Nebraska Recruiting, Michigan and the rest of the B1G

Submitted by UMgradMSUdad on May 20th, 2012 at 2:13 PM


Since Nebraska has moved to the B1G, I thought it would be interesting to look at their recruiting efforts, especially in B1G territory, and how that might affect Michigan and other B1G teams. So, I created two tables: the first table shows which states Nebraska recruits; the other table shows which B1G teams Nebraska successfully recruited against for players in the B1G footprint.

A few caveats before I discuss the tables: I only used Rivals data which provides just general information about recruiting and recruits and likely has some inaccuracies, 2013 recruiting is incomplete, and there are too few years with Nebraska in the B1G and Brady Hoke at Michigan to make truly informed statements about trends in Nebraska recruiting and how that affects Michigan.  Also, I did not look at how many players Michigan successfully recruited that Nebraska was also recruiting.  I see these tables and discussion as a starting point, not some final, fully supported claim.

Year Total # NE TX Other Big 12 OH Other B1G Coach
2002 21 7 2 0 0 MI 2* Solich
2003 19 5 6 2 0 MI 3*, IL 3* Solich
2004 20 5 1 3 0 IL 2*, 2*, MN 4*, 3* Callahan
2005 32 3 3 7 0 MN 2* Callahan
2006 22 4 1 5 0 0 Callahan
2007 27 2 7 5 0 0 Callahan
2008 28 5 9 3 2*+ 0 Pellini
2009 20 2 8 2 0 0 Pellini
2010 22 4 5 5 4 *+ IL 4*, MN 3* Pellini
2011 20 4 5 1 3*, 3* IL 4*  Pellini
2012 17 1 2 2 3*, 4* IL 3*, 4* Pellini
2013 7 1 1 0 3*, 3*+, 4*+ WI 3* Pellini

Table 1: Number of NE recruits for B1G and other areas, 2002-2013. Asterisks indicate stars (e.g., 2* is a 2 star player).  The plus sign indicates a recruit from Cardinal Mooney HS.



Bo Pelini does seem to be shifting his recruiting focus more towards the upper Midwest, especially Ohio.  This shift started before the move from the Big 12 to the B1G, but may be accelerating with the move.  Pelini has publicly commented about re-focusing on Texas:


Nebraska is not in a position to ignore Texas recruits, and Nebraska does recruit nationally, including pulling quite a few players from California through the years. But, Pelini also realizes he can’t concede the B1G country to the other B1G teams either, and being a graduate of Cardinal Mooney HS in Youngstown and of OSU has, no doubt, helped him to recruit Ohio.  In fact, four of his nine Ohio recruits have come from Cardinal Mooney HS.

Here are a couple of cool maps created by Nebraska newspapers that illustrate the recruiting of Nebraska and other B1G teams, showing where the recruits are coming from:

Year Name State Pos. Stars UM MSU IA IL IN MN NW OSU PSU PU WI ND Other
2008 Tim Marlowe OH+ Ath 2                         None
2010 Corey Cooper IL S 4   *   *   *         * * Stanford, FSU
  Braylon Heard OH+ RB 4         *       * *     WV
  Tobi Okuyemi MN DE 3 * * *     *         *    
2011 Ryan Klachko IL OG 4       * * *       *      
  Max Pirman OH LB 3         *             *  
  Kevin Williams OH DT 3 * *   * *           *   OR, Stan, WV
2012 L. Alexander OH ATH 3                         Toledo
  G. McMullen OH DE 4   *         * *   *   *  
  V. Valentine IL DT 3 * * * *     *   * *   * Alabama, OK
  J. Westerkamp IL WR 4   * * * * * *         *  
2013 Greg hart OH TE 3         *   *     *      
  Courtney Love OH+ LB 3   *   * *     *       * OK, USC, WV, 
  M. McWilson OH+ S 4   *   * *         *     WV
  A. J. Natter WI DE 3   * *     *       * *    
  Totals:     3.33 3 9 4 7 8 5 4 2 2 7 4 6


Table 2: Nebraska recruits vs.B1G.  The asterisks in each column indicate the schools who offered each player.  At the bottom, the total offers are listed (e.g., MSU offered 9 of the Nebraska recruits). Plus signs next to OH indicate players from Cardinal Mooney.



As table 2 illustrates (caveats apply), Nebraska is competing well with schools like Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, and especially Michigan State for recruits, but not so much against Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.  As a matter of fact, Nebraska seems to be quite a problem for MSU, pulling in the kind of players from Ohio and elsewhere in B1G country that State has successfully recruited under Dantonio. It seems like a win-win situation for Michigan: Nebraska, for the most part, is not successfully competing against Michigan for recruits, but it is against MSU, our in-state rival, leaving fewer players for State to pick up.



May 20th, 2012 at 7:04 PM ^

There was a decent amount of overlap in who Michigan and Nebraska recruited in the 2012 class. Four Michigan commits  turned down Nebraska (Darboh, Funchess, Ross, Strobel) and two Nebraska commits turned down Michigan (Valentine, Thurston).  There were probably several more from each class that the other school would love to have but didn't pursue.  This year they already got Lacouture at DE.

Michigan and Nebraska are going to butt heads sometimes because both are programs that can recruit well out of their home turf.

I think lumping Nebraska in with MSU is unfair to them.  MSU is generally reliant on in-state and bordering state talent.  They're not in the same class prestige-wise.

