Last year when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany called the conference’s football coaches to Chicago for their post-signing day meeting the agenda was pretty clear.
Top Big Ten signees include QB Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), CB Cam Burrows (Ohio State) and QB Shane Morris (Michigan)
The commish wanted his coaches to stop poaching one another’s recruits or, at the very least, quit publicly sniping at one another about it.
This year, one of the conference’s newest head coaches has something he’d like to bring up. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, beginning his second year with the Buckeyes, was outspoken on Wednesday about the Big Ten’s overall lack of success in recruiting.
Following a regular season where Big Ten teams struggled in nonconference games and, sans Ohio State and Penn State on probation, the league went 2-5 in the bowl season. The thinking goes that Meyer believes the Big Ten must improve from top to bottom for those at the top to have a chance to play for or win a national championship. (And, in case anybody has forgotten, the SEC has won seven straight national titles.)
This year, only Ohio State (second nationally) and Michigan (fifth) finished in the top 20 in 247Sports.com’s Composite team recruiting rankings. Nebraska (23rd) and Penn State (26th) were the only others in the top 30. Meanwhile, 12 of the SEC’s 14 schools were in that same top 30, led by Alabama at No. 1 and Florida at No. 4. Notre Dame (third) rounded out the top five, linked here.
This is not a recent trend, either. Last year, Ohio State (fourth) and Michigan (sixth) were the only Big Ten schools in the top 15 in the recruiting rankings. Two years ago in 2011, OSU (seventh) was the only Big Ten team in the top 15.
A look at the individual rankings nationally and in the Midwest show that the Big Ten is lagging behind.
At the bottom, we share a look at the 25-man Best Of The Midwest team. They are all among the nation’s top 150 prospects, according to 247Sports.com. They come from the nine Big Ten states.
Big Ten schools did succeed in signing 13 of these prospects – seven to Michigan, four to Ohio State and one each to Penn State and Illinois. But 12 of these prospects went elsewhere, including six of them to SEC schools as well as each of the players in the top six in the region.
From the national top 247 list, Big Ten teams combined for 45 prospects. The SEC signed that many by No. 112 on the list. And of those 45 top-247 players headed to the Big Ten, 16 will play at Ohio State and 14 at Michigan.
Speaking on his signing day radio show, Meyer said the Big Ten must examine its recruiting practices.
"Our whole conversation needs to be about 'How do we recruit?' " he said. "When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the top 25, that’s something that we need to continue to work on and improve."
Reaction was swift from fans of other Big Ten schools, who accused Meyer – a winner of two national championships in his time at Florida – of being boorish.
But Steve Wiltfong, who covers Midwest and national recruiting for 247Sports.com, said it appears that Ohio State and Michigan are positioning themselves well for the future.
“I think Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State – in the Midwest – are recruiting on a different level than the rest of the schools in the Big Ten once again,” Wiltfong said. “We are really seeing those results on the field. During the regular season, Notre Dame and Ohio State combined to go 24-0.”
Below are our team reports, followed by a list of the 2013 Best Of The Midwest and where they signed.
Click here for a look at the 247Sports Big Ten rankings.
Below we take a look at each of the Big Ten football recruiting classes and also provide bonus coverage and analysis of Notre Dame’s class as well. We have comments from Wiltfong on each of these classes.
1. Ohio State
* National Ranking: Second
* Signees: 24 (Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (16): DB Vonn Bell (29th nationally), CB Eli Apple (45), DE Joey Bosa (53), WR Jalin Marshall (57), CB Cameron Burrows (60), RB Ezekiel Elliott (70), TE Marcus Baugh (82), OT Evan Lisle (89), LB Mike Mitchell (95), QB J.T. Barrett (100), RB-WR Dontre Wilson (113), CB Gareon Conley (148), LB Trey Johnson (154), James Clark (174), DB Jayme Thompson (211), DT Billy Price (216).
* The Skinny: The Buckeyes made a huge splash this week, flipping Wilson from Oregon and nailing down Bell (over Alabama and Tennessee) and Clark (over Florida) on signing day. Five of these players have already enrolled, led by Apple and Burrows at corner. Barrett, coming off a knee injury, could be the heir apparent to Braxton Miller down the line. And Urban Meyer found some help at wide receiver, led by Marshall and JUCO transfer Corey Smith. Fifteen of OSU’s signees are on defense.
