Big Ten: Jordan Hicks
Adam Rittenberg: First of all, great name. Henderson is waiting to see what happens with USC and the NCAA investigation before signing with the Trojans. He has until April 1 to sign, and the situation at USC may or may not be resolved by then. He said Ohio State finished second to USC in his recruitment, so the Buckeyes obviously would be in the mix if things don't work out with the Trojans. Then again, his father didn't sound too excited about Jim Tressel or the Buckeyes in this New York Times story. Let's see what happens with USC, because there's still a decent chance he signs there.
Jason from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: Hey AdamJust a quick note. I notice this line being repeated over and over for Iowa and recruiting. "Arguably no staff in the Big Ten gets more out of less than Iowa's coaches, so fans clamoring for five-star recruits should simply consult the history books."I am a huge Iowa fan, but I have to disagree. The past 6 years in recruiting (Including the 2010 class) Iowa has (20) 4 star recruits and (1) 5 star recruit.Wisconsin has (16) 4 star recruits and (1) 5 star recruit per Rivals.com.The win totals of the past 5 years are Iowa with 39 wins and Wisconsin 48 wins.I would say without a doubt. Wisconsin does the best with less talent. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Well, the word "arguably" means it's not a definitive statement, but you can apply this belief to both Iowa and Wisconsin. In fact, those are the two staffs who consistently get the most out of their talent in the Big Ten. Wisconsin probably has a bit more in-state talent to work with, and both staffs recruit the Chicago area very hard. The Badgers have more wins during the last five years, though Iowa had the BCS bowl win last year. It's pretty close between those two programs, but both coaching staffs develop players very well.
Leroy from Detroit writes: Yeah .... Those number one recruiting classes surely haven't helped the SEC with their 4 cons National Championships ...huh ?
Adam Rittenberg: Leroy, my point wasn't to discredit the recruiting process, but certain programs that rarely win conference titles or BCS bowls always seem to get a ton of attention in early February but don't translate it onto the field. Florida and Alabama win national titles because of great coaching, above all. The recruiting helps, but Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have more to do with it. Big Ten teams like Iowa and Wisconsin never get any attention on signing day, but they consistently get it done during the season, when things really matter.
Ryan from West Lafayette writes: Adam, you have to agree that this has been an embarrassing day for the Big Ten. Only 2 teams recruiting classes ranked in the top 25, a good handful of the Midwest's top prospects leaving the region, the top 4 players in Ohio not going to the buckeyes, the list goes on and on. I know the league's coaching staffs do a good job of developing, but the fact of the matter is that every national championship team has signed elite talent. The Big Ten can't even keep the few good prospects home. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: It wasn't a great signing fay for the Big Ten, Ryan, but just because the league didn't make a ton of noise on Wednesday doesn't give me major cause for concern. Ohio State's 2011 class should be better than its 2010 group. Penn State did a great job, and Michigan closed well with Demar Dorsey. The Big Ten hates to lose players like Jordan Hicks and Seantrel Henderson, but most of the talent ended up staying in the Midwest. I'll be more concerned if the Big Ten has another good bowl season after the 2010 season and once again struggles on signing day.
Billy from Compton, Calif., writes: Do you think a coach like urban myer would be questioned about signing a player like Demar Dorsey who has had a troubled past, or only a coach like Rich Rod, who is always questioned, would?
Adam Rittenberg: Florida has faced questions about the number of its players with recent arrests, but all that typically gets brushed aside by winning. The same goes for Michigan. If the Wolverines win the Big Ten this year, the focus will be shifted elsewhere. It always works that way. People can talk about Michigan's character issues and Rodriguez being a bad fit, etc. But as soon as he starts winning, the noise will die down.
Big Ten teams certainly signed their share of top prospects, but the landscape around the league seemed much quieter than the ones in the SEC, Pac-10, ACC and Big 12. If I had to list the major newsmakers on signing day, it would look something like this: Urban Meyer, Lane Kiffin, kid picking from several hats, Mack Brown, Seantrel Henderson, kid mispronouncing the name of his new school, Derek Dooley, Kiffin, Meyer, Jimbo Fisher, Mack, Gene Chizik. Did I mention Kiffin? Kiffin!
