Big Ten Recruiting Round-Up

By Jeremy Birmingham on December 27, 2011 at 4:00p
The Buckeyes spared Noah Spence in his recruitment

As you've no doubt noticed here the last few weeks, football recruiting is picking up for Ohio State. This week in lieu of Around The Oval, we here at Eleven Warriors are going to zoom out and take a comprehensive look at the state of recruiting not just in Columbus, but around the entire Big Ten.

Recruiting is an inexact science. Some schools may recruit 17 players one year, and maybe 6 of them are defensive tackles, but they lack any explosive offensive threats or a QB that can play. But, if those DTs are ranked highly, then that school's recruiting class is highly regarded, no matter that it's incomplete and leaves holes in their roster.

Today we're going to try and take a composite look at the Big Ten, and how each school is faring from a recruiting standpoint, scurrying to put the finishing touches on their 2012 recruiting classes.

Ohio state's quicker than expected resurrection

Urban Meyer is a recruiting monster. That was something he showed time and time again in his time at Florida, but the work he's put in at Ohio State, in just under a month as the head coach has people all over the nation scratching their heads, trying to discern if anyone got the license plate number of the recruiting truck that hit them.

It's not that Meyer was able to "flip" guys like Se'Von Pittman, or retain (and subsequently get enrolled early) guys like Bri'onte Dunn, who in "normal" years would have been Buckeyes anyway that's catching people's attention. It's the sudden and furious interest from nationally sought players like DE Noah Spence and DT Tommy Schutt that opened people's eyes to the fact that Ohio State's supposed "lull" was not going to be as extensive as they no doubt hoped.

The Buckeyes have gone from the outside looking in on the national recruiting rankings, to now sitting in the top 6 of all three major recruiting networks' rankings. They currently reside in the Big Ten's #2 slot, despite besting the #1 ranked Wolverines in average star ranking. Michigan gets the nod due to the total number of commitments at present, but that could change.

With the possible addition of 4-6 more prospects in this year's class for Ohio State, they will likely continue to climb the charts before signing day gets here, a remarkably astonishing feat considering the slow start and the turmoil surrounding the program for the last 12 months.

We'll now take a look at how the rest of the conference is faring, starting with Brady Hoke's Michigan Wolverines, who were major benefactors of the Ohio State drama, and have made a serious splash nationally with their class of 2012.


MICHIGAN When Mentor, OH DE Tom Strobel committed to Michigan in June, it signaled to a lot of Buckeye fans that perhaps this year was going to be a bit of "loss" in the recruiting game. Most considered the Buckeyes a favorite for Strobel before Jim Tressel's resig-firin-zcecation, and his verbal commitment to UM signaled to other recruits that maybe, just maybe, it was an ok year to consider an exodus from Ohio and the borders that Tressel had effectively walled-off for the previous decade. A month later, St. Edwards star offensive tackle Kyle Kalis rescinded his commitment to Luke Fickell and was all aboard the Hoke Float and UM's class had its biggest fish yet.

Hoke's Ohio roots helped him get a foot in the door and he's made pillaging the Buckeye state a priority. It seems to be paying off as his Wolverines sit with the Big Ten's highest ranked recruiting class, firmly entrenched at #3 across all three networks. Michigan currently has nine commitments from Ohio, including their lone five-star commitment in Kalis; and four-star prospects Strobel, Toledo Whitmer (alma mater of current Buckeye Kenny Hayes) DE Chris Wormley, LB Joe Bolden from Cincinnati and S Jarrod Wilson from Akron Buchtel.

With 24 total commitments, Michigan's class is nearly finished, but they are waiting for word from a few key players that include Buckeye targets OT Jordan Diamond and ATH/WR Stefon Diggs from Baltimore.