* Wiltfong Says: “Obviously, Urban Meyer is the best closer in college football. To go out and get Vonn Bell and James Clark. Many considered Ohio State to be the underdog for those two on signing day. What a balanced class. They got great linebackers, a ton of good skill players on offense, the quarterback of the future and some talented offensive linemen.”
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from Bucknuts.com.
* National Ranking: Fifth
* Signees: 27 (Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (14): OG David Dawson (65), DB Dymonte Thomas (80), QB Shane Morris (81), RB Derrick Green (84), C Patrick Kugler (97), OG Kyle Bosch (103), DE Taco Charlton (108), DT Henry Poggi (120), OT Logan Tuley-Tillman (129), OG Chris Fox (137), DT Maurice Hurst Jr. (190), LB-DE Michael McCray (194), LB Ben Gedeon (199), RB DeVeon Smith (218).
* The Skinny: Brady Hoke and his staff nailed down six of the top nine players in Michigan, keyed by Morris and Dawson. Morris could be UM’s starting quarterback as soon as 2014. The Wolverines also got Green as a late verbal. Nine players in this class come from Ohio, led by Thomas, Charlton, McCray and Smith.
* Wiltfong Says: “They have one of the best recruiting classes in the nation also. Brady Hoke and his guys, I think they are one of those programs that is getting to the level of the upper echelon SEC schools. I think you will start to see that on the football field in the near future. Arguably, they got the top offensive line class in the country as well as two great running backs, one of the top running backs and another good linebacker class.
“This is a balanced class and one of the best in the nation.”
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from Michigan.247Sports.com.
* National Ranking: 23rd
* Signees: 26 (Signee list)
* The Skinny: Nebraska held on to athlete prospect Trevell Dixon, who had de-committed to verbal at Arizona State. NU also flipped OL Dwayne Johnson from Tulsa. This class includes four JUCO transfers and six linemen on each side of the ball.
* Wiltfong Says: “They needed help on defense and they went out and got a ton of front seven players. They loaded up on them. Coach Pelini talked about guys having to come in and be ready to play right away. We expect some of these guys to come in and make an impact, led by Randy Gregory. He has all the tools to be drafted fairly high whenever he comes out.”
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from Huskers Illustrated.
4. Penn State
* National Ranking: 26th
* Signees: 17 (Signee list)
* Top Five Signees: Hackenberg, Breneman, Nelson, Sickels, QB Tyler Ferguson.
* The Skinny: Five of these signees have already enrolled. Due to NCAA sanctions, Penn State is limited to 15 signees through 2016. Hackenberg could compete to start as a freshman, although Ferguson (a JUCO transfer) could also be in the running. Sickels could be an impact guy at DE. Two of the nation’s top prospects from the state, WR Tyler Boyd and OL Dorian Johnson, picked Pittsburgh. Johnson had committed to Penn State until those sanctions were announced last summer.
* Wiltfong Says: “First and foremost, they went out and got two very good quarterbacks. I am a believer that the quarterback position can sometimes hide some deficiencies in other areas. Penn State, due to lack of depth, could struggle in some other areas. They landed some quality offensive and defensive linemen. They got some skilled position players who can play, led by Breneman who I think will be a big deal in Happy Valley.”
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from Lions247.com.
5. Michigan State
* National Ranking: 33rd
* Signees: 18 (Signee list)
* The Skinny: Michigan State only inked two of Michigan’s top 10 players in Reschke and Finley. However, they may have locked in their quarterback of the future in the dynamic Terry from Pennsylvania. MSU got three nice running back prospects in Williams, R.J. Shelton and Gerald Holmes. They could help replace LeVeon Bell, who left early for the NFL. Hicks and LB Shane Jones lead a six-man contingent from Ohio in this class.
* Wiltfong Says: “From my perspective, Mark Dantonio and his guys do as good a job as any staff in the country in identifying the right guys for what they do. Then, they coach them up and develop them when they are in the system. Michigan State was 7-6, but there were a tough team to play against. They could have won every game on their schedule. They just didn’t get the bounces to go their way.
