National Signing Day is less than a week away, and Big Ten teams are putting the finishing touches on their recruiting classes.
To gain better insight into the Big Ten's recruiting scene, I checked in with Craig Haubert, recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. If you aren't doing so religiously, start checking the ESPN Recruiting page leading up to Signing Day.
Here's the first part of our interview:
Generally, how do you think the Big Ten has fared in recruiting this year?
Craig Haubert: They only have two teams in the top 25 [Ohio State and Nebraska], which seems very low for the Big Ten, but there's a logjam of pretty much three through eight or nine that are all in the mix. Michigan State could push their way into the top 25, Illinois is close. There's not a lot of ideal high-end impact this year in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Nebraska are pretty safe, Michigan State's probably got a shot, an outside chance for Illinois. Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, depending how they close. There's a logjam in the center, and if I had to give them a grade, it would be a B, B-minus type grade for those teams. And then you get to the Minnesotas, Purdues, Indianas.
Looking at your rankings, so many players are from the south and southeast. How much of a concern is that for the Big Ten?
CH: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, those are all states where you can find good prospects, but those aren't the types of states they used to be 20, 30 years ago. Just so much of the country is shifting to the south, so if you're the Big Ten, you've got to go where the people are. You've got to start reaching down to Florida, which I think Ohio State in the last two or three years has done well, reaching more down south and getting guys out of Florida.
Nebraska will come into the Big Ten with ties to Texas. One of the interesting things with Nebraska is can they maintain those Texas ties without being able to sell games against Texas and Texas Tech and A&M? How long can they hold the Texas advantage they have, and how well can they transition, like the rest of the Big Ten, more into Georgia and Florida? Illinois is another team that gets out of state very well. Michigan State, Penn State, they're two that feed on Midwest kids. Penn State obviously does well in New Jersey and the Virginia/Maryland area. The best players, and I really don't think it's a bias or anything, if you look at the SEC and the players who go there to perform, that's the best pocket of players. The Big Ten schools have a nice little stranglehold on the players in their own states, but you've got to go where the players are. Some of those teams have been adjusting well, and Ohio State's been the one adjusting the best. That's why they're always near the top.
How many Big Ten programs are recruiting like true powerhouses? Is it just Ohio State? Any others?
CH: The only one that recruits like a true powerhouse on a consistent basis is Ohio State. Penn State would be the next and then any given year, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, [Mark] Dantonio's starting to push Michigan State there. They would be the next tier. But Ohio State's the only one in the last few years that has consistently recruited at a national, top 10-type level in the Big Ten. Penn State has the ability to do that and they flex their muscles sometimes. They've kind of gotten a bad rap this year because they're not going to sign a very big class and they started out very slowly. But Penn State's still a major player.
Nebraska is starting to claw their way back to that point, but again, it's going to be interesting how they adjust to the move. I don't think it's as cut and dried as some people think, but they have the potential to be a team that can also be a perennial top 15 type recruiting program.
What have you observed so far from Brady Hoke at Michigan?
CH: He's doing well. I don't know if I'd go much past that. It's a tough situation because he came in much later than a lot of other guys, not putting together a staff. He's got some guys, pulled a kid away from Purdue [Russell Bellomy], holding onto Blake Countess, getting him to reaffirm is good. For Michigan, it's a bad class because Michigan has the potential to recruit on a powerhouse national level. But Hoke is doing a good job.
I would almost compare it to Al Golden at Miami. He did a good job at Temple. People who follow college football knew Al Golden was a good coach. When he took the job at Miami, I didn't think he'd make an impact very quickly. I thought it would take time for him to get into the area and make a name for himself, and then it might take off. He's come into Miami and gotten that thing cranked up a lot faster than I thought he would and a lot of people thought he would. Brady Hoke coming from San Diego State, he's got some ties to Michigan, more well known in the area than Al Golden may be to people in South Florida. But Brady Hoke is kind of in the situation I thought Al Golden would have been. He's in a tough situation and it's showing right now. It's a solid class, he's trying to keep it solid. I wouldn't expect much more to happen between now and signing day other than pulling a four-star guy and maybe two more three-star guys. He hasn't done anything to make you go 'Wow,' but to be fair, he's been in a really tough situation.