You get the point.
Aside from Demar Dorsey's surprise signing with Michigan and the testy Rich Rodriguez news conference that ensued, the Big Ten was completely out of the spotlight.
Is that a bad thing? I don't think it is.
"There hasn't been much drama or excitement," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said, "which is OK with me."
Fact: the Big Ten didn't have a banner year in recruiting. The league certainly lost some key homegrown players (Henderson, Jordan Hicks) to other programs. And recruiting plays a major role in winning national championships. I get that. But so does coaching. And player development. And guys truly blossoming after they arrive at college.
I don't think the hoopla of signing day matters as much to the Big Ten as it does to teams from other leagues. How many times have you heard how great Clemson will be after signing day? Or North Carolina? Or Mississippi? Or Auburn? Or California? When was the last time those teams won anything significant?
The Big Ten doesn't need to make a lot of noise about new players who might be good. Certain Big Ten teams like Wisconsin and Iowa make noise when it counts, during the season, largely with unheralded recruits.
"I'd rather be ranked at the end of the year than the start of the year, and the same thing holds true in recruiting," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema told me Wednesday. "It doesn't really matter, coming in, how many stars you have behind your name. It's about what you do while you're there. We recruit to that motto a little bit.
"It was brought to my attention today, we're ranked by one recruiting service at 30th and another at 83rd. There's so many factors into this recruiting that are off-the-wall ridiculous."
And some of those things take place on signing day.
"I don't cohabitate very well with prima donnas," Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "The hat charade and the decommitting and the recommitting, I'm not looking to recruit those kind of young people. Those aren't the things that we believe in and value in our program. ... I don't really care what anybody ranks our class right now. They fit us, we believe in who they are, and more importantly, we trust our evaluation."
Although Ohio State was involved in post-signing day drama with Terrelle Pryor in 2008, several of the Buckeyes' recent stars (James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins) weren't big names on the day they signed. A bunch of first-team All-Big Ten players in 2009 -- Daryll Clark, Greg Jones, Tyler Sash, Tandon Doss, Sherrick McManis -- arrived as largely unheralded recruits.
Does a quiet signing day really hurt the Big Ten? Doubtful.
"I don't want to win signing day," Fitzgerald said. "I want to win on Saturdays in the fall."
Recruits: 18 (16 high school seniors, two prep school players, one player enrolled already)
Top prospects: Defensive back Christian Bryant should see the field early. Running back Roderick Smith could be a factor as the starting job remains a bit unsettled. Linemen Darryl Baldwin and Andrew Norwell and wide receivers James Louis and Corey Brown also come in with plenty of accolades.
Sleepers: Speedy Bradley Roby is a late signee who only gained major attention in recruiting after switching from wide receiver to cornerback as a senior. Quarterback Taylor Graham struggled with injuries in high school but has a good pedigree as the son of former NFL QB Kent Graham. Defensive tackle Johnathon Hankins is a big body on the interior.
Needs met: Ohio State addressed a mini need in the secondary with Bryant and Roby. The Buckeyes would have liked one more offensive lineman -- Seantrel Henderson or Matt James -- but they added depth at both wide receiver and running back.
Analysis: Ohio State might not have hit a home run with this class, and the Buckeyes lost a few key in-state products to other teams, namely Jordan Hicks. But Jim Tressel and his staff brought in plenty of speed and versatility, and added several key wide receivers who could contribute early following graduation losses and Lamaar Thomas' transfer. Unless Henderson dumps USC in the coming weeks, Ohio State will need to add more offensive linemen in the 2011 class.
Scouts Inc. grade: B
What Jim Tressel said:
- "If you asked coach [Jim] Bollman how many offensive linemen he would have liked, we had pigeonholed two. He probably would have liked three or four, but we could afford two within our budget. So we'll see how we end up there."
- "With the way the game has changed, you need so many guys who can play out in space. In this class, we have a lot of guys with skills and speed."
Henderson said Ohio State finished second to USC for his services. Minnesota also was in the mix near the end, as head coach Tim Brewster tried to keep the St. Paul product at home.
