Some Big Ten recruiting thoughts

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
9:00
AM ET
I meant to get to this earlier in the week but got bogged down with Big Ten spring wrap-up stuff. Anyway, there have been some interesting recent developments in Big Ten recruiting.

Here are my thoughts ...

Wisconsin lands commitment from QB Bart Houston

First off, I'm going to love writing and saying the name Bart Houston in the coming years. Great quarterback name.

Bret Bielema told me last month that Wisconsin's Rose Bowl run increased the program's national exposure. He said the Badgers have received calls from more top-level recruits and from recruits who live far from Madison. The coach also acknowledged most of these players were running backs and offensive linemen, two positions where Wisconsin has thrived.

Houston's commitment for the 2012 class is significant because of the position he plays. For an ESPNU 150 Watch List quarterback to pick a run-heavy team like Wisconsin shows the program can appeal to elite signal callers. I grew up in the Bay Area, and I remember Houston's high school (De La Salle) dominating the state and national ranks. There's a lot to like here.

Wisconsin wants to show it can reload year to year like Ohio State, but the Badgers have seen drop-offs at the quarterback spot (2008). There's a lot of concern about the quarterbacks heading into the 2011 season. Wisconsin ultimately needs to upgrade its quarterback recruiting, and Houston is a good start.

Michigan's fast start to 2012 recruiting

New Wolverines coach Brady Hoke and his assistants aren't wasting any time on the recruiting trail so far. Michigan already has landed eight verbal commitments for 2012, two more than any other Big Ten squad (Ohio State and Penn State both have six verbals).

More notable is the fact that four of Michigan's commits are linebackers, including ESPNU 150 Watch List member Joe Bolden and James Ross, who has drawn strong reviews from some recruiting services. Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison both talked to me this spring about wanting to upgrade the size and strength of the defensive front seven through recruiting. These early commits give an idea of what the coaches envision for the defense in the coming years.

Ohio State recruiting and the NCAA situation

A lot of folks are wondering how the situation involving coach Jim Tressel and the NCAA will impact Ohio State's recruiting.

The Buckeyes boast six verbal commits for 2012, but only one -- wide receiver Frank Epitropoulos -- has pledged after the NCAA situation came to light. Running back Bri'onte Dunn, who committed in September, recently told Bucknuts.com that he might reconsider his college choice.

After his son committed to Ohio State, John Epitropoulos, a former Buckeyes player, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer, "We needed some good news around here, and if it so happens that he can be the good news, so be it."

Tressel's future has to be on the minds of recruits considering Ohio State, and it'll be interesting to see how many more commit before the NCAA situation is resolved. Ohio State assistant head coach Luke Fickell told me last month that he hasn't encountered much negative recruiting yet, but you can bet some schools will use the Tressel/NCAA situation to steer players away from the Buckeyes.

Other recruiting thoughts
  • After a very slow start to 2011 recruiting, Penn State already has six verbal commits for 2011, including four linemen. Decorated defensive tackle prospect Jarron Jones has given Penn State a soft verbal and still will visit other schools.
  • Michigan State got on the recruiting scoreboard for 2012 in a big way with three verbal commitments late last week. Among the commits is linebacker Riley Bullough, the younger brother of Spartans linebacker Max Bullough.

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