WISCONSIN The Badgers check in with a class in the mid-thirties nationally, and it seems the Big Ten appears to be heading back towards a "Big Two, Little Ten" at least as far as recruiting goes. After Michigan and Ohio State, the Wisconsin Badgers have the conference's third highest rated commitment group, ranking no higher than 31st on any network ( Their class, though small (Only 12 commitments currently), has the look and feel we've come to expect from Wisconsin over the years; they go national and they go big, with a few home-grown talents sprinkled in. 

For a state that produces limited D1 talent, the Badgers do a nice job of making sure those guys rarely get away, and they did that this year with a commitment from four-star talents RB Vonte Jackson from Kenosha, and LB Vince Biegel from Wisconsin Rapids. 

Their biggest "wins" on the recruiting trail this year are on the offensive line (sooo-prise, sooo-prise!) and at quarterback. Somehow the Badgers were able to convince Concord De La Salle QB Bart Houston, the nation's 4th ranked prospect at signal-caller to pledge for Wisky over a bevy of PAC-12 offers. Barrington, IL offensive guard Dan Voltz, the country's 6th rated guard also committed to Bret Bielema in March, another big recruiting "get" for Bucky.

They were also a winner in the Ohio State scandals, getting a commitment from Cleveland OT Kyle Dodson, the nation's 25th rated tackle, although many people suspect that one may end up in the Buckeyes' favor come signing day.

Will Cam Williams be the next Nittany Lion to defect?

PENN STATE When it comes to the Penn State recruiting class, file it away under: TBD. There are a lot of variables at play for the Nittany Lions, and up to this point, everything that has happened since the firing of Joe Paterno and the revelation of the Jerry Sandusky sex-scandal has been a major hit to what was once a promising class, one that may have ended up in the top ten nationally.

PSU had commitments from five-star DT Tommy Schutt, who recently committed to Ohio State, and was also considered the favorite for Harrisburg DE Noah Spence, he too committed to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. However, those losses are but a piece of what could be on the way for the Nits.

Many feel that LB Camren Williams of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, regarded as one of the leaders of the PSU class and one of the nation's highest rated linebackers; and his high school teammate, CB Armani Reeves, the nation's 9th ranked prospect at the position, will end up elsewhere. Williams has visited Ohio State and pledged to make a return trip to Columbus with his mother in January, while Reeves is looking at Michigan and others.

Both players have insisted they remain committed to Penn State, but the longer PSU goes coachless, the more likely that these two highly-regarded prospects move on from the quagmire in Happy Valley. Aside from the Roxybury duo, Penn State's highest remaining commitment is Wyoming Valley West (Plymouth, PA) wide receiver Eugene Lewis, the 9th ranked WR in the country according to 

One player that I am high on is Skylar Mornhinweg, the 44th ranked QB prospect in the country from Philadelphia. The son of former NFL coach Marty Mornhinweg; Skylar is a big, physical QB in the Tim Tebow mold, who turned down offers from Stanford and Tennessee among others. 


MICHIGAN STATE Mark Dantonio's Spartans took a bit of a hit in the past week when they lost their highest rated commitment, the aforementioned Se'Von Pittman, to Ohio State, but that's not to say that Sparty's not putting together a quality recruiting class. With their 14 verbals, on the heels of consecutive top 30 classes in 2010 and 2011, the Spartans are continuing their program's rebirth.

Led by Jamal Lyles, a LB from Lathrup Village, Michigan, and Aaron Burbridge, a 6'1 WR from Farmington Hills, Michigan State has recruited a "complete" class, with a notable exception on the defensive line. At present, the Spartans do not have a single commitment on the DL, and while that was a position of strength for MSU this past year, it's not a position that you can skip years recruiting. Expect MSU to continue to make a push at that position.

NEBRASKA Nebraska, like Wisconsin, has a small class, but one that is talented and one that has room for growth. Headlined by Cibolo, TX four-star quarterback Tommy Armstrong (doesn't that sound so all-american?) and four-star OL Paul Thurston from Arvada, Colorado, the Huskers currently sit with only nine commitments, two of which are JUCO signees. Akron Hoban DE Greg McMullen is the lone Buckeye-state steal for Bo Pelini and his staff. 

