Football Recruiting: Is Big Ten Recruiting Improving?

By Jordan Wagner on February 24, 2014 at 6:00p
Meyer, Dantonio recruiting well.

Not long after he arrived in Columbus, Urban Meyer challenged his fellow Big Ten coaches to recruit better. Meyer had seen what relentless recruiting had done for the SEC and knew the Big Ten needed some of that. 

Sure it was brash. But it was Urban Meyer – the man knows a thing or two about winning football games. 

Michigan State and Mark Dantonio were game. The Spartans have seen their recruiting fortunes improve each season since Meyer's arrival, culminating in a Rose Bowl victory and following it up with a top-25 class that is considered to be Dantonio's best in East Lansing.

Five other Big Ten programs joined Michigan State in improving their recruiting rankings (247Sports Composite Rankings) from 2013 to 2014. On the flip side, eight programs – including Ohio State – saw their class ranking tumble.

(While we include Ohio State as one of the eight Big Teams to suffer a class ranking downgrade from 2013-14, the Buckeyes did finish 3rd overall in 2014 and who's to complain about that? Oh, Urban Meyer, that's who. At his signing day press conference, Meyer voiced his displeasure with not having the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.) 

B1G CLASS Rankings (247Sports)
Team 2013 2014 3YR AVG
ILLINOIS 49 70 50
INDIANA 42 51 51
IOWA 58 53 58
MARYLAND 41 43 44
MICHIGAN 4 20 12
MICHIGAN ST 37 25 34
MINNESOTA 66 57 60
NEBRASKA 22 35 23
OHIO ST 2 3 4
PENN ST 30 24 36
PURDUE 62 72 62
RUTGERS 50 60 34
WISCONSIN 38 33 47

Illinois has struggled under Tim Beckman, both on-the-field and on the recruiting trail. The Illini finished with the 70th-ranked recruiting class. For context, 1-11 Western Michigan finished one spot ahead of the Illini in 2014. We're just three years removed from Ron Zook inking a top-40 class in Champaign, so there's no excuse for Beckman and Illinois to perform this poorly. 

The Hoosiers recruiting efforts took a nine spot dive from '13 to '14, but Kevin Wilson has shown he can land the big fish (if only to later lose them in the case of Gunner Kiel).

Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes had a slightly better recruiting class in 2014, but Iowa's classes have fallen from 28th in 2011 to 40th in 2012 and the unit now seems to float in the 50s. Not exactly what you would expect from a program that has one of the highest paid coaches in all of college football. 

Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin are all headed in the right direction. All three programs improved their class ranking from last year to this year and James Franklin is a potential star in the making. Additionally, all three are doing much better than their three-season average from 2011-2013. Just a couple seasons ago, Wisconsin's recruiting class was ranked 65th. Now it stands at 33rd under Gary Andersen. 

Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue and Rutgers have all been trending the wrong direction. All four programs saw their recruiting classes fall 10 or more spots from 2013 to 2014 and also well below their three-year averages. Kyle Flood hasn't had much success on the recruiting scene since replacing Greg Schiano, who brought in a pair of top-30 classes in 2011 and 2012. Bo Pelini had the 17th ranked class in '11, but now sits at 35. Darrell Hazell has yet to have success at Purdue and a 72nd-ranked class is unacceptable for a Big Ten program. 

Maryland and Minnesota have managed to stick right near their three-year averages, although both have plenty of room to improve. 

While a few teams are heading the right direction in the recruiting rankings, the teams heading in the wrong direction have their work cut out for them. Until this changes and some of those B1G schools decide to recruit better than MAC programs, the conference will continue to take its lumps from the pundits. This also means, selfishly for Urban Meyer, Ohio State will have to work harder for national respect until the conference gets better. It all starts with recruiting, so it's not looking like things will be getting better soon. 


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lvccacamcrca's picture

Bigger recruiting budgets are an obvious necessity. It would be interesting to see how we match up money wise to SEC, PAC12 fiscal commitment

+3 HS
ab1993's picture

On the flip side, eight programs – including Ohio State – saw their class ranking tumble.

I wouldn't say we saw our class ranking tumble... we moved down one spot... that's not exactly tumbling in my eyes. It's all subjective anyways, a top 5 recruiting class could be said to be anywhere from 1-5 (with the exception of Alabama this year who was clearly 1), but when you go from a certain rank and drop 5-10+ spots, I'd say that's tumbling. 


Edit: I stopped reading after that line to post this comment, but then went back up to finish and I see what you said after that haha. I still wouldn't use the word "tumble".

+8 HS
teddyballgame's picture

Yeah these things are very subjective.  Depending on what happens on the field we could easily find ourselves looking back 5 years from now saying "that dream 14 class was the best so far".