“As you look at this class, the quarterback, Terry, could be excellent. Delton Williams is a big-time running back and athlete prospect. They got a lot of front seven guys. Maybe they got some guys who were under-the-radar, but they could still end up being very good players for the Spartans.”
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from SpartanTailgate.com.
* National Ranking: 37th
* Signees: 22 (Signee list)
* The Skinny: Gary Andersen came in from Utah State and did a bang-up job in finishing this class. He only retained two assistants, Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland, from Bret Bielema’s staff. Two JUCO transfers could figure right away with McEvoy (formerly at South Carolina and Arizona Western CC) and DB Donnell Vercher. UW also added two instate defensive ends in Obasih and James. They also got some nice offensive threats with Clement from New Jersey and WR Robert Wheelwright from Ohio.
* Wiltfong Says: “First and foremost, they went out and got one of the best running backs in the country in Clement. They also got one of the best junior college quarterbacks in McEvoy. Those are two nice pieces to build any offense around. They got some nice defensive linemen with Obasih and James. I thought Wisconsin had a nice well-rounded and solid class in Andersen’s first year.”
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from Badger247.com.
* National Ranking: 43rd
* Signees: 22 (Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (1): OT Darius Latham (160).
* The Skinny: The Indiana staff succeeded in flipping several key prospects, including Latham (from Wisconsin), Allen (from Ole Miss) and Kenney (from Iowa). They also came up big on signing day by adding Swain, a Georgia native, and Smith, from New York.
* Wiltfong Says: “The big thing that stands out in Indiana’s class is the number of talented defensive players they were able to get on the defensive side of the ball. Indiana, if you watched them play, they had no problem scoring points. They got some defensive help. They couldn’t get off the field defensively. They went out and got the best defensive linemen in the state in Latham and Kenney.
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from Inside Indiana.
* National Ranking: 46th
* Signees: 25 (Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (1): QB Aaron Bailey (150).
* The Skinny: This was coach Tim Beckman’s first full recruiting effort. He netted his quarterback for the future in the instate star Bailey. He picked the Illini over Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Illinois already has five signees enrolled (including the corner Mosely) and will add five JUCO transfers.
* Wiltfong Says: “With Aaron Bailey, you won’t find a better ambassador for your program. He has everything going for him off the field. He led his team to a state title as a junior. Illinois fans will fall in love with him if he becomes the starting quarterback. I think he could also help elevate their profile and how they recruit in the city of Chicago.
“They focused a lot on defense. Guys like Day and James are the kind of players you need to get back on the right track.”
* National Ranking: 50th
* Signees: 19(Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (2): C Tyler Lancaster (187), QB Matt Alviti (225).
* The Skinny: Northwestern is coming off a bowl win and a 10-win season. Alviti, from nearby Park Ridge, Ill., could be the future starting quarterback. He is among five signees from Illinois with another five coming from Ohio, led by Coverdale and Watkins. Coach Pat Fitzgerald also flipped QB Tommy Fuessel from Northern Illinois.
* Wiltfong Says: “The quarterback Alviti is a winner and a quick decisionmaker. He can beat you with his arms and his legs. He is a perfect player for what Northwestern does. Lancaster was one of the best centers in the country. They got a lot of guys who can make some plays in space.”
* National Ranking: 55th
* Signees: 22 (Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (0): None
* The Skinny: It was a rough 4-8 season for the Hawkeyes, who went after help across the board. The Hawkeyes signed five wide receivers, led by Jones from Texas and Damond Powell from Utah. The Hawkeyes also flipped Ohio RB LeShun Daniels (from Boston College), Missouri RB Jonathan Parker (from Tulsa) and Illinois LB Reggie Spearman (from Illinois).
* Wiltfong Says: “Iowa struggled on the field this year. They didn’t recruit as well as they typically do. But Kirk Ferentz, in the same way Mark Dantonio does it, they do a good job of identifying and developing players in Iowa City. They’ve got some guys who have a chance to have really good careers and get that program back on the right track.
“I look at guys like Kenny and Gressel. I think they each have a chance to be very good players in the Big Ten.”
* More Coverage: Click here for coverage of national signing day from Voice Of The Hawkeyes.
