NCF On The Trail: Big Ten Conference

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
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There aren’t many big, exciting home games for the Big Ten this week, but the few that are playing at home are making the most of it. Nebraska, Illinois and Michigan will all have big recruiting visitors for their game.

Here is a look at who is visiting and why they’re important.

UA jersey tour: Eric Glover-Williams

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
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Eric Glover-Williams is one of many talented players to come from Canton McKinly high school in Ohio. Glover-Williams was presented with his Under Armour All-America jersey on Friday and thanked his family and those past players from his school for helping him earn this honor.

Glover-Williams mentioned his current teammates, but also former standout Mike Doss as someone who he looks up to and someone who has given him advice along the way. They share the same high school and will soon share the same college as Doss played for Ohio State and Glover-Williams is committed to the Buckeyes.

"He played for McKinley and then went to be a Buckeye and then the NFL to play for the Colts. He won a state championship, a national championship and then he also won a Super Bowl,” "lover-Williams said. "He came to my game last week, and he and my dad are really close friends. He always tells me going to Ohio State, it’s not really about playing football, it’s about getting your education. When you go to Ohio State you’re set for life, so just do what I have to do."

Glover-Williams expressed his excitement to be able to go against some of the top talent in the country in the prestigious game, and shared some facts about himself that the fans might not know.

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If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be? I would probably start my team with Reggie Rogers. He’s a good receiver, he has nice speed and I’ve known him for a long time.

What is your earliest football memory? Probably playing at Fawcett stadium when I was younger, playing for a championship. Around the age of eight, it was our midget league. It was my first year of tackle, played for my dad’s team, we were called the Bears. We played the Cowboys in the Championship game. I played running back, back then I was bigger than everyone.

Which football player did you idolize growing up? Tyrann Mathieu, just because he had a struggle. Everyone doubted him and he came back and now he’s doing his thing in the NFL. Also, I would like to say Mike Doss, even though he’s not playing anymore.

If you could take on any pro player in any sport who would it be? I’d like to go against (Jadeveon) Clowney. It would be fun to go against him. I would try to make a move on him, quick. I’d be coming out of the backfield.

Why do you wear the number you wear? Tyrann Mathieu is one of my favorite players, so I like the number seven. The number seven is in the bible, so that’s another reason why I wear the number seven. I'll talk to Ohio State about it, it’s either seven or two because Mike Doss wore number two.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I’m not sure