B1G Trends: Conference's Top Programs Heading in Different Directions on the Recruiting Trail

By Andrew Ellis on January 23, 2018 at 2:15 pm
Urban Meyer and James Franklin are dominating the Big Ten.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

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Urban Meyer and James Franklin have the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions at the top of the Big Ten, and it's no surprise that the conference's powerhouse programs are consistently getting it done on the recruiting trail. With signing day just a few weeks away, Ohio State checks in with the No. 2 class in America while Penn State is sitting at No. 4 

Over the weekend, the Buckeyes hosted one of the country's top offensive tackles in four-star Maryland native Rasheed Walker. Checking in as the No. 60 overall prospect, Walker is likely the last big 2018 battle for Meyer and Franklin as the two foes patiently wait for his signing day announcement. The rivals exchanged blows at the Under Armour All-America Game when they split a pair of top defensive ends in Tyreke Smith and Jayson Oweh. 

Things have been going quite differently in Ann Arbor, however.

Last week the Buckeyes landed four-star defensive lineman Tyler Friday. The country's No. 84 prospect had been a top-of-the-board Wolverine target for some time, and for the bulk of the recruitment most felt they were the team to beat. A late surge by Larry Johnson and Greg Schiano helped to land the New Jersey native who became the 12th top-100 player to join the Ohio State class. 

Fresh off the 8-5 season and bowl loss to South Carolina, the Wolverines' class checks in at No. 14 in America and seems to have hit a rough patch. Dating back to the last week of October, Jim Harbaugh has landed six recruits; all of the three-star variety. After missing out on Friday, Michigan bounced back on Sunday by landing a commitment from defensive back Vincent Gray, the country's No. 688 prospect.

"Recruiting rankings don't matter."– Fans of teams who aren't recruiting well

Obviously it's never wise to write someone off due to the number of stars next to their name, and we've seen the Buckeyes strike gold with plenty of less-heralded prospects such as Malik Hooker and Darron Lee. Still, this can't be what Wolverine fans had expected and hoped for with Harbaugh at the helm. To make matters worse, their top-rated commitment – four-star Georgia linebacker Otis Reese – is still exploring his options. 

So what's going wrong for Michigan? And what's going right for Ohio State and Penn State? 

It certainly doesn't hurt when you're consistently winning football games, performing well in the national spotlight, and always beating your rival. I'm a firm believer that recruiting boils down to a) comfort and relationships, b) the chance to win a national title, and c) player development. One would think that every staff can get through the comfort and relationships part – at least to a degree and especially with local talent – but it's the other areas that can be a struggle for many programs. 

Urban Meyer and James Franklin have been checking all of the boxes lately as they've been winning football games and have earned the distinction as top-tier programs alongside the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson. They've developed their players and made plenty of noise in the NFL Draft. Ohio State and Penn State are also recognized as some of the finer hosts when it comes to official visitors. 

The fine folks over at Roar Lions Roar touched on the atmosphere surrounding the Nittany Lion program and how it's worked wonders on the trail:

The biggest thing Franklin stresses with recruits is the family atmosphere of the program. You hear the same thing from a lot of schools, but it is the number one thing you hear Penn State recruits say draws them to the program. Franklin and his staff have done an unbelievable job of building the type of chemistry up and down the roster you need to succeed on the field, and when you go into a recruit's home or school. Via

The allure of Ohio State is impossible to miss right now—from the coaching staff to the national spotlight to the NFL Draft. It makes things that much easier when you have coaches who work as hard as anyone on the trail and one of college football's best leading the charge. And on top of all that a tireless worker like Mark Pantoni and a social media team that is second to none.

Michigan may still have the reputation of a traditional power program, but no one on earth can argue that they've been getting it done on the field. Finishing the season with three straight losses hasn't helped, and that may be part of the reason the staff has moved on to some lower-hanging fruit. The Wolverines are off to a decent start for the Class of 2019, but they've also struggled with hanging on to some commitments of late, so that's also worth keeping an eye on.

Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh are still battling it out for five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, and the Florida native seems to be surprisingly open this late in the process. Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida, and Alabama are all very much in the hunt. Petit-Frere took an official visit to Ann Arbor back in November and the Buckeyes are slated to get the last shot on Feb. 2. 

Regardless of how things pan out over the next two weeks, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions remain in a great spot atop the Big Ten. Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines have some serious work to do.

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