The Big Ten certainly needs to protect its home turf, especially when most of the nation's elite players are located elsewhere. Ohio State should still be fine on the offensive line if certain players develop, though today has been a disappointment for the Scarlet and Gray.
Though Hicks attended high school in the Cincinnati suburbs, he only moved to Ohio in the sixth grade from South Carolina and had family connections to the Texas coaching staff. As he told reporters Friday after announcing his choice, "I don't feel like I turned my back on Ohio State. ... I wasn't born here. ... Ohio State is an Ohio school. I'm not from Ohio. I really don't have that connection there from growing up liking them."
Sounds reasonable enough. But any time an elite high school prospect leaves a Big Ten state to play elsewhere, it creates anxiety among fans. And this year, Ohio State has struggled a bit to seal off its borders.
Of ESPN Scouts Inc.'s top 15 ranked players from Ohio, only four are heading to Ohio State. Prospects like Hicks (Texas), running back Spencer Ware (LSU), quarterback Andrew Hendrix (Notre Dame), safety Latwan Anderson (West Virginia) and offensive lineman Christian Pace (Michigan) will play for other teams.
It's important to remember Ohio produces a ton of great high school players, and not all of them will end up in Columbus. Ohio State has landed highly-rated local products like Darryl Baldwin, an ESPNU 150 player, as well as Andrew Norwell and Tyrone Williams. The Buckeyes also are in the mix for offensive lineman Matt James from Cincinnati.
But on the whole, Ohio State likely will sign fewer in-state players than most years.
The Buckeyes currently have eight in-state commitments from a class of 18. Last year, Ohio State signed 14 Ohio products in a class of 25. In 2005, Ohio State signed 11 Ohio products out of 18. Ohio State signed a small class of 15 in 2003, but all but three players came from the state. In 2002, Ohio State's 24-man class featured a whopping 18 players from the state.
So is this year an anomaly or a cause for concern? To get a better perspective, I checked in with Scouts Inc.'s Midwest recruiting expert Bill Kurelic , whose blog is a must read.
Here's what Kurelic had to say: "They have done OK in Ohio this year, but they certainly haven't dominated like in most years. But I don't see it as a trend. They lost out on Welch and Hendrix, but those two are from Catholic high schools and it was going to be a tough sell for OSU to keep them away from Notre Dame. They lost out on Ware, but he just never seemed overly interested.
"On the good side of things for OSU fans is that [Jim] Tressel may be set to dominate Ohio again next year like he has in most years. He has two of the top 5 Ohio juniors committed and he seems in good position to get the top six or seven guys in Ohio on his list. So I think this year is just one of those years."
Kurelic is referring to defensive ends Kenny Hayes and Steve Miller, both of whom are on the ESPNU 150 watch list .
Bottom line: Ohio State's in-state recruiting should be fine in the long term, though the Buckeyes must beware of intruders after this year.
Aditya from Bangalore, India, writes: Hi Adam, assuming the conference expands with Missouri, what will happen to the rivalry between Illinois and Missouri? Illinois already has 3 rivalries, and cannot face Missouri every year. Also, they will not have an OC rivalry which helps fill the schedule and lessens the amount of cupcakes a team plays.
Adam Rittenberg: Aditya, it depends on the division alignment, but there would be a decent chance Illinois and Mizzou would play every year in the same division. So the annual series would continue in that form, as opposed to ending, at least temporarily, after the 2010 season. Illinois could look elsewhere for good nonconference series, like the current ones with Cincinnati and Fresno State. Since the Missouri series is ending anyway, Illinois is going to take a different approach with its non-league scheduling after 2010.
Phil from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: You say that Missouri would be a great fit for the Big Ten and you are pulling for that. Do you really think this is the direction in which the Big Ten is moving? It seems to me that the greater interest would be to expand the footprint of the conference and bring the Big Ten and it's network to substantially more eyeballs. A school like Rutgers would do that, eastern seaboard and ripe to establish a following in NY. Also, what do you think about Big Ten pulling their games with the Irish to push them towards joining the/a conference?