Maybe Nebraska is on the MSU/Illinois/ level when it comes to the midwest, but they're also getting 4-star types from all over the country which is extremely rare for the mid to-lower portion of the Big 10.


May 20th, 2012 at 8:55 PM ^

Thanks for the input on Michigan players that Nebraska also recruited.  I agree with you, btw, that Nebraska is on a higher level than MSU recruiting-wise. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. Nebraska definitely is a national brand: their history places them as one of the top football schools in the country, and every college football fan has heard of them.  But currently,  as you say, based on their successes, they are competing most directly with schools like MSU for players within the B1G states.  That, of course, can change, and Pellini is focusing more on the upper midwest now, but there was a period of 5 years spanning the Callahan and Pellini coaching regimes where only two players were signed from B1G states: a 2 star from MN, and a 2 star from Ohio.Pellini is starting to turn that around, but there is a lot of ground to make up. It will be interesting in the future, and having another player in the mix complicates things somewhat for the rest of the B1G, more for some teams than others.


May 21st, 2012 at 3:16 PM ^

True. Pellini himself has said, though, that he wants to concentrate more on players within 500 miles of Lincoln. That's not to say it's an either / or proposition, that he either has to focus nationally or closer to home.  Nebraska will continue to have pull nationally, in a way only a handful of other programs do; I don't dispute that.

But this transitional period from one conference to another has seemed to affect recruiting. Pellini wants to become more of a factor in B1G states (and he has already), but he can't afford to ignore the traditional Big 12 areas of recruitment.  Aside from the state of Nebraska (which I don't think is significantly affected by the change in conference affiliation), Nebraska averaged 8 players from Big 12 states per year for the past ten years, and 1.3 in B1G states over the same period (some, seemingly token 2 star players).  In 2012, Pellini signed 4 players from Big 12 states (again, excluding Nebraska), and 4 from B1G states (excluding Nebraska). The shift toward B1G states (especially Ohio) was already occurring before the change in conferences, and Pellini obviously hasn't been coaching at Nebraska for 10 years, but Pellini himself acknowledges the need do better with recruits from Texas, and that's the trick for him, hanging on to as many recruits from Big 12 states while moving more agressively into B1G territory. 

It's still far too early to make any supportable predictions of course, so it will be interesting to see how recruiting plays out with Nebraska added to the B1G mix.

turd ferguson

May 20th, 2012 at 9:48 PM ^

Thanks for doing this.  Since Pelini is from Ohio, it's a little hard to tell how much of this shift is due to the conference switch and how much of it is due to having a coach from Ohio.

You have to think that they'll push deeper into Big Ten territory with time.  If you're from Texas, it's a lot less appealing to play at Nebraska now that you won't get games against UT, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor.


May 21st, 2012 at 10:26 AM ^

so you'll see more recruiting within the conference footprint than in the past. 4 of our current seven 2013 recruits are from the Big Ten which surprised me after only one year.

Regarding Texas, some Nebraska fans feel greater exposure by the Big Ten Network will compensate for our loss of visibility playing in Texas. It's too early to tell, we've had 7 in the last two years, with the 2013 class still unfinished.

Nebraska has always been a bit of an outside the box recruiting school, by necessity since we have so little in-state talent to draw from. Most definately a national focus, and more of a "we'll make our own 5 stars" attitude. You'll rarely see us pull in a super-high ranked class full of glittering 4 and 5 stars. But we'll always be in the top 20-30 and sometimes higher and win a lot of games.


May 21st, 2012 at 10:25 AM ^

I agree, and think you're spot on about Nebraska recruiting Texas. It's not just about games being available on television, it's also about playing games against teams you recognize and follow. And last year Pelini only got two players from Texas.  So far this year, Nebraska has more verbals from Ohio than Texas and Nebraska combined.  That will probably change of course.

Btw, I encourage everyone to click on the links above the second table: they connect to two really cool maps that show where the B1G teams are recruiting from, and how they stack up against each other.  For those too hungover, busy, lazy, or caffeine deprived to scroll up, here are the links:

The Geek

May 21st, 2012 at 3:34 PM ^

and I love reading articles like this... I think having Hoke & staff at the helm is going see this swing even more in Michigan's favor over the next few years. Under RR, our recruiting moved out of state with too many 3 stars... Can't knock the guy completely, he brought in Denard, Taylor Lewan, etc., but the excitement was never there like it is now (and it was under Lloyd, etc.)...

Nebraska still recruits well nationally, as you point out, but don't they land a lot of JUCO transfers? I wish Pellini would make greater inroads in Ohio and stick it to Urban.

This will be interesting to watch over the next few years.


May 23rd, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

Yeah,  a lot of the Big 12 teams use JUCO players, and they fly under the radar a bit because they don't show up in traditional recruiting reports that focus on in-coming high school players.  I started looking at B1G teams; I know Purdue uses (or at least used to use) JUCO players, because when I was a teaching assistant there I had an issue with a football player who was a former JUCO all American. It's interesting that you brought up JUCOs, because I thought of creating a diary focusing on JUCO players several weeks ago but just haven't gotten around to putting it together. There are bits of information here and there about them, but not the concentrated, easily found info. like for high school recruits.  A lot, perhaps most, of these players are busts, but then you sometimes get the Cam Newton or other top-notch, experienced player that can step right in and start where a team might otherwise have only a walk-on or true Freshman to fill a gap.