Recruiting Rundown—How Did the Big Ten Do?
By Tony Gerdeman
How did the Big Ten do, you ask?
Well, as Brady Hoke said when asked how he felt about Urban Meyer coming to the Big Ten, "Not—not good."
Ohio State and Michigan both signed classes that finished in every service's top ten, but the drop off from those two is depressing, though not surprising.
I've long lamented the schools in the Big Ten cashing checks without spending the money that comes in, and that mainly involves their coaching hires. It should come as no surprise when unremarkable coaches lure unremarkable talent.
After all, just because you can land a carp with nothing but a hook doesn't mean a carp is good eatin'.
Here's a rundown of how each Big Ten school finished in the recruiting rankings, along with a few items of which to take note.
(Scouting service rankings are national.)
1. Ohio State (25 signees)
Notable: The Buckeyes signed four defensive linemen and five linebackers. The linemen were for the future, but a couple of the linebackers will have to be ready to go immediately. Defensive ends Noah Spence (6-4 245) and Adolphus Washington (6-4 250) are the headliners as top ten players nationally, but the coaching staff can't stop raving about North Carolina linebacker Jamal Marcus (6-2 230).
The lack of numbers on the offensive line were addressed in the form of five offensive linemen. Under Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes never signed more than four offensive linemen in a single class. A pair of running backs, including the already enrolled five-star Bri'onte Dunn (6-2 215), are good news for the Buckeyes, as they have lost two backs in Boom Herron and Jaamal Berry.
Quotable: "We picked up and spoke to Noah Spence the night I was hired and within two weeks he is over buying Ohio State gear over at the bookstore." — Urban Meyer. Really? Two weeks? What took so long?
2. Michigan (25 signees)
Notable: Michigan landed Ohio's top player (per Rivals) in offensive lineman Kyle Kalis (6-5 302). He joins defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins (6-3 325) as the Wolverines' other five-star signee. There are four linebackers in this class, three of whom are four-star prospects. Any of them could see snaps immediately. Four offensive linemen were signed, though two are consensus three-star kids.
Nine of the Wolverine signees came from Ohio and nine came from Michigan. Cincinnati linebacker Joe Bolden (6-2 225) is already enrolled, so don't be surprised if he is on the field quite a bit this fall. Glenville defensive tackle Willie Henry (6-2 270) committed on January 30th, choosing the Wolverines over Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Quotable: "Amara Darboh (6-2 190), again, is another lengthy receiver out of West Des Moines, Iowa. He's a guy that we thought could go up and get the ball." — Brady Hoke. It's good to see that they are targeting receivers who fit into their passing strategy of constant jump balls.
3. Nebraska (17 signees)
247 Sports: 29th
ESPN: NR (ESPN only shows top 25 classes.)
Notable: The Huskers received eleven of their seventeen commitments after December 1st, and they weren't even going through a coaching change. Tight end Sam Cotton (6-4 240) is the only in-state prospect to sign with the Huskers this year, proving that having a fence around your state isn't always a good thing.
Scout ranks quarterback signee Tommy Armstrong (6-2 210) as the fifth-best quarterback in the nation. He chose Nebraska over the likes of Oregon, Baylor and Georgia Tech, if that gives you an indication of his athletic ability. The Huskers will also add nearly 20 walk-ons to this class.
Quotable: "The numbers were ever-changing. From our standpoint, we like to keep a couple scholarships back for walk-ons and guys in our program currently who can potentially earn scholarships." — Bo Pelini. You can count the number of SEC West head coaches bruising their knees from slapping them in laughter on two hands.
4. Michigan State (18 signees)
Notable: Mark Dantonio landed the top player in Michigan for the third consecutive year (per Rivals) in receiver Aaron Burbridge (6-2 190). Scout lists him as the ninth-ranked receiver in the nation, and has him with offers from Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
That wasn't the only recruiting battle they won over Ohio State, as they also landed Pennsylvania safety Demetrious Cox (6-1 192), who went to the same high school as Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Hall. Cincinnati receiver Monty Madaris (6-2 190) will also be one to watch. He chose the Spartans over an offer from Florida State. Of note simply because of his name is Florida receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. (5-11 178).
Quotable: "Macgarrett reminds me a lot of Keshawn Martin in a lot of respects. He's a guy that's a great punt returner, kick returner, has size 13 shoes." — Interesting. I always thought it was a joke when Michigan fans said all a Michigan State application requires is a shoe size.
5. Iowa (24 signees)
Notable: The Hawkeyes' class is highlighted by a pair of four-star defensive linemen out of Illinois. Faith Ekakite (6-2 255) is a tweener. Scout ranks him as the 13th-best defensive tackle in America and Rivals calls him the 14th-best defensive end. Regardless, he should have a chance to play right away. Fellow Illinoisan Jaleel Johnson (6-2 277) looks like an interior guy all the way.
