Dienhart: Big Ten recruiting notebook
The calendar says 2012, but it may as well be 1975. The Big Ten is all about Michigan and Ohio State on this Signing Day, hearkening to days of the “Big Two and the Little Eight.” Only in today’s world, it’s the “Big Two and the Little 10.” According to Scout.com, Ohio State and Michigan dominated the Big Ten in recruiting.
And, it really wasn’t close.
The Buckeyes singed seven Top 100 recruits, with four five-star signees and 11 four-star recruits. The Wolverines inked six of Scout.com’s Top 100 players, including one five-star recruit and 14 four-star recruits.
And both Ohio State (3) and Michigan (4) landed in the Top Five of Scout.com’s final overall recruiting rankings.
The closest competitor? Michigan State, which ranks 35th nationally. The Spartans landed just two players in the Top 100, no five-star recruits and four four-star recruits.
Add it all up: Michigan and Ohio State combined for 13 Top 100 recruits; five five-star recruits; 25 four-star recruits. The rest of the Big Ten landed five Top 100 recruits; zero five-star recruits; 19 four-star recruits.
Brady Hoke showed he knows how to coach last season, leading Michigan to an 11-2 mark. Well, he also can recruit.
Hoke had 21 commitments before August. Those commits had no reason to waver after watching the Wolverines cap that 11-2 season with a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
Upon taking the Michigan job, Hoke said he wanted to emphasis Detroit and getting linemen. He achieved both in this class. And Hoke also invaded Ohio, a state that had been fruitful for Michigan in years past but lost emphasis with Rich Rodriguez as coach the previous three seasons.
Hoke nabbed nine players from the Buckeye State, battling Ohio State for several players. In fact, Michigan’s most touted signee is from Ohio: offensive lineman Kyle Kalis. Defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins of Missouri also is ballyhooed.
While Michigan took advantage of the tumult around Ohio State following Jim Tressel’s departure, the Wolverines found recruiting in Ohio more difficult once Urban Meyer was hired. Still, this is one of the top classes in the nation that already is providing a boost with the early enrollment of safety Jarrod Wilson and linebackers Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden.
BEST OF THE REST: MICHIGAN STATE
Michigan State continues to show it’s an elite program under Mark Dantonio’s stewardship. But MSU is hurt by the fact Michigan’s Brady Hoke puts more emphasis on recruiting the state than Rich Rodriguez did. Dantonio also is hampered by Urban Meyer’s presence in Ohio, a state that has been very good to Dantonio during his East Lansing tenure.
Still, Dantonio scored big in Ohio, inking seven players. Four signees are from Michigan.
The most touted signees are receivers Aaron Burbridge of Michigan and Monty Madaris of Ohio. MSU also welcomes Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett, another touted wideout who probably is the best of the bunch.
Defensive back Demetrious Cox of Pennsylvania and defensive end Jamal Lyles of Michigan also have fat scrapbooks.
THE BIG SURPRISE: PURDUE
It has been a slow, steady process for Danny Hope, but he’s making progress. Last season, Hope led Purdue to its first bowl since 2007. And as he enters his fourth season in West Lafayette, Hope will welcome his highest-rated class yet.
The Boilermakers’ 25-man class was mostly wrapped up weeks ago, as Hope’s staff identified targets early and got on them, securing myriad early commitments. As has been the case during his tenure, Hope hit his native Florida hard, inking six players. His top player from the Sunshine State is corner Anthony Brown.
Purdue needed offensive line help and signed seven with the best being Ryan Watson from Maryland as a late addition. The Boilers also lured four players from Texas, including stud offensive lineman Jordan Roos, and took four from Indiana.
One miss: Purdue needed a running back and got none. But no Big Ten school signed more offensive players than Purdue’s 17.
Three players already are on campus: JC offensive tackle Devin Smith, JC defensive end Greg Latta and prep school tight end Carlos Carvajal.
THE SURPRISE NO. 2: NORTHWESTERN
Pat Fitzgerald had perhaps his best haul yet with a class that ranks in the upper-half of the Big Ten. Linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo of Ohio is the cream of the crop, a ready-made player for a defense that needs playmakers. Pennsylvania guard Adam DePietro is a primo blocker.
