This isn't another one of those OMG THE BIG TEN SUCKZ0RS AT TEH RECRUITING!!!!! articles. If you're interested in the demographic and financial challenges that many Big Ten teams face on the recruiting trail, read this one, or maybe this one.
For all the weeping and wailing we've done on behalf of the league, the Big Ten has actually improved, as far as the 2013 classes are concerned. As expected, both Ohio State and Michigan have pulled in elite recruiting classes, ranked #2 and #6 by 247Composite Rankings. Nebraska is currently ranked #17, and Penn State, despite crippling sanctions and recent concerns about how long Bill O'Brien will stick around, somewhat surprisingly has the #20 ranked class, lead by SB Nation Recruiting's Bud Elliott's choice for the best quarterback in the 2013 class, QB Christian Hackenburg. Rose Bowl participant Wisconsin is just outside the top 25 at #29, and even Northwestern has convinced a few 4-star guys to play for Chicago's Big Ten Team*. For all of the panic, that's really not too bad.
The wild card though, has been the fortunes of Maryland and Rutgers, soon to be the Big Ten's newest members. Neither school has been exceptional at football over the past few seasons (although Rutgers wasn't bad this year), and maybe were concerned that their mediocrity would only further dilute a conference that has been definitively "meh" as of late. Fans of both programs thought that their increased exposure in the Big Ten, and access to Jim Delany's sweet, sweet money train would bring forth nothing but good things for the future of those programs.
Now that they've had a chance to sell recruits on Big Ten Football, how are they doing on the trail?
According to 247Composite, Maryland has the 33rd best recruiting class in the country, and 6th in the Big Ten. Many of their top recruits hail from what would be considered Maryland's traditional footprint. 4 star OL Derwin Gray comes out of Friendship Academy in Washington DC, 3 star linebacker Derrick Hayward is from Salisbury, Maryland, and OT Malik Jones hails from Baltimore. One of the their best recruits however, 4 star wideout Deon Long,
hails from the heart of B1G country in Council Bluffs, Iowa. That's a big miss for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and connection that was perhaps strengthened by Maryland's soon entrance to the B1G Correction: A reader has informed us that Deon Long is actually from Washington DC, and was only playing at a JuCo in Iowa. Thanks for The rest of Maryland's class hails from either California, Florida, or along the east coast.
Rutgers doesn't fare quite as well, coming in at #44 in the country. That would be 9th in the conference, just behind Michigan State #41 and Illinois #43, but ahead of Indiana, Northwestern and Iowa. The Scarlet Knight's recruiting class is also east coast heavy, as they have no signings west of eastern PA. Their class is paced by 4 star Athlete Nadir Barnwell from New Jersey, while the rest of the class consists of 3 stars from New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and the east coast.
Other Big Ten schools may have better luck penetrating the new east coast markets than Maryland and Rutgers' attempts at reaching the west. Nebraska boasts recruits from New Jersey and Maryland (4 star linebacker Marcus Newby). Wisconsin signed a 4 star running back from Glassboro, New Jersey. Northwestern grabbed 3 star Athlete Kyle Quiero from New Jersey as well. Moving forward, you can be certain that everybody, even the Minnesota's and Iowa's, will set their sights on the east coast.
Ohio State and Michigan have always been able to get players outside of their backyards, and the chance of getting a game in front of their friends and families back home could only help that. Ohio State's Eli Apple hails from Voorhees, New Jersey, and Taivon Jacobs comes from District Heights, Maryland. Michigan's 4 star DT Henry Poggi is a Baltimore product as well.
Are these recruiting developments a direct result of Big Ten expansion? Not necessarily. Ohio State has to like their chances of going after a player in Washington DC, regardless of whether Maryland is in the Big Ten or the Big West. The ability for the middle tiers of the Big Ten to make inroads in fertile east coast markets in a promising development, and should pick up steam as Maryland and Rutgers get closer to formally joining the conference. For the other schools, there are legions of other possible variables that impact class quality, like coaching instability, resource expansion, recent success, etc.
At the end of the day, it's important to remember that these recruiting rankings are not gospel. In real life, there probably isn't a big difference between the #44 ranked class and the #56th ranked class, especially if the #56 has a coaching staff that is better at training and player development. Recruiting alone won't bring Maryland out of their program doldrums.
Still, you win with people, and it's encouraging to see that the Big Ten's new members have the capacity to get the people they need to at least keep pace with the rest of the league. We already have an Indiana. We don't need two more.