+3 HS
ab1993's picture

I agree with your comment 100%, but I can't up vote yet haha. The most frustrating thing is not being able to up vote or give out HS to people. Only about 20 away >.<

+7 HS
ScarletNGrey01's picture

I suppose even with the proceeds from the Big Ten Channel and equal distribution of the bowl season proceeds that's still not enough to bankroll these really expensive facility upgrades and coaches salaries.  It's tough to complete with the "fun in the sun" schools, but again, have the best facilities and the best coaching staffs and you can get enough quality kids to enroll to swing the pendulum.  Of course, all the other schools like the Oregon's of the world are striving to do the same thing.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

+1 HS
youngbuck32's picture

Urban... please... just do what you do coach! We will support you no matter the number in front of our class rank. Get your guys in here and just win baby!

P.S. I'd like to really have Torrance Gibson in this class.... THEN after that I'll support you noatter what!
P.S.S. Also Justin Hilliard. Go Bucks!

Can't is the real "C" word!

+1 HS
ab1993's picture

I'd rather have Holland than Hilliard honestly. Both would be great however

sivaDavis's picture

If having Holland means getting the Trinity "trinity" of Holland, Edwards and Toliver II. I guess I'd rather have him as well.

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes


We want the rest of the B1G to catch up. Sparty beating us, as much as that sucked, will pay big dividends in the future as I can guarantee that loss has got Meyer and his staff motivated to make the team better. Imagine how strong we'd be if Sparty and the rest of the B1G caught up to us in recruiting?

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+3 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I agree and think MSU is the new TTUN.



gm3jones's picture

@ Buckeyedude-- Thought we all agreed they are TOTUN (the other team up north)?

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

acBuckeye's picture

A coach like Urban Meyer doesn't need to lose a game to get motivated to get him and his team better. He's a self-motivator which is why he's had so much success. With the way you put it, I'd rather have won that game against Sparty and have a shot at a FSU team that was outplayed for over half of the national title game by an Auburn team that was one-dimensional on offense and didn't have a D any better than ours.

TCOB_6's picture

Not that it matters, but how do the Rutgers have a 50th and 60th ranked class with a 3 year average or 34?

Tim's picture

You don't remember their amazing -8th ranked class from 2012?

TCOB_6's picture

They must have done some serious over signing in 2012. Was Satan doing their recruiting that year?

+1 HS
Jordan Wagner's picture

I mentioned in the article that the three year averages were from 2011-2013. With Rutgers, recruiting has taken a hit since Schiano left. 

swainpm's picture

How great would it be for the BIG if Floods predictable rough first BIG campaign lead to a replacement by Schiano? Doubtful I know but it would really help and the eastern division would really be a monster. Wasn't he rumored to be in the PSU coaching candidates?

TCOB_6's picture

My bad Jordan. I missed the 2011-2013 part. I would say it has really taken a hit considering they were ranked 50th in 2013 which would have seriously dropped their 3 year average. I didn't realize Rutgers were recruiting as well as they had been.

Nutinpa's picture

With regard to the last sentence in your article, yes it does start with recruiting, no doubt. Meyer was right, despite pissing a lot of people off, for "calling out" the rest of the conference and many content coaches and ADs who work in it.  But if Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are worried about "national respect", they will have to earn it by winning the B1G conference outright and dethroning MSU...a team that this fanbase consistently alleges is not on par with the Buckeyes talent-wise. Then...the Buckeyes will have to win outside of conference against good opponents starting this year with Navy and VaTech, although the skeptics and haters won't be impressed.  Losing to a team like Clemson when you were supposedly one quarter away from playing for the National Title 1 month earlier does noting for your street cred. If the Urban Meyer-led Ohio State Buckeyes are going to make it to the mountain top, I suggest he and they worry a bit more about what is happening inside the WHAC than what is happening around the Big Ten conference. Kind of explains why only one fanbase (ours) was rooting for the Buckeyes against Sparty back on December 6th.

+7 HS
BukFan's picture

When does PSU start the 10 year slide to recruiting 1* recruits and winning 3 games every year?  

+1 HS
Jason Priestas's picture

Not anytime soon under James Franklin.

Buckeye5000's picture

I got what you did there. Seems some of the so called "experts" were wrong

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

BukFan's picture

Yea it seems the SMU analaogy was WAY WAY WAY off huh?