Nebraska is trying to find an identity as it heads into its second season in the B1G, and will need to pick up the pace on the recruiting trail or risk being left behind as the "big dogs" of the conference continue to profit from years of established relationships with high school programs thoughout the midwest. With facilities and fans on par with the nation's best programs, it would be surprising to see Nebraska struggle for too long on the B1G recruiting scene.

IOWA The Hawkeyes know that success in the Big Ten is gained by winning the battles in the trenches, and over the years Kirk Ferentz and his staff have done a wonderful job of finding players to fit their system. Big, agile defensive linemen and road-grading offensive linemen that can go 12 rounds are the norm in Iowa City.

This year is no exception for the Hawks, as Ferentz et co have reeled in two big-fish defensive tackles from Illinois, Jaleel Johnson from Lombard and Faith Ekakitie from Lake Forest, ranked 19th and 20th respectively at the position. Those two hogs are the centerpieces of a class that currently claims 16 commitments. 

Ferentz's team always seems to make a late push recruiting wise, and they are still in the game for some major players, including Jordan Diamond, Colorado OL Joey O'Connor, Erie, PA running back Greg Garmon and Daysean Rippy from McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.

PURDUE Danny Hope's Boilermakers, the bane of the Buckeyes in their little West Lafayette halfway house, are quietly having a very effective recruiting year. Of course, no one is going to crown them 2014 Big Ten champions based on this group, but it's a solid group that will keep a once proud program on an upward trajectory. 

Austin Appleby, a 6'5 gunslinger from Canton Hoover high school and Bilal Marshall, a dual-threat QB from Dade Christian HS in Miami are the core of this class, which also features two place-kickers, carrying on a tradition of big-legged kickers with Buckeye killing intentions.

Purdue's class is a bit TE heavy, with four current oral commitments from the position. They also have four WR in the fold, signaling yet again that the passing game will remain Purdue's bread and butter. The Boilers currently have 21 commitments, and will continue to pound to pavement to finish this class strong.


INDIANA This past summer, first-year Hoosiers' head coach Kevin Wilson, fortunate to have sophomore QB Dusty Kiel on the roster he adopted, turned that luck into a bit of opportunity. He received a commitment from Gunner Kiel; Dusty's brother, an Indiana native, and the country's highest rated QB prospect. Gunner would be a main cog in Wilson's plan to garner national attention for his crimson and cream clad Hoosiers.

Gunner could have Kiel'd Indiana's reputation as losers

Then, midway through the Hoosiers 2011 season, freshmen wunderkind Tre Roberson got a chance to run IU's offense and brought it back from the dead. Dusty became dispensable, and Gunner decided it was best to re-open his recruitment so that the teams he should have really considered, the "big boys" of the NCAA landscape, could have another crack at him. The Hoosiers lost their biggest recruit in years in a matter of months.

Since then, Wilson and the Hoosiers have not been lazy, but they've failed to capitalize on the momentum that Kiel's verbal could have spawned. A solid class of 21 verbals, with the majority of them receiving three stars from the networks, sets up the Hoosiers nicely as they look to get back to their glory days. 

Not sure when those were, exactly, but I am sure they had glory days. Anthony Thompson, right?

NORTHWESTERN Full disclosure: for as much as I mock the Wildcats and Nerdwestern, I am a huuuuyoooge fan of Pat Fitzgerald and what he's been able to accomplish in Evanston. Unlike some B1G schools that are known for academic glory and then abandon it when it comes to the student-athlete's they recruit (I'm looking at you, "Harvard of the west"), the Wildcats continue to prove that a school that desires to be an academic bastion can in fact be mediocre athletically. 

