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Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The top five Big Ten closers in recruiting



Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


The games have finally started in the Big Ten, but recruiting season never ends. Like every league, the Big Ten boasts its share of ace recruiters, but only a select few are adept at getting top prospects to say yes.

Here's a look at the Big Ten's top closers in recruiting:

1. Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson -- Johnson is the biggest reason why Penn State always reloads on defense and has elevated its overall recruiting since 2008. He can get pretty much whomever he wants from Maryland, and his commitments include current linebacker Navorro Bowman, former wide receiver Derrick Williams and former defensive end Aaron Maybin, the first pick from the Big Ten in the 2009 NFL draft.

2. Illinois head coach Ron Zook -- He might not always get the best out of his players (read: Saturday's game against Missouri), but Zook always brings in top talent. Illinois' inconsistent history hasn't stopped Zook from landing loads of elite prospects, especially from Chicago and Washington D.C. Losing top assistant Mike Locksley certainly stings, but Zook will continue to get after it on the recruiting trail.

3. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell -- A head coach in the near future, Fickell has helped Ohio State consistently bring in top 5 recruiting classes. He lured top defensive prospects Corey Brown and Dorian Bell in the 2009 class and has landed several current defensive starters, including safety Kurt Coleman and defensive end Thaddeus Gibson. Fickell's youth and energy helps him stand out on a staff of good recruiters.

4. Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez -- Despite a 3-9 season in 2008, Rodriguez still brought in a top 15 recruiting class in February and got off to a quick start for 2010, landing commitments from standout quarterback Devin Gardner and others. Rodriguez's style might not be for everyone, including some of Lloyd Carr's recruits, but he connects with a certain type of player and should have Michigan back near the top of the Big Ten soon.

5. Michigan State running backs coach Dan Enos -- Enos has reestablished Michigan State as a recruiting force in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs, plucking prospects like Edwin Baker and Fred Smith from the Motown area. Mark Dantonio wants to build his program primarily with local and regional talent, and Enos is leading the charge in Michigan's largest city.