And so it ends, another national signing day has come and gone.
Headlines in Big Ten country will likely boast of Urban Meyer’s magic act, turning a seemingly average class into a truly remarkable one or of Brady Hoke’s continued resurrection of the maize and blue, as evidenced by a consensus top ten class and impressive accumulation of 4-star talent.
But maybe these shouldn’t be the headlines that describe the 2012 Big Ten class. Maybe the headlines should be posing a question: “What happened to the rest of the Big Ten?”
In a year where several Big Ten schools were in the hunt for four- and five-star talent, this class on the whole did not deliver. Only two Big Ten schools brought home consensus top 25 talent on this signing day, and while this potentially sets up the renewal of a new 10-year war in the Big Ten, it does not bode well for the rest of our favorite conference.
Sadly, only five consensus five-star players signed with Big Ten schools, and four of those players belong to an unusually smiley Urban Meyer.
What happened? Here are a few theories:
Coaching changes generally negatively affect recruiting classes especially when they occur late in the game. The Big Ten certainly can use this excuse in 2012. While head coaching changes clearly created some problems, it was Paul Chryst’s jumping ship at Wisconsin that really caused a stir. The Badgers lost two relatively highly touted linemen in J.J. Denman and Kyle Dodson. Denman actually changed his commit to Rutgers, former home of the very recently departed Greg Schiano. Come to think of it…..Rutgers of all places on earth actually pulled out a top 25 class with the likeable Schiano leaving a week ago. Well there goes that theory!
While Big Ten schools have shown the ability in the recent past to go into SEC and Big 12 country to snag highly touted recruits particularly at the skill positions, the bread and butter of Big Ten recruiting efforts will always be the upper Midwest. Certainly, Big Ten schools are at least in part at the mercy of the talent that comes out of this region of the country. In 2012 only one member of the top 25 of the ESPN top 150 hails from a Big Ten State. That player was of course Noah Spence, and he did commit to Ohio State. Even in moving to 26 through 50 on the list you will find only one other prospect from Big Ten country, that being Rushel Shell, also from Pennsylvania. Shell signed with Pitt. Strangely, there is no one from historically fertile Ohio in the top 50.
Nebraska Waters Down the Pool
I’m not buying this one, but here goes. Since Nebraska is more likely now to attract talent from Big Ten country and certainly recruited and signed several players that other Big Ten schools coveted, this may have adversely affected another Big Ten class or two. Like I said….I’m not buying it.
Big Ten Slippage
The last theory is certainly the least attractive for Big Ten fans. It offers no excuses. The Big Ten simply hasn’t shown up when put on the national stage in recent years, and this year was no different. The Big Ten was defeated in bowl game after bowl game, until Michigan gave us a brief sigh of relief. High school kids do pay attention to these kinds of things. They are very well aware of who is appearing in, and winning, National Championship games.
So, Ohio State and Michigan fans, I truly am sorry to have rained on your parade. It was a great day for you. I’m just wondering how things are going to come out next fall for everyone else.