MN Buckeye's picture

I heard Urban challenge the B1G coaches one time early in his tenure here. Since then, it seems like he has focused on building his own house and not so much on what other programs are doing.  

m5987usus's picture

The big ten recruiting has improved which is awesome


buckskin's picture

It's a mixed bag.  The programs who want to move forward, as indicated by their head coaching hires, are vastly improving.  Wisky, PSU, and MSU are the three programs with forward thinking coaches who are starting to really broaden and strengthen their recruiting efforts.  OSU and TTUN will always recruit well.  Many of the other programs might need to make coaching changes to start getting players; look at Illinois.  We all made fun of the Zooker, but he got talent in there; with Beckman they have fallen off the charts. 

Two things all B1G schools must do:  1.  Beat out smaller SEC programs and MAC for 2nd tier Ohio talent and 2. Keep in elite in state talent from migrating south to the SEC; eg. Iowa losing linemen to Bama and Illinois consistently losing top players (Treadwell and Garrett to name a few).  This would really help.


Buckeye5000's picture

I just can not figure out why Iowa doesn't fire Ferentz.....oh yea that's's tough to fire a coach with a hammer lock on the Coach of the Year Award. Wow! are they overpaying.

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

Nick_Satan's picture

Regardless of what anyone's opinion is on if recruiting rankings are overrated or not. The rankings for the rest of the Conference are just down right hysterical. If The Big as a whole really wants to be taken seriously those numbers have to come up dramatically, and I don't understand why the other schools don't recruit better. You would think with the revenue the BIG generates it shouldn't be an issue.

+1 HS
Mortc15's picture

What Meyer did though as soon as he got to Columbus was create a divide. He challenged coaches and programs to get on OSU's level or get left behind, WAY behind. And that's exactly what happened. MSU, PSU, and Wisc are along for the ride and it seems the rest of the conference, for now, is being left behind with little hope of catching up in the near future.


OSUBias's picture

We haven't left anyone that far behind. We've won zero conference championships and zero bowl games, lost our two toughest games, won twice in OT, and 4 other times by less than 5. It's not like we're destroying everyone in the conference. We're destroying the crappy teams, and barely squeaking by or losing to the better teams.

That being said, our trajectory seems to end at a higher level than anyone else (save maybe Sparty I guess), but let's not pretend that it's been easy getting to 24-2 over the last two years. A lot of it has been a downright struggle.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

Mortc15's picture

The only conference team to beat OSU has been MSU, once. Is the team where it needs to be, absolutely not. But look at the facts. MSU, TTUN, Wisc, and PSU will usually be the top teams. Neb and NW will go back and forth. That's going to leave about half the league as not very good. I think there's a major divide between OSU and MSU and the rest and then TTUN, PSU, Wisc and the remaining. Meyer's also been playing with half of Tressel's recruits. This coming year will start to be the breaking point. OSU needs to start to pull away from everyone and get back to elite national level.


DaytonBuckeye4life's picture

The Big Ten needs to turn things around on the recruiting front Our Buckeyes are really the only ones doing a good job's picture

It would be helpful to be able to account for three factors in recruiting rankings:

  1. Class size.
  2. Number of top 100 rated recruits.
  3. How recruits fill needs.

I think most would agree that a class of 12 or 13 stacked with 2 or 3 five star recruits at the top might be more desirable than a class of 26 recruits made up mostly of 2 or 3 stars, with a few 4 stars. Unless you over-recruit (i.e., SEC & Alabama,) you are limited by the number of scholarships available.

I also think that some of the athletes at the very top of a class can have a disproportionate affect on wins & losses. Someone like Clowney is just in a different class. Even among 5 stars, he is a man among boys. As a Michigan fan, the hope is that Peppers is like that. Both the Buckeyes and Wolverines covet Damien Harris for the same reason:  a talent like that can make or break a class.

Lastly, you have to really recruit to fill needs across the board. When you do that regularly, and have depth at every position, you can afford to recruit "the best players available." When you lack depth, it is more important to recruit so that you have all positions adequately covered. Because of the learning curve, and the difficulty of predicting the play of future linemen, it is particularly important to maintain depth on both the offensive and defensive lines. What I'm trying to say is a solid 3 or 4 star is more important to a school at a position of need than a 5 star at a position where you have lots of depth. Of course, you always make room for monster players, but the secondary can't cover a substandard DL, nor can an excellent DL compensate for a crummy LB corps.

nburns18's picture

The Big Ten is on its way back to the top. Ohio State has Urban, MSU has Dantonio, PSU has hired Franklin who will be great. Along with Wisconsin's Gary andersen and NU's Fitzgerald. There is alot to be excited about. And after Hoke gets fired this season, look for TTUN to go after Jim Harbaugh. That would be huge for the conference. 

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

Crimson's picture

look for TTUN to go after Jim Harbaugh

They already did.  It didn't work.