Adam Rittenberg: The Big Ten Network and increasing overall TV viewership for the Big Ten are huge factors in the expansion study, Phil. But I'm far from convinced that a school like Rutgers, Connecticut or even Syracuse could bring in the New York/Northeast market. Nothing against those schools, but New York is and always will be a pro sports town. It's similar to Chicago in that way, but there are so many Big Ten alums here that there's still a lot of interest, particularly for football. If Rutgers can make a really convincing pitch, perhaps the Big Ten extends an invitation. As for Notre Dame, the Big Ten would have no need to add more teams if it got the Irish. I think the league publicly discussing expansion sends a signal to South Bend that if you want to join, the time is now. I highly doubt you'll see Notre Dame included in a package deal of Big Ten additions.
Jeff from Humbolt, Neb., writes: Adam, I know you've completed your look at the B10 all-decade teams but one position gets left out because it's usually considered one of the two RB positions and that's the fullback. Who would make your team as a "true" fullback?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Jeff. Former Wisconsin fullback Matt Bernstein definitely comes to mind. Carey Davis at Illinois was a good one. Jeremy Allen at Iowa played only two seasons in the aughts (2000-01), but he was a stud. B.J. Askew at Michigan had a very solid 2002 season at fullback after moving over from running back. I know I'm missing quite a few, so shoot in your suggestions.
Billy H. from Somerville, N.J., writes: Hey Adam - does Ohio State have a harder time landing recruits from Cincinnati or Cleveland? Michigan used to always pull a few big names from Northeast Ohio and now it seems recruits from the Southeast don't automatically think go to OSU.
Adam Rittenberg: You're always going to lose a few players from major markets, but Buckeyes fans shouldn't be too concerned. This year seems a bit unusual with so few in-state players coming to Columbus, but Jordan Hicks was a bit of a unique situation because he didn't spend his entire childhood in Ohio. Notre Dame has been pretty successful in Cincinnati, especially in the Catholic League, but Ohio State still maintains a strong presence in the Cleveland area.
Drew from Minneapolis writes: Adding Mizzou to the Big Ten would most likely dilute the revenue sharing among the existing schools. I say we kick out Nortwestern to make it a 10 team league again - the remaining schools would benefit financially since the revenue would be divided among a smaller group, and we'd have an even number of teams for a championship game. Addition by subtraction. Adios, Wildcats!
Adam Rittenberg: Oy, Drew, where do I begin? First of all, you can't have a championship game with only 10 teams. You need 12 teams to split into divisions. I could understand the argument for kicking out Northwestern in the 1980s, when the school's administration didn't care about athletics. But that's not the case anymore, as the football program has been no worse than a middle-of-the-pack team since 1995, and even men's basketball has shown a pulse this year. The non-revenue sports are competitive as well. There's much greater investment in athletics at NU, and the Big Ten isn't in the business of kicking out its members. Not gonna happen.
Sam from Birmingham, Ala., writes: Who determines the blog time slots and why does Chris Low get the "primetime" slot (midday monday after the weekend) while you're exiled to the "super-late night" slot near the end of the week which occurs while everyone is either leaving or has already left from work?
Adam Rittenberg: You know, Sam, Chris does look a bit like Jay Leno, doesn't he? I look nothing like Conan, though I'm doing the string dance right now. Even in the "super-late-night slot," I'm still getting a ton of great questions from you folks in the chat. While you might see me chatting at a different time next season, the Thursday 4 p.m. ET spot works fine right now. See you there next week!
Hicks, ranked as the nation's top linebacker and No. 4 player by ESPN's Scouts Inc., announced his decision earlier this afternoon at Lakota West High School outside Cincinnati.
Though Texas appeared to be the frontrunner for Hicks, it's still tough for Ohio State to lose the state's top player to another program. Ohio State has eight in-state commitments, including offensive lineman Andrew Norwell and cornerback Christian Bryant, but Hicks would have been huge.
Two big prizes remain out there for the Buckeyes, who hope to land offensive linemen Seantrel Henderson and Matt James on National Signing Day.