Another guy to watch in this class is Pennsylvania tailback Greg Garmon (6-2 195). Some schools, including Ohio State, liked him as a safety. However, given the loss of Marcus Coker, Garmon has a chance to step right in and be a very important part of the Iowa offense. They also signed two-star in-state tailback Barkley Hill (6-0 190) in anticipation of something going horribly wrong at running back, which it always does. They also signed Glenville defensive back Sean Draper (6-0 165), which is interesting since Tarblooders don't really pan out for the Hawkeyes.
Quotable: "We told Barkley and Greg we're going to let them compete." — Kirk Ferentz. Oh, you mean you're not going to go with a walk-on at tailback who runs a 4.9? That's the type of judgment that wins a guy a Big Ten Coach of the Year award.
6. Penn State (19 signees)
Notable: Penn State got eleven commitments in the span of 30 days to close out their class, though some were actually "reaffirmations" after looking around. Scout ranks all but two of them as three-star prospects. The other two merited just two stars. To say that the Nittany Lions closed with a whimper would be giving whimpering a bad name.
Much has been made of the number of commitments that Penn State lost, and for good reason. This was a lost year for recruiting. Scout only has one four-star in this entire class, and that's Pennsylvania receiver Eugene Lewis (6-2 181). He selected Penn State over offers from just about everybody in the east. New Jersey defensive tackle Jamil Pollard (6-5 280) is also one to watch. Rivals ranks him the 20th-best tackle in the nation. Also of note is New Jersey two-star two-way lineman Wendy Laurent (6-4 285). Yes, Wendy.
Quotable: "What I did when I came in and was hired, I told (Penn State President) Rodney Erickson and Dave Joyner (Acting AD) the number one thing we were going to try to do is keep the commitments that were already there committed to Penn State. To me the most important thing is these guys have committed to the university; the football program. We're very proud of that fact. That was our main goal." — Bill O'Brien. This is like a hyena killing a wildebeest and then being chased off by a lion who then eats everything he wants off of said wildebeest and then upon returning to the wildebeest that he killed, the hyena says, "The goal was to make sure that there was still a little bit of rib meat remaining. I'm very proud of that fact. That was my main goal."
7. Purdue (25 signees)
Notable: Purdue signed four quarterbacks in this class, though three of them fit the "athlete" variety. Scout even ranks one of them—Aloyis Gray (6-3 165)—as a receiver. After landing Gray and two others, including Ohioan Austin Appleby (6-5 228), the Boilermakers added one more in Chicago's Robert Gregory (6-3 181), who was originally committed to Arkansas, but switched to the Boilermakers after Signing Day when they told him they'd give him the shot at quarterback that Arkansas wouldn't. Clearly, with eight ACLs between the four incoming quarterbacks, this is a recipe for carnage.
The top prospect in the class appears to be Ryan Watson (6-3 270) out of Maryland, whom Rivals calls him the 16th-best strongside defensive end in the nation. Scout ranks him as the eighth-best offensive guard in the nation. Purdue signed him as a defensive line prospect, however, which is a position that they have done pretty well at over the years.
Quotable: "It's a signature class in a lot of ways. It's the first time in the history of Purdue that we've had a Director of Player Personnel from a staffing standpoint, and a big part of that position is recruiting coordinator where someone oversees the recruiting process." — Danny Hope. This is so unbelievable to me that I don't even have anything to add.
8. Northwestern (21 signees)
Rivals: NR (Rivals only ranks the top 50.)
Notable: The prize of this class is Centerville, Ohio linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo (6-4 210), who chose the Wildcats over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Stanford, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC. He starred in the Under Armour All-American game, and could be an immediate impact for Northwestern. A player to watch for the 2013 season is receiver Kyle Prater (6-5 215), who has transferred from USC, but will sit out this season. He was Scout's fourth-ranked prospect in the nation for the 2010 class.
Northwestern also got a pair of four-star prospects in Pennsylvania offensive lineman Adam DePietro (6-5 270), and Ohio defensive lineman Greg Kuhar (6-3 265). Florida safety Traveon Henry (6-1 200) is also a tailback prospect and chose the Wildcats over Georgia Tech, Florida State, Harvard and Yale.
Quotable: "Obviously, we're excited about this recruiting class. There are some tremendous young men from great families and great high school programs who, we believe, fit all our needs and will help us take the next step in becoming a championship program." — Pat Fitzgerald. That's a metaphorical championship, right? Like a "championship of life" type of thing? It's not something you get a trophy for, but rather a sense of self-satisfaction, right?
9. Indiana (24 signees)
Notable: At one time, Indiana had the number one quarterback in the nation committed in Gunner Kiel. Freshman Tre Roberson then won the starting quarterback job for the Hoosiers, and suddenly Kiel decommitted and moved on with his life. Because of Roberson winning the job, two existing Hoosier QBs transferred out. In their place, the Hoosiers signed a pair of quarterbacks in high schooler Nathan Sudfield (6-5 215) out of California, and JUCO Cameron Coffman (6-2 191) out of Arizona. Sudfield was an Arizona decommitment following Rich Rodriguez's hiring.
