We continue our look at the National Signing Day aftermath, conference-by-conference, with the evaluation of Big Ten recruiting.
As you may have heard right now, the conference has been lambasted for poor recruiting … from one of its own high-profile coaches, Urban Meyer:
It’s not only important, it’s essential [for the Big Ten to improve its recruiting against the SEC]. We do need to, as a conference, keep pushing that envelope to be better. All our conversations – we will have a Big Ten meeting on the 11th – and our conversations need to be how do we recruit. When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the Top 25 in recruiting, that is something that we need to continue to work on and improve.
As arrogant as this may sound — he essentially told the Big Ten to “get on his level” given his top-five class — he’s absolutely right. Only three members of the Big Ten earned top-25 recruiting classes (per Scout.com) while the Pac-12 and Big 12 earned four and the SEC earned ten.
Here’s the breakdown of the conference.
Best Class: Ohio State Buckeyes
The only Big Ten school matching the number of five-star recruits that Ohio State brought in was rival Michigan. Of course, Ohio State’s depth ultimately beats out the Wolverines for top class in the conference.
The Buckeyes signed just three three-star recruits in its 24-man class and added a lot of talent spread across different position groups. More specifically, the Buckeyes scored one of the best — if not, the best — defensive backs classes in the country, earning the LOIs of four five four-star recruits and a five-star recruit in safety Vonn Bell out of Georgia. The same can be said for their defensive line class, which comprises of six recruits, four of them earning four-star distinctions, one of them three-stars and the other a five-star.
In essence, Urban Meyer did out-recruit the hell out of the rest of the Big Ten. And, of course, these things come easier when the squad goes undefeated while on sanctions, ineligible for a bowl game, in the previous season.
Most Disappointing Class: Wisconsin Badgers
It’s tempting to give Wisconsin a pass for bringing in such a mediocre recruiting class, because they did replace their head coach much later than they would have liked, with Bret Beliema jamming shortly before the Rose Bowl. It’s hard to expect Gary Andersen — who’s, by all accounts, a damn good head coach — to come in and steal recruits from the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska.
But the Badgers were out-recruited by the likes of Northwestern (no pass given here because the program had a nice season in 2012), Illinois and sanction-hit Penn State. Historically, Wisconsin doesn’t do amazingly well in recruiting in comparison to many of the top-10 classes this year, but given that this was a new head coach, and given that the program is coming off three BCS bowls, you’d expect more.
By Wisconsin’s standards, they did just fine, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s classes like Wisconsin’s — a small class, with 17 signees, and only two of them registering four stars on Scout.com, all while Wisconsin is still a respected program — that add merit to Urban Meyer’s assertion that Big Ten recruiting, well, sucks.
Worst Class: Minnesota Golden Gophers
It appears to be consensus that Minnesota has the worst recruiting class in the Big Ten, and who are we to argue? Third-year head coach Jerry Kill didn’t earn a four-star recruit, and earned just eight three-star recruits in a 22-man class for the Gophers.
And while that’s par for the course — Minnesota had a similar class the past two years — that’s not exactly great by “their standards” especially given the classes that were brought in immediately before Kill’s tenure began. Four-star recruits were no strangers to the Gophers back in 2009, and the program occasionally picked up one of the nation’s elite. This time around, and perhaps for the past couple of years, Minnesota has been almost a repellent to top-tier talent.
The Gophers were bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 so you’d expect some influx of talent but alas, that did not happen and Minnesota earned the distinction of worst class in a conference that is now known for its awful recruiting.
Most Surprising Class: Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has brought in better classes before, but considering the context — sanctions, sanctions, sanctions (much-deserved ones, mind you) — the talent that the Nittany Lions brought in was magnificent.
This being the program’s first sanctions-hit recruiting class, earning two five-star recruits and two four-star recruits is absolutely no joke. Given that it’ll be a few years before Penn State will ever see a postseason game, they were able to convince some of the top prospects in the country to hop aboard Bill O’Brien’s continuously-shining program.
Top Prospect: Vonn Bell
The five-star safety out of Georgia highlighted Ohio State’s recruiting class and portrayed the swagger and clout Urban Meyer still possesses in SEC country.
Bell is the No. 2 safety in the nation and bolsters an Ohio State defensive backs class that is easily the scariest group in the country. The scouts didn’t find much wrong with his game throughout his recruitment and they loved him so much, they figured he’d do just as well as a cornerback.
Bell will bring to Ohio State a plethora of talent and could very well see starting time in the defensive backfield for Urban Meyer rather quickly.
Names to Know
- Ohio State. Vonn Bell, Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall
- Michigan. Derrick Green, Shane Morris, Dymonte Thomas
- Nebraska. Terrell Newby, Johnny Stanton, D.J. Singleton
- Illinois. Aaron Bailey, Christian DiLuaro, Darius Mosely
- Michigan State. John Reshcke, Damion Terry, Dennis Finley
- Penn State. Christian Hackenberg, Adam Breneman, Garrett Sickels
- Northwestern. Matthew Alviti, Anthony Walker, Sam Coverdale
- Wisconsin. Rob Wheelwright, Corey Clement, Jack Keeler
- Indiana. Antonio Allen, Darius Latham, Laray Smith
- Iowa. Colin Goebel, Jon Wisnieski, Sean Welsh
- Purdue. Dalyn Dawkins, Danny Etling, Keyante Green
- Minnesota. Alex Mayes, Drew Wolitarsky, Berkley Edwards