The Big 10 continues to chase the SEC in the all-important and never-ending recruiting sweepstakes. But new coaching regimes suggest that Ohio State and Michigan are making a determined bid to close the gap.
In the old days, football recruiting in the Big 10 was known as Ohio State, Michigan and the eight dwarfs. They were the first schools in the conference to recruit on a national scale and the others fell woefully behind. The Ohio StateMichigan rivalry got bigger and bigger.
Penn State and Nebraska, two perennial national powers before they joined the Big 10, boosted the conference's reputation. And, as other schools looked at the map and discovered how to travel to Florida, Texas, California and other warmer climates where high school football is king, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois began to make statements.
So what happened? Ohio State and Michigan are a solid 1-2 in Big 10 recruiting this season but no other school is even in the conversation. As usual, the SEC is dominating the recruiting sweepstakes and the Pac-12, Big 12 and even the basketball-happy ACC are putting the Big 10 to shame.
How about this statistic?
Ohio State has signed six while Michigan has four of the nation's top 100 players in the class of 2012, according to recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports. Wisconsin has two, Nebraska and Minnesota one each.
"The SEC dominates recruiting because they offer more scholarships and they pay their assistant coaches so they attract the best recruiters in the nation," Lemming said. "Until the Big 10 starts to be competitive in the salary market with the SEC, it will continue to fall behind."
But there is no doubt that new coaches Urban Meyer of Ohio State and Brady Hoke of Michigan are having an immediate impact in national recruiting and will force rival coaches in the Big 10 to pick up the pace or look for other work.
"Urban Meyer has turned everything around at Ohio State. His impact is almost immeasurable," Lemming said. "Ohio State was dead in the water recruiting-wise because of the (Jim Tressel) scandal. Now they have one of the top five recruiting classes in the nation. There is no other reason besides Meyer. He has breathed life into a dead program, one that was waiting for the NCAA hammer to fall.
"Meyer's name precedes him. His accomplishments precede him. Then he has an aggressive personality and a relentless style of recruiting. He and (Alabama coach) Nick Saban have a relentless style of recruiting. It is no mystery why they win. Remember, recruiting is more important than coaching in college. Average coaches can win with great players. And good coaches that recruit great players win national championships."
Lemming said Brady Hoke learned a lot from former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, his mentor. "He doesn't have Urban Meyer's name or his resume but he has the same work ethic and aggressiveness. He understands that to be successful at the college level you have to work hard and have a hard-working staff," Lemming said.
It will take longer for Tim Beckman, Illinois' new coach, to have an impact on the recruiting scene. He hasn't had time to establish his identity and his name didn't precede him to Illinois like Urban Meyer at Ohio State. In fact, he already is working hard to establish strong ties with members of the highly touted class of 2013.
"A year from now, you will know if he has the ability to recruit at the
Big 10 level," Lemming said. "He didn't have enough time to recruit when he got to Illinois. Most Illinois kids were gone. And St. Louis and Indianapolis, too. He didn't have many places to turn to. His 2012 class won't be reflective on how well he will do in the future."
Lemming rates Ohio State's 2012 class over Michigan. But he admits it is a matter of comparing apples and oranges. Some recruiting services give Michigan an edge. Lemming argues that Ohio State has more blue-chip prospects (four of the top 50 while Michigan has no one in the top 50.
Here is a look at the Big 10 recruiting classes:
1. OHIO STATE: The centerpiece of Urban Meyer's first class is DL Noah Spence, the No. 3 player in the nation. He also landed OL J.J. Denman, who de-committed from Wisconsin. And Meyer wooed DL Tommy Schutt of Glenbard West and DB Armani Reeves away from Penn State.
2. MICHIGAN: The Wolverines' top signee is DE Chris Wormley, who was defensive player of the year in Ohio. Coach Brady Hoke stayed close to home, signing 18 of his 25 recruits from Michigan and Ohio. He was pleasantly surprised to land RBKR Dennis Norfleet of Detroit at the last minute.
3. PURDUE: Remember when Purdue used to recruit heavily in the Chicago area, like Notre Dame. No longer. Coach Danny Hope signed 25 players from 12 states, including six from Florida and three from Texas. Top-rated recruits are DE Ryan Watson and OL Carlos Carvajal.
4. IOWA: Coach Kirk Ferentz went to Erie, Pennsylvania, to sign a top 100 player in RB Greg Garmon. He also did well in Illinois, getting DL Faith Ekakitie of Lake Forest Academy, OL Ryan Ward of Providence, DB Maurice Fleming of Curie, DL Jaleel Johnson of Montini and OL Mitch Keppy of Port Byron Riverdale.
5. NEBRASKA: Coach Bo Pelini scored a coup when he persuaded WR Jordan Westerkamp of Montini to honor his earlier pledge and not accept Notre Dame's tempting offer. Other standouts are DB Mohammed Selsay, OL Paul Thurston, DE Greg McMullen, LB Zaire Anderson and OT Vincent Valentine from Edwardsville.
6. MINNESOTA: The Gophers managed to keep the state's top prospect at home -- QB Philip Nelson of Mankato, who ranks as the No. 40 player in the nation. The Gophers also got LB Jack Lynn of Lake Zurich, WR Andre McDonald, WR Jamel Harbison, OL Isaac Hayes and OL Johan Pirsig.
7. MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans got one of the best prospects in Michigan in WR Aaron Burbridge but they had more success in Ohio, Florida and Georgia. Coach Mark Dantonio is especially pleased with defensive backs Ezra Robinson, Demetrious Cox, Mark Meyers and Jermaine Edmondson.
8. NORTHWESTERN: One of coach Pat Fitzgerald's best signees is RB Malin Jones of Joliet Catholic. But DT Greg Kuhar and DE Ifeadi Odenigbo also draw rave reviews from recruiting services. Fitzgerald also got DE Dean Lowry from Rockford Boylan and WR Kyle Prater of Proviso West, a transfer from USC who was one of the nation's top-rated players in 2010.
9. WISCONSIN: The Badgers signed two top 100 players -- LB Vince Biegel of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and QB Bart Houston of Concord, Calif. But they lost two of their top recruits -- OL J.J. Denman to Rutgers and OL Kyle Dodson to Ohio State. They also got OL Dan Voltz of Barrington.
10. PENN STATE: Despite the death of legendary coach Joe Paterno and the sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, new coach Bill O'Brien and his staff did better than anticipated. They lost DL Tommy Schutt, LB Camren Williams and DB Armani Reeves to Ohio State. But they signed 19 players, including DT Jamil Pollard and WR Eugene Lewis.
11. INDIANA: The Hoosiers lost one of their top recruits, LB Mike Cotton of O'Fallon, Ill., to Northern Illinois. But they got three Illinois products -- RB Tevin Coleman of Oak Forest, OL Dan Feeney of Sandburg and LB Nick Mangieri of Dunlap.
12. ILLINOIS: Outgoing coach Ron Zook left the cupboard practically empty and incoming coach Tim Beckman will have trouble filling it with quality players. Not a four-star player in the class. Local signees are DT Vontrell Williams of Mount Carmel, WR Jason Robertson of Lincoln-Way East, OL Robert Bain of Bolingbrook and LB B.J. Bello of Lincoln-Way West.