* National Ranking: 62nd
* Signees: 24 (Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (0): None
* The Skinny: New coach Darrell Hazell arrived in early January after coaching Kent State in its bowl game. It was a scramble as Hazell hired assistants and went about recruiting. The Boilers got 11 of their verbals in the last three weeks. When the dust settled, Purdue got some help on offense from instate QB Etling, Ohio’s Monteroso, Florida TE Matt Burke and New York RB Keith Byars II (son of the former Ohio State star). A trio of Ohio defensive ends, Replogle (whose three brothers have played at rival Indiana), Antoine Miles and Dezwan Polk, could help the cause as well.
* Wiltfong Says: “They rallied at the end. Coach Hazell brought in half the class at the end. They brought in some guys who can be Big Ten quality players. The jewel of the class was the quarterback, Etling. He was an Elite 11 guy and he has enrolled early. He will have a chance at some early playing time.
“Purdue is bringing in four running backs. They are bringing in some guys that can come in and make a difference. They also got Clark from Florida who may be one of the most overlooked guys in that state.”
* National Ranking: 66th
* Signees: 19 (Signee list)
* National Top 247 Prospects (0): None
* The Skinny: Coach Jerry Kill succeeded in getting several flips with Campbell (switched from Kansas State), WR Eric Carter (from Cincinnati) and ATH Donovahn Jones (Missouri). The Gophers did lose three DBs, though, including instate star Keelon Brookins (to Wisconsin). Edwards, Wolitarsky and Laster could help energize the offense.
* Wiltfong Says: “It was a down year in Minnesota, for the most part. I look at this class. They got some guys who could be exciting players. Edwards was a guy who was a steal for them and a guy who could have a good career there. They eight guys who play in the front seven on defense. They wanted to address and get better at the point of attack.”
Best Of The Midwest: Where They Signed
Here is a look at where the top 25 prospects from the nine-state Big Ten region ended up on signing day:
1. Jaylon Smith (fifth nationally), LB, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers, signed with Notre Dame
2. Dorian Johnson (8), OT, Belle Vernon, Pa., signed with Pittsburgh
3. Robert Foster (18), WR, Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley, signed with Alabama
4. Elijah Daniel (27), SDE, Avon, Ind., signed with Auburn
5. Laquon Treadwell (28), WR, Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee, signed with Mississippi
6. Alex Anzalone (32), LB, Reading (Pa.) Wyomissing, signed with Florida
7. Adam Breneman (48), TE, Camp Hill (Pa.) Cedar Cliff Heights, signed with Penn State
8. Jalin Marshall (57), WR, Middletown, Ohio, signed with Ohio State
9. Cameron Burrows (60), CB, Trotwood (Ohio) Madison, signed with Ohio State
10. David Dawson (65), OG, Detroit Cass Technical, signed with Michigan
11. Ethan Pocic (72), OT, Lemont, Ill., signed with LSU
12. Mitch Trubisky (79), QB, Mentor, Ohio, signed with North Carolina
13. Dymonte Thomas (80), DB, Alliance (Ohio) Marlington, signed with Michigan
14. Shane Morris (81), QB, Warren (Mich.) De Le Salle Collegiate, signed with Michigan
15. Ty Isaac (85), RB, Joliet (Ill.) Catholic Academy, signed with USC
16. Evan Lisle (89), OT, Centerville, Ohio, signed with Ohio State
17. Patrick Kugler (97), C, Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny, signed with Michigan
18. Kyle Bosch (103), OG, Wheaton (Ill.) St. Francis, signed with Michigan
19. Taco Charlton (108), WDE, Pickerington (Ohio) Central, signed with Michigan
20. Logan Tuley-Tillman (129), OT, Peoria (Ill.) Manual, signed with Michigan
21. Mike McGlinchey (131), OT, Philadelphia William Penn Charter, signed with Notre Dame
22. Steven Elmer (136), OT, Midland, Mich., signed with Notre Dame
23. David Williams (146), RB, Philadelphia Imhotep Institute Charter, signed with South Carolina
24. Gareon Conley (148), CB, Massillon (Ohio) Washington, signed with Ohio State
25. Aaron Bailey (150), QB, Bolingbrook, Ill., signed with Illinois