- Colleague Bruce Feldman thinks Seantrel Henderson and Jordan Hicks both are Big Ten-bound. Hicks will announce his decision Friday, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno sounds off about the lack of leadership among today's young athletes (interesting read) at statecollege.com.
- Former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez talks about the high stress brought on by the profession, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times.
- Iowa's recruiting class likely will be capped at 20 players, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee made a good presentation to South Florida for its head-coaching position, Scott Carter writes in The Tampa Tribune.
- Michigan State should have identified Oren Wilson and Myles White as being present at the residence hall incident long before the Alamo Bowl, Drew Sharp writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Quarterback Chandler Whitmer stuck with his commitment to Illinois, even as other recruits jumped ship, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
The Big Ten also features several of the country's best player development programs, so success in this league isn't always tied to highly rated recruits.
That said, it's somewhat surprising to review the latest ESPNU 150 list and see none of the top 30 prospects headed to Big Ten teams. In fact, you need to scroll all the way to No. 42 to find a Big Ten commit (defensive end William Gholston, Michigan State).
Last year's recruiting wasn't much different, as the Big Ten had only one top top 25 recruit (Ohio State RB Jaamal Berry) and three top 50 prospects -- Berry, Ohio State LB Dorian Bell and Michigan DE/LB Craig Roh -- in the ESPNU 150.
As National Signing Day approaches, it's safe to wonder whether the Big Ten can land a big name.
Penn State seemed to have a decent shot at landing running back Marcus Lattimore (No. 19 in the ESPNU 15), especially with Joe Paterno preparing for a home visit, but the South Carolina native dropped the Nittany Lions from his final choices.
The good news for the Big Ten is two top 10 prospects remain uncommitted, and both live in Big Ten territory. Linebacker Jordan Hicks (No. 4 overall) from West Chester, Ohio, is deciding between Ohio State, Florida and Texas. Ohio State is also in the mix for offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson from St. Paul, Minn. Henderson, ranked No. 8 in the ESPNU 150, also is considering Florida, USC, Notre Dame, Miami and Big Ten members Iowa and Minnesota.
Hicks and Henderson would be huge boosts to Big Ten teams, and it'll be important to keep at least one close to home.
For all your recruiting needs, go here and here.
- 2010 verbal commits: 8
- ESPNU 150 prospects: 0
- Comment: Another disappointing season finally cost Illinois on the recruiting trail, as tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, an ESPNU 150 prospect, switched his verbal to Iowa. The Illini still boast several good prospects, including quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who remains in Ron Zook's corner. Illinois hasn't had a verbal commitment since early August, so Zook really needs to work his magic in the coming weeks.
- 2010 verbal commits: 21
- ESPNU 150 prospects: 0
- Comment: Jibreel Black's decommitment and switch to Cincinnati stings the Hoosiers, but IU still brings in a sizable class that includes some solid players. Indiana hasn't had a verbal commitment since late August, but the class looks pretty complete.
- 2010 verbal commits: 20
- ESPNU 150 prospects: TE C.J. Fiedorowicz
- Comment: The Hawkeyes' success on the field has translated very well to recruiting, as the team added several excellent players during the fall. Fiedorowicz headlines a class that also includes Iowa prep star A.J. Derby. Iowa has received six verbals since the start of the season.
- 2010 verbal commits: 21
- ESPNU 150 prospects: QB Devin Gardner
- Comment: Gardner hasn't wavered in his commitment to head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines, and the lure of early playing time likely has kept the class in place. Michigan got a big commitment from cornerback Cullen Christian days after the season ended, though things have been fairly quiet since the summer.
- 2010 verbal commits: 15
- ESPNU 150 prospects: DE William Gholston
- Comment: Gholston could reopen his recruitment, which would leave Spartans fans holding their breath. The top-rated player in the state of Michigan would be a major boost for MSU. Mark Dantonio's team picked up three verbals during the season, including one from wide receiver Keith Mumphery.
- 2010 verbal commits: 22
- ESPNU 150 prospects: 0
- Comment: Tim Brewster and his staff continue to recruit at a high level and landed several solid prospects during the season. Among them is wide receiver Chris Hawkins, who could make an immediate impact in 2010. Running back Josh Huff from Texas also is a solid addition. Minnesota picked up 11 verbals during the season, tops among Big Ten teams.