Indiana also brought in six defensive linemen and four offensive linemen as Kevin Wilson attempts to build an adequate front line. Wilson brought in some very nice skill players last year, and perhaps another to watch will be Ricky Jones (5-10 170), out of Florida. They're not sure if he's a receiver or a cornerback yet, but he had offers from Clemson, North Carolina, Stanford and West Virginia. He waited too long to commit, however, and lost the spot that those schools were saving for him, which is how he ended up at Indiana. It's probably a very common story. Also of note, Indiana signed seven junior college transfers, which Wilson admitted was more than normal.
Quotable: "We didn't get into negative things. We didn't talk about other programs. We talked about what we are trying to build." — Kevin Wilson. Well duh, reminding players who are considering Indiana that they have options other than Indiana would be an idiotic thing to do.
10. Wisconsin (12 signees)
Notable: The most notable aspect of this class is the sheer lack of numbers. The Badgers just didn't lose many seniors off of last year's team, and so this is the sort of thing that happens every few years in the Big Ten. While the numbers aren't big, the average number of stars per recruit would put the class at fourth in the conference per Rivals.
The highest-rated recruit in the class is four-star linebacker Vince Biegel (6-3 210), an in-state prospect who was also an Army All-American. Vonte Jackson (6-0 175), a four-star running back out of Kenosha, chose the Badgers over Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State. Illinois offensive lineman Dan Voltz (6-5 289) was also an Army All-American, and had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Notre Dame and Stanford. Lastly, the Badgers also landed a defensive back by the name of Hugs Etienne (5-11 175), and a receiver by the name of Reggie Love (6-3 200). Their battles in practice will no doubt be heartfelt.
Quotable: (On the frustration of losing Kyle Dodson.) "What you do is you invest a lot of time, a lot of money, to be quite honest. In that particular case, we had three, you could only have three coaches in a home, so we have three coaches in a home on that last week of recruiting. So there’s financial resources you allocate." — Bret Bielema. Sounds like Kyle Dodson is going to be getting a bill in the mail.
11. Minnesota (27 signees)
Notable: Minnesota already has eight early-enrollees in school, and six of their 27 signees are junior college transfers, so Jerry Kill is clearly looking to speed up this rebuilding process. In addition to the 27 signees, four athletes signed Acceptance of Admittance forms and will be considered preferred walk-ons.
Kill has slated eight of his signees to play in the secondary and six to play on the defensive line. The highest-ranked player, however, is Minnetonka receiver Andre McDonald (6-3 200), who also had offers from Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa and Arizona. Also signed was three-star quarterback Philip Nelson (6-3 216), who is rated the 15th-best pro style quarterback in the nation according to Rivals. He was the first commitment in this class, giving his verbal pledge back in February of 2011.
Quotable: (On whether or not Minnesota offered multi-year scholarships, which was encouraged by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, or if they stuck to the one-year scholarships offered in the past.) "Well, right now—and again, I don't know what everybody else has done. I think that's still under provision in April. With the scholarships and multi-year stuff, it's going to come up in April again. That's not been completely resolved. So I can't really make a lot of comment. There's still work being done on that. There is a lot of legislation in April. Couple weeks in February. So nobody has been able to do that. We're all on hold with a lot of legislation. A lot of things in football are going to change. We will know on that one here in two weeks and a lot of stuff in April the direction they're taking." — Jerry Kill. Jerry, this was a very easy question to answer, and yet you don't give any answer at all. Clearly it makes you look like you stuck to one-year contracts, but just don't want to admit it. Are you ashamed that you didn't offer four-year scholarships like nine other conference teams did? Does it make you look bad? Are you embarrassed?
12. Illinois (19 signees)
Notable: This will be Tim Beckman's worst class at Illinois, who brought in a good amount of talent at Toledo. He was hired on December 9th, and twelve of the nineteen members of the class committed after that date. It was a complete scramble job. However, it wasn't all bad. Rivals rates eight of the twelve as three-star prospects, which is about the best that could be expected given the circumstances.
Perhaps Beckman's best work, however, came when he kept three-star Florida tailback Dami Ayoola (5-10 201) in the fold. Three days after Ayoola committed to the Illini, Ron Zook was fired, but Beckman was able to keep him reeled in. He chose Illinois over Auburn, Iowa, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Illinois also landed three-star Pennsylvania linebacker T.J. Neal (6-1 225), who shows that college offers are more impressive than star rankings. Rated the 45th-best outside linebacker in the nation by Rivals, he committed to Illinois over offers from Auburn, Florida, Nebraska, Tennessee and USC. Beckman, who came from Toledo, signed six Ohioans in this class, including two from Cleveland Glenville.
Quotable: "We're still able to sign three more football players. We're right at 82. We're gonna be able to sign three more or we can hold them back for next year's recruiting class because we have a small senior class that will be graduating next year." — Tim Beckman. I hope Nick Saban isn't reading this or else he'd be choking on baby soul right now.
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