS HEADING TO VARIOUS PLACES:
- OSU/M: 10
- L12: 3
- GTFO: 12
top 100 linebacker Nyles Morgan favors… Vanderbilt
Illinois is going to be chaos and depression for the middle class of the Big Ten. The top ten kids are either headed to the Big Two (Bunting, Westphal, and Jamarco Jones), committed to another conference (Watson, Helm, Wilbon), or headed that direction (Clifton Garrett, Nyles Morgan, and Dewayne Hendrix are all headed south). Northwestern is the only L12 team to pick off a four-star kid from Illinois.
It's a little less grim as you head down to 25. Northwestern and MSU have five of those guys, OSU has one, and it looks like a few more will end up in the league. The top is just a disaster, though.
- OSU/M: 3
- L12: 10, 1 of them in the top ten
- GTFO: 12
Three of the four consensus four stars are off the board to M/OSU with Malik McDowell strongly expected to join the club. Michigan also has #10 Moe Ways. The Big Ten held on to most of the other guys in State except Chance Stewart, who bizarrely decommitted from Wisconsin and chose WMU shortly thereafter.
Michigan remains loyal, if a little talent-sparse.
Dominique Booth's top four: Tennessee, FSU, Vandy, Alabama.
The top player in the state has no Big Ten teams in his top four; OSU is the only one on the list of #2. ND and OSU have 3 and 5 committed, respectively. Louisville and Kentucky are heavily involved with #4. The next five guys are still fuzzy, with Purdue favored for a couple, if only because they seem interested while others are not.
if Dravon Henry stays in the B10 it will be at OSU or PSU
Pennsylvania has always been more up for grabs because anyone from the Eastern part of the state doesn't think of the Big Ten as local, so it's less of a surprise when things have a more national feel. Even so, only Penn State has made any headway in PA. They have 3 of the top 20. Michigan has one, and then Temple, BC, WVU and FSU also have one. The rest of the Big Ten? Zero. 247 projects that number will stay at zero, with Pitt, OSU, and Michigan cleaning up.
- OSU/M: 4
- L12: 8, almost all of them to Penn State
- GTFO: 8
WISCONSIN AND SMALL STATES
The top five players in Wisconsin are committed to the Badgers. Good job, Wisconsin. Here are some cheese curds for you.
Iowa is doing similarly well in Iowa, with three of the six guys 247 rates committed, and a fourth probably on the way.
Nebraska has a commit from one of the two guys they've offered in-state and should get the second.
Minnesota has a soft verbal from the top kid in the state and may lose the second; everyone else is not the kind of recruit that would make Minnesota anything other than Minnesota.
THE NEW FOOTPRINT
Big Ten schools not named Michigan and Rutgers have zero of the top 20 in NJ. Penn State has the #5 kid in Maryland, and that's the only B10 commit in that State. Maryland is supposed to get a couple, and PSU may get a couple more.
This is where I mention that recruiting is not destiny. Wisconsin has never been particularly good at it in the eyes of the gurus but has turned themselves into a major program by keeping everyone they have for five years—Bielema just had a class of 13 guys, because Wisconsin only had room for 13 guys—and hewing to a system that works for the kind of players they can access. It remains to be seen whether they can keep that going without a hand-picked transition like Alvarez-to-Bielema. Similarly, Michigan State's classes have been almost devoid of attrition and they have locked into a stable defensive style that has produced.
Recruiting is kind of destiny, though: Wisconsin has reached the last three Rose Bowls. It has lost all of them. Witness any Big Ten program against Alabama. Football is random and rankings are not perfect, but if you're at the bottom any success you have is pushing uphill.
The slope of that hill is about to become alarming. It bodes unwell for the Big Ten's middle class that the gap between themselves and the heavyweights is growing, especially when it comes not only from the two at the top improving on historically good classes but from the meat-and-potatoes kids they've relied on for so long opting to leave the conference. Every kid in Ohio who opts for Kentucky or Tennessee or Louisville is virtually irreplaceable for programs whose recruiting reach outside the Midwest is limited to scrabbling for guys without Vandy offers.
Northwestern is the exception. With their committed niche offense and recent success they'll be a thorn in the side of anyone whose defense can't handle the spread. If they can just get their defense to middling, it's on in the West.