- 2010 verbal commits: 15
- ESPNU 150 prospects: 0
- Comment: After a slow start, Northwestern is putting together a solid 2010 class. The Wildcats recently added running back Ibraheim Campbell, the fifth player to commit during the season. The class seems heavy on defensive tackles and offensive skill players, both areas of need.
- 2010 verbal commits: 13
- ESPNU 150 prospects: RB Roderick Smith, WR James Louis, DE Darryl Baldwin, WR Corey Brown
- Comment: Offensive firepower might be an issue in Columbus right now, but help is certainly on the way. Brown has been Ohio State's only in-season commit, but other big names soon could follow. Ohio State has bolstered the wide receiver and defensive end/linebacker spots.
- 2010 verbal commits: 20
- ESPNU 150 prospects: DE Dominique Easley, LB Khairi Fortt, DT Evan Hailes, DE Dakota Royer, WR Adrian Coxson, QB Robert Bolden, C Miles Dieffenbach, DE C.J. Olaniyan
- Comment: Penn State entered the season with the Big Ten's best recruiting class and has only made it better. The Nittany Lions staff has done a fabulous job with this class, landing Fortt, Easley, Olaniyan and two other prospects during the season. Penn State has addressed almost every position and should be very pleased on national signing day.
- 2010 verbal commits: 20
- ESPNU 150 prospects: 0
- Comment: Danny Hope and his assistants continue to raid the state of Florida, and now they're bringing in more coveted prospects to Purdue. Wide receiver O.J. Ross from Daytona Beach, Fla., headlines a class that already includes seven Floridians. Purdue added eight verbals during the season, including cornerback Ricardo Allen.
- 2010 verbal commits: 18
- ESPNU 150 prospects: 0
- Comment: Wisconsin has a tradition of turning solid players into stars and should have ample opportunities with this class. The Badgers added six verbals during the season, including safety/linebacker Manasseh Garner and offensive tackle Rob Havenstein.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It won't take you long to notice a pattern, and I'm not talking about the fact the top six players are uncommitted.
The rankings are very heavy on players from the south and southeast, while prospects from Big Ten territory are few and far between.
Only four players in the top 50 hail from Big Ten states: linebacker Jordan Hicks (No. 2, Ohio), offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson (No. 4, Minnesota), defensive end William Gholston (No. 33, Michigan) and wide receiver Kyle Prater (No. 43, Illinois).
Does this mean there's no talent in Big Ten states? Hardly. But at least according to these ratings, more and more elite prospects play their high school football in warm-weather states. It's why we're seeing more Big Ten teams expand their recruiting efforts to the south and southeast.
Here's the list of ESPNU 150 prospects committed to Big Ten teams:
- No. 33: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
- No. 58: Roderick Smith, RB, Ohio State
- No. 71: Dakota Royer, DE, Penn State
- No. 81: Evan Hailes, DT, Penn State
- No. 83: Evan Louis, WR, Ohio State
- No. 86: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Illinois
- No. 103: Adrian Coxson, WR, Penn State
- No. 112: Darryl Baldwin, DE, Ohio State
- No. 114: Robert Bolden, QB, Penn State
- No. 115: Andrew Norwell, OT, Ohio State
- No. 117: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
- No. 134: Miles Dieffenbach, C, Penn State
Check Thursday's blog for your updated recruiting scorecard.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET Western Kentucky Illinois 12:00 PM ET McNeese State 19 Nebraska 12:00 PM ET Akron Penn State 12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Purdue 12:00 PM ET Howard Rutgers 12:00 PM ET Western Illinois 18 Wisconsin 3:30 PM ET Northern Illinois Northwestern 3:30 PM ET Middle Tennessee Minnesota 3:30 PM ET Ball State Iowa 3:30 PM ET Maryland South Florida 6:30 PM ET 7 Michigan State 3 Oregon 7:30 PM ET Michigan 16 Notre Dame 8:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 8 Ohio State