Most of the expansion news floating around centers on how a 12th team will effect the name of the conference, a potential championship game, the creation of divisions, or other structural changes that may come with the addition of Nebraska to the Big ElevenTwelve Ten starting in the 2011 football season. While all of that is important, one thing that has not been touched on with too much detail is how expansion will effect recruiting across the conference.
Little will change with the traditional powers such as OSU, Michigan, and Penn State, who likely will pull in top level recruits from their home states, as well as other areas across the country they have repeatedly had success in. What will change though is the recruiting west of the Mississippi River, specifically for the newest team, Nebraska, whose area of reach has now all of a sudden been expanded into Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Staying close to home is always important for recruits when making their college decisions, but if they can't be as close as they'd like, they usually at least want their parents to be able to see them play. When in the Big 12, Nebraska was able to use this tool to pull players out of Texas, Louisiana (close proximity to Texas and Oklahoma), Arizona (close to Texas and Colorado), Kansas, Missouri, and other states with some quality football talent. They were able to sell the athletes and their parents on the fact that some or many of the games they would be playing on the road would be a more reasonable commute from their homes than to Lincoln and even if they couldn't make the game in person, the chances of it being on regional television were high.
This strategy will create new horizons on the recruiting trail for Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers' coaching staff, who now can sell elite players who live in states east of the river on reasonable accessibility to their family and friends. Most of Nebraska's away games are drive-able for the families of players, while the Big Ten Network should now be available from State College, PA to Lincoln, Nebraska, for all parents to watch any games they can't make in person from the tube at home. The move to the Big Ten is a huge recruiting win for the Big Red, as they are able to move into more talent rich soil, while maintaining recruiting ties in states they previously recruited while as a member of the Big 12.
Yet to join the Big Ten until next summer, Bo and company are using this strategy right off the bat to have kids jump on board for the class of 2011. From 2007-2010, the Huskers only brought in 10 players from states that lie east of the Mississippi. Of those 10, only 3 came from Big Ten states and only 2 were 4-star recruits according to Scout.com's recruiting rankings.
Enter the 2011 class who will knowingly be part of the Big Ten move, and Nebraska already has 3 of 13 verbally committed players from the desired states. Of these three, two are four-star recruits in offensive linemen Tyler Moore of Florida and Ryan Klachko of Illinois, while the other verbal is three-star defensive tackle Kevin Williams from Ohio. The remaining players Nebraska is chasing to fill this class is composed of another 29 players from states to the east of the river, with all but two rated as a 3-star recruit or higher and including eleven 4-stars and one 5-star recruit. Even if the Huskers closed the class only getting 10% of these targets, they will have six in the class, more than they have had in any year this decade.
While the recruiting effect of joining the Big Ten may not truly take effect until 2012 and beyond, traces of the results of the move can be seen already in the strategy of Bo Pelini's staff for the class of 2011. The move to the conference will result not only in expanding the target areas for recruiting, but also in an improvement of quality of recruit Nebraska coaches can bring to Lincoln. Bo Pelini's ties to the area have just become even strongger and this move is a big win if you are a Cornhuskers fan. Nebraska recruiting could pose some serious threats for the rest of the Big Ten as they continue to battle year in and year out for the best high school talent in the Midwest.