Big Ten: Tim Cross
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
ESPN Scout's Inc.'s JC Shurburtt recently ranked the nation's 25 best recruiters and three Big Ten assistants made the rundown. No major surprises with any of these three picks, who have helped their teams bring in top-rated classes.
Here's Shurburtt's thoughts on each coach:
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell
The Buckeyes have a geographic advantage, being located in a top-five talent-producing state. Still, it takes an excellent recruiting staff to corral all of that talent and to also spot recruit nationally. Several, including those who are close to the Ohio State program, believe Fickell, the team's co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, is the best at doing just that. In this recruiting cycle, Fickell has three of the 12 committed recruits.Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson
One of the top East Coast recruiters, Johnson owns the state of Maryland. Since 2006, he has had 16 players from the state either signed or committed. What's even more impressive, in recent years Johnson has shown the ability to recruit other states as well, including Virginia, New York and New Jersey. Locking up that region is important for Joe Paterno's program.Illinois assistant head coach/running backs coach Reggie Mitchell
After Mike Locksley took the New Mexico job, Mitchell assumed the role of top recruiter for one of the top recruiting head coaches in America, Ron Zook. Mitchell is the assistant head coach and also coordinates the recruiting effort for the Illini. Since Zook and Mitchell have been in Champaign, Illinois has become a major factor for most of the state's top talent and also is competitive with top prospects nationally.
Three solid choices here. Fickell consistently lands top national recruits, while both Johnson (Maryland) and Mitchell (Chicago) recruit specific areas extremely well.
A few Big Ten coaches could wind up in future rankings, including Michigan State running backs coach Dan Enos, Minnesota defensive line coach Tim Cross and Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith and secondary coach Tony Dews.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota kicked off spring ball this afternoon as the team held its first practice indoors at Rod Wallace Field. Players and coaches seemed amped up to get started, and here are some notes from the Gophers' first workout.
- Linebacker Sam Maresh participated in his first practice as college player after battling back from open heart surgery last summer and a benign tumor in his left calf discovered this winter. Maresh worked with the third team and ran a bit gingerly, but he looks strong at 6-foot-3 and 235 and should improve throughout the spring. The first-team linebackers consisted of Lee Campbell and Simoni Lawrence, while Gary Tinsley and Ryan Grant alternated at the third spot. Freshman Keanon Cooper certainly brings speed to the group, but he's a bit undersized at outside 'backer.
- The Gophers' four new coaches are fun to watch, particularly offensive line coach Tim Davis and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, who employs some creative teaching techniques. The line will be a focal point throughout the spring as Minnesota transitions to a pro-style, power run offense. The first-team line consisted of left tackle Matt Stommes, left guard Dom Alford, center Trey Davis, right guard Matt Carufel and right tackle Jeff Wills.
- Stommes, who made a meteoric rise to a starting tackle position after switching from defensive line, passes the eye test. He flat out looks like an athlete at left tackle. Wills, a junior college transfer, is huge but probably needs to improve his conditioning just a touch. Tim Davis rode him pretty hard for not finishing a drill.
- The NCAA prevents teams from hitting during the first three practices, so starting quarterback Adam Weber (shoulder surgery) participated alongside backup MarQueis Gray, who looks every bit 6-foot-4 and showed good arm strength on several throws. Fisch spent time working with the quarterbacks on quick releases and at one point had them throw passes any way but overhand, to expand the types of throws (sidearm, flips) they need to make in games. "Turn that double play," Fisch told Weber and Gray while working on their releases.
- Running back Duane Bennett, who comes off ACL surgery, ran with the first-team offense along with fullback Jon Hoese, wide receiver Brandon Green and others.
- The best line of the practice came from defensive line coach Tim Cross after several players jumped early on a drill with the blocking sled. "You can't make a mistake being an assassin," Cross said. "One shot, one kill."
- David Pittman, Green and Marcus Sherels (out for spring ball after shoulder surgery) worked as return men during a special-teams period.
- Guard Ned Tavale definitely makes my early All-Big Ten hair team. Nice 'do.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
If you haven't done it already, check out our signing day primer. As part of the story, I was asked to identify several Big Ten recruiting superlatives, including the league's best recruiter.