It's not easy to recruit at Northwestern, but Fitzgerald continues to bring in quality players from all over the country, and does so while making sure that the players he recruits are the creme de la creme academically. This year he has snagged the nation's 9th ranked offensive guard, Adam DePietro from Lancaster, PA and continues to battle Stanford and Notre Dame for Centerville, Ohio's Ifeadi Odenigbo, the 4th ranked outside linebacker in the country. Odenigbo is set to announce his school of choice on January 7th, and while I believe he ends up at Stanford, Fitzgerald's staff has made a great impression on him for months now.

The Wildcats have 18 commitments, and have just missed on a number of big-time prospects lately, including recent Iowa verbal Faith Ekakitie and Michigan commitment Jehu Chesson, a wide receiver from St. Louis. 

ILLINOIS New Illini head coach Tim Beckman has a few things in his favor: Illinois has a great tradition, a talented group of players on his roster and a state rich in high school talent. He unfortunately also has to coach players who have had their fundamental understanding of football sullied by Ron Zook and his Zooktastic thinking for the last few years. So as you can imagine, it all evens out. 

Beckman, who took over the Illini after three years as the head man in Toledo, becomes the first Urban Meyer disciple to take over the reigns in the Big Ten, and that means that this intensely rabid, ever-hungry recruiting beast will feast in Champaign. Beckman may be getting a late start in 2012, but he will not be out-worked by anyone and that should pay off in 2013 and beyond.

Beckman's Illini currently sit with 14 commitments, but risk losing their top committed player (LB Keith Brown, Miami, FL) as he has committed himself to looking around. I think Brown ends up at Louisville, others think Miami, but either way - I don't think he goes blue and orange. Beckman will leave no stone unturned as he uses the network he developed in the Chicago area as Rockets head coach to entice Chicagoland prospects to stay at home.

That quest begins in earnest as he attempts to sway LB/RB David Perkins from South Bend, Indiana to give the Illini a closer look. Perkins, the former Notre Dame commitment, is still trying to find his "fit", as each school he is interested in views him differently. Illinois and Beckman like him in the offensive backfield, which is Perkins preferred position, and for whatever reason, that's where I see him ending up coming February 1st. In Illinois, playing running back.

MINNESOTA Oh, Minnesota, the land o' a thousand lakes. It's not like you don't try, cause you do, it's just that you maybe shouldn't. Why not spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars you have for a recruiting budget on say, new ice-fishing poles for all the guys and gals at the local Shanty Shack

With 25 commitments, the Gophers have been very active on the recruiting trail this year, as Coach Kill (still the coolest name in football, IMHO) doing his part to put Gopherball back on the map. Minnesota was able to snag the state's second rated prospect, OT Jonah Pirsig, a 6'9 behemoth at offensive tackle, but lost out on Nick Davidson, another homegrown tackle who bolted just recently for Stanford. If you want to build a program based on the local talent, it's hard to lose potential stars lose Seantrel Henderson in 2010 and Davidson this year.

Over the years the Gopher state has produced some serious talent: James Laurinaitis, Michael Floyd, Joe Mauer, and Bryce McNeal are a few of the players who escaped the great white north for the warmth of the lower 48; if Kill can keep them in state eventually, Minnesota might be worth fretting over.

But, that hasn't happened yet, and this year's class of 25, with the exception of Pirsig, will help keep Minnesota as a MAC level football team in the Big 10, er, 11, er, 12 or 16 or whatever.


With less than two months until signing day, I expect a furious finish to the conference's recruiting year, and when it's all said and done, I suspect Ohio State and Urban Meyer will edge out Michigan for the top spot in the conference and a top 3 finish nationally. 

Here's the composite B1G recruiting rankings as we sit today.