Some think Malin Jones of nearby Joliet, Ill., may be the stud running back this program has been lacking. And the Wildcats get a boost from the transfer of USC receiver Kyle Prater, making the influx of talent into Evanston even more impressive.
THE RISING: INDIANA
Second-year Indiana coach Kevin Wilson likes his 24-man class. Why not? The group ranked ninth in the Big Ten—ahead of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois–which is a nice showing for the Hoosiers.
Wilson went heavy on the junior-college transfers, inking seven. Even better: They all already are in enrolled. Six of the seven play defense (three defensive backs; two linebackers; one defensive end), a big area of need in Wilson’s reconstruction.
The lone JC offensive player is Cameron Coffman at quarterback, a big area of need after Gunner Kiel backed out on a commitment and veterans Dusty Kiel and Ed Wright-Baker transferred. That left only incumbent Tre Roberson. Wilson also added Nathan Sudfeld, a prep signal-caller from California who looks like the top signee of this class.
The state always is an area of emphasis, as the Hoosiers took seven players from Indiana. The best of the bunch looks like receiver Kevin Davis and center Wes Rogers.
THE UNKNOWN: PENN STATE
The dynamic of hiring Bill O’Brien late, and then not having him on board full-time were two factors that could have had dire impacts on the Nittany Lions’ class. And how would the on-going Jerry Sandusky scandal impact recruiting?
In the end, Penn State still inked a nice class. What the Nits lacked in star power-just one top 100 Scout.com signee—receiver Eugene Lewis from Pennsylvania–they compensated for with 16 three-star signees. Penn State could have used a quarterback.
THE SLEEPER: IOWA
The Hawkeyes have endured attrition at running back, so that area needed to be bolstered with the signing of three. The Hawkeyes also inked two quarterbacks, scoring late when they flipped C.J. Beathard from Ole Miss. The other signal-caller is junior college transfer Cody Sokol, who already is on campus along with fellow JC signee Eric Simmons, an offensive lineman.
Speaking of offensive linemen, Iowa grabbed three with perhaps its biggest catch in the entire class being Ryan Ward, a massive blocker from Illinois. Many pundits also think defensive end Faith Ekakitie from Illinois and running back Greg Garmon from Pennsylvania rate among Iowa’s top catches.
Just three players hail from Iowa.
THE DISAPPOINTMENT: WISCONSIN
The low ranking for the Badgers probably shocks many, especially considering the program is coming off consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. But know this: The Badgers had to have been hampered by the loss of six assistant coaches.
Wisconsin’s class also isn’t highly ranked because it’s the smallest in the Big Ten with only 12 signees.
The Badgers got off to a fast start but were hurt by some de-commitments in the waning weeks, headed by offensive tackle Kyle Dodson switching to Ohio State.
A key get was quarterback Bart Houston from California. He needs to deliver, as Wisconsin didn’t ink a signal-caller last year and has two veteran quarterbacks whose careers may be in peril because of injury: Curt Phillps (knee) and Jon Budmayr (elbow).
Bielema has three players already on campus: cornerback Hugs Etienne; offensive lineman Dan Voltz; running back Vonte Jackson. The school’s top commit is in-state linebacker Vince Biegel.
THE CONTENDER: NEBRASKA
Coach Bo Pelini addressed a need at linebacker by inking four, the most for the program since 2005. The Huskers signed just one linebacker last season. Pelini also likes quarterback Tommy Armstrong of Texas.
Nebraska already has one of its top signees in school, as junior college defensive back Mohammed Seisay is on campus. He is a big-timer who began his career at Memphis.
Other top signees are receiver Jordan Westerkamp of Illinois; offensive lineman Paul Thurston of Colorado; defensive end Greg McMullen of Ohio; linebacker Zaire Anderson from California.
THE BIG CLASS: MINNESOTA
The Gophers will welcome the biggest class in the Big Ten (31), as Jerry Kill looks to continue his building efforts. Eight players, including five junior college transfers, are already on campus and prepping for spring drills. Four of the early enrollees are defensive players, and two are quarterbacks.
The Gophers scored a big prize when receiver Andre McDonald opted to stay home. Other top prep signees are receiver Jamel Harbison of North Carolina; offensive lineman Isaac Hayes of Minnesota; defensive back Antonio Johnson of Ohio; offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig of Minnesota.