Former Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley owned the title before he left to become New Mexico's head coach, and several Big Ten assistants could lay claim to the designation. Most of Michigan's staff is new to the league, so it's hard to judge their recruiting clout just yet. I settled on Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who has landed several top prospects from the Maryland/Washington, D.C., area and elsewhere.
Here's my list of top recruiters for each Big Ten team. Many of you follow recruiting as closely or more closely than I do, so please e-mail me your suggestions and votes and I'll post the responses later in the week.
Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell -- Illinois might have lost its pipeline to D.C. with Locksley's departure, but Mitchell continues to get the top players from the Chicago area. The team's recruiting coordinator has brought linebacker Martez Wilson and others to Champaign, and was instrumental in landing 2009 top prospects Terry Hawthorne and Kraig Appleton. The departure of O-line coach Eric Wolford hurts Illinois' recruiting, but co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch does well in Florida.
Wide receivers coach Billy Lynch -- The head coach's son is responsible for nearly half of Indiana's 2009 recruiting class. He recruits locally extremely well and last year brought running back Darius Willis to Bloomington.
Offensive line coach Reese Morgan -- Iowa has a tradition of recruiting and developing elite offensive linemen, and Morgan is a big reason why. He recruits the state extremely well and brought in players like Jordan Bernstine and Tyler Sash to go along with seven commitments for 2009. Assistant linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson successfully recruits the surrounding states and has brought players like quarterback Marvin McNutt and Christian Ballard to Iowa City.
Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith and wide receivers coach Tony Dews -- As I stated earlier, it's a bit premature to make final determinations on Michigan's staff. Running backs coach Fred Jackson is a holdover and has recruited the Detroit area well in past years. But both Smith and Dews have distinguished themselves on the recruiting trail, luring top 2009 prospects like Tate Forcier, William Campbell and Craig Roh to Ann Arbor.
Running backs coach Dan Enos -- The former Spartans quarterback has played an instrumental role in upgrading the program's recruiting, which will play dividends Wednesday with a potentially program-changing class. Enos recruits the Detroit area extremely well and has brought in players like wideout Fred Smith and quarterback Kirk Cousins, as well as 2009 prospects like Edwin Baker, Larry Caper and Dion Sims.
Defensive line coach Tim Cross -- The team's associate head coach and lead recruiter played a key role in signing Minnesota's nationally ranked 2008 class, landing players like Troy Stoudermire and Keanon Cooper. Head coach Tim Brewster does much of the heavy lifting in recruiting, but Cross and co-defensive coordinator Ron Lee chip in as well.
Superbacks coach Adam Cushing -- He coaches a group rarely used in Northwestern's offense, but Cushing's contributions as a recruiter have been invaluable. Cushing serves as the team's recruiting coordinator and landed players like defensive end Vince Browne, safety David Arnold, linebacker Brett Nagel and top 2009 prospect Patrick Ward.
Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell -- Several recruiters stand out on Jim Tressel's staff, but Fickell repeatedly lures top prospects from the Cleveland area and far-flung regions like Georgia and Florida. Quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels landed Terrelle Pryor last year, and wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell is a proven recruiter. Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson is a rising star on the recruiting trail.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson -- Johnson gets the nod after bringing in players like Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans, Navorro Bowman and Jared Odrick. No assistant played a bigger role in Penn State's 2009 nationally ranked class than Johnson, who recruited Derrick Thomas and Darrell Givens, among others. No wonder Ron Zook wanted Johnson to join his staff at Illinois.
Defensive line coach Terrell Williams -- This is another mostly new staff to the Big Ten, and coach Danny Hope does much of the recruiting himself, but Williams has proven to be a major asset so far. Williams helped to land half of Purdue's incoming recruiting class, including top running back Al-Terek McBurse. He recruits Florida extremely well, which falls right in line with Hope's approach.
Offensive line coach Bob Bostad -- Health issues forced top recruiter Henry Mason away from the program in 2007, and his absence is missed. Head coach Bret Bielema has a strong reputation as a recruiter, and Bostad is doing a solid job early in his tenure. Bostad's fingerprints were all over Wisconsin's 2008 class, as he landed offensive lineman Peter Konz and others. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren are also solid recruiters.