B1G Recruiting Breakdown
TEAM Total Commitments 24/7 Network Average Star Ranking
Ohio State 19 3.74 3.53 3.58 3.62
Michigan 24 3.63 3.50 3.54 3.56
Nebraska 9 3.22 3.56 3.55 3.44
Wisconsin 12 3.42 3.33 3.50 3.42
Penn State 13 3.23 3.08 3.23 3.18
Michigan State 14 3.14 3.14 3.14 3.14
Iowa 16 2.69 3.00 2.94 2.88
Purdue 21 2.62 2.91 2.77 2.77
Indiana 24 2.62 2.75 2.83 2.73
Northwestern 18 2.58 2.78 2.66 2.67
Illinois 14 2.50 2.68 2.78 2.65
Minnesota 25 2.16 2.68 2.64 2.49

Thanks for reading, see you next Tuesday for Around The Oval when we'll get back to non-revenue sports at Ohio State, including the nationally ranked hockey and wrestling teams.


Comments Show All Comments

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I am wondering what Kyle Dodson is thinking right now that two Badger coaches, one their offensive coordinator and one the offensive line coach, are now heading to coach at Pitt! 

I have to believe it can only be a positive for OSU.

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Scott's picture

The Buckeyes spared Noah Spence in his recruitment.

I am way too easily amused.


Class of 2008

ArTbkward's picture

champagne = Bubbly drink from France

Champaign = New home of Tim Beckman

I hate to be the grammar police, but I used to live in Champaign.  It's a pet peeve...


We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

bassplayer7770's picture

He said Beckman would feast on Champagne.  Maybe he just meant he would become an alcoholic?

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

LOL, no, just too many beers while writing the story! Had the bubbly on the brain methinks. Thanks for the catch.

ArTbkward's picture

Totally understandable, it is almost New Years Eve after all :)

*Adds Martini & Rossi to grocery list*

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

DefendOhio's picture

24/7 is a bigger recruiting site than ESPN? Look I hate ESPN as much as the next guy, but 24/7 isn't in the top 3. Otherwise, very good article.

Bucksnut13's picture

espn is the only one that downgrades tosu prospects


It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I think that ESPN's bias makes them a bit difficult to take seriously, so I tried to use networks that don't have a particular conference to "pimp".

I do appreciate ESPN's recent interest in recruiting, since they have resources that others do not, but until they care more about equitable reporting and less about promoting the SEC, I will stick with the others.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

ESecPN has become almost non-watchable in the last few years.  I no longer watch any of their NFL coverage because it just sucks too bad.  I can handle Chris Carter (yeah, I know, I'm bias) and coach Ditka (Da Bears), but Berman makes my stomach wretch, Tom Jackson has just become a bitter old crumudgeon, and Keshown is horrid.  The rest of the Monday crew is unbelievable bad and Stu Jackson - I would love to sufficate him with the cool side of the pillow!!!

College Game Day is quickly falling into that category as well... sad!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

tampa buckeye's picture

espn is one of the worst recruiting sites out there.  how did ohio state/everyone miss that white kid playing for western michigan?  bottom line is no one knows what these kids will be in a year or two. 

btalbert25's picture

In my opinion, ESPN's recruiting rankings have always been off.  Not just Southern Bias and all that crap, they just haven't been on par with Rivals for years.  I can remember going onto both sites 7 or 8 years ago and ESPN's rankings just didn't make sense.  They were way different than Rivals and Scout.  I'm not too crazy about Scout's rankings either though.  They seem pretty liberal with their 5 stars rankings. 

Bucksfan's picture

Jeez, anyone watching this Purdue game?  They're trying their damndest to be the first B1G team to sh*t the bed this bowl season.

jmoody's picture

Interesting article. Keep it up.

"Did you push yourself to be great today? If you didn't do it you lost a day. We ain't got many days to lose. We're going to push your a$$ like its never been pushed because what you've got in you were going to find out" UFM

Orlando Buckeye's picture

Saw the commercial featuring odenigbo. Would have been nice to get that kid. Whether we really need him at this point or not. I don't like losing a kid because his parents want him to go to a "good" school.

William's picture

The crazy thing is he supposedly wants to pursue a career in medicine, so he's choosing between Notre Dame and Stanford. I'm currently a premed student at OSU, and our medical center is ranked in the Top 10 in the nation....

blazers34's picture

he said he wanted to major in computer science

William's picture

You are right, have no idea what I was thinking, must've been Michael Bennett from last year? In that case Stanford seems like quite the logical choice, although the CSE program at OSU is no slouch by any means.

poop's picture

If he can get  through the Stanford a computer science program while playing on the football team, I'll be beyond impressed. Wish we could have landed this guy.

BuckNut1070's picture

Does anyone see any of the prospects...or the commits changing their mind due to the NCAA ruling? I think it is mere "Fodder" for the press, and I also think it will make the recruits more solid on their decision because it's only a 1 year post season ban. The future classes coming up with be a "Dastardly" bunch, and the incentives will be off the charts for the incoming classes. What are everyone else's thought on this? Thanks!!  BUCKEYES RAWK AND RULE!!........\m/ \m/

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium."  ~Woody Hayes~

Buckeye Black's picture

Gunner Kiel to LSU.  

matti's picture

well that was a bad decision.  guess he just wants the sec qb college experiance aka bag men,  to curb stomp people, and get his purple drank on

Bj Mullens over Sully's picture

I believe this had been expected for a bit now, so no big suprise there.

Favorite Buckeye: Obviously BJ Mullens

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

I thought for sure he'd go to Notre Dame and follow in his dads footsteps. Rex Grossman was the last QB from Indiana to go out of state to play college ball. I don't think Jay Cutler was highly recruited.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

flipbuckeye's picture

Thank you for not including ESPN's wonky ass rankings.

acBuckeye's picture

Help me out Jeremy. I thought that since OSU has 19 commits, that there would only be room for 1 or 2 more. How are they able to still add as many as 6 more? I didn't think there was enough room to do that. (I mean, OSU isn't LSU, Alabama, or Houston Nutt.) Is it b/c of transfers? Also, isn't the first round of scholly reductions taking place with this class, or does it start with 2013?

Thanks, and great job.

bucki5's picture

2 more just took a medical hardship (meaning they're pretty much done and their scholarships are freed up) Graham is transferring, so there's 3 . . . + the 1 or 2 more left = 5.  And then there's Berry who's in some kind of legal trouble for assault?  6

bassplayer7770's picture

Plus the possibility of additional players transferring after the bowl game and Juniors entering the draft?

Alex's picture

I expect another medical hardship as well

bassplayer7770's picture

May I ask who for?  I'm not up-to-date on all the injured players.

Maestro's picture

Good question.  I don't want to speak for Jeremy, but by my count there are 80 scholarships filled including the 19 commits for this season (with McVey and Fellows not included).  Chad Hagan is a medical question mark so that could get it down to 79.  There will likely be a few more transfers after Meyer really sits down with each player.  Attrition happens with new coaching staffs.  So far only 1 (Taylor Graham).  It would be fairly shocking if that number didn't grow.  

So at a minimum there are 2 spots available, and likely 4-6 like Jeremy mentioned are in the cards by the time NLOI Day rolls around.

vacuuming sucks

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

It's like you're in my brain.

There will be other guys that leave on their own, and then there are still other questions like Jamaal Berry, Chad Hagan, etc. The room will be available.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

MSNBC is reporting that Taylor Graham is transferring to Hawaii.  Smart move and it frees up a scholarship to either sacrifice as one of the 9 we've lost or pick up another 4 - 5 star recruit.

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

I'm not crazy about so-called scouting service rankings who seem to overrate a lot of the kids in high school. It's what coaches do with the kids when they are in college. Honestly, OSU's coaching at times hindered their development. I'm hoping the new coaches will not impede their progress and instead make everyone better, even the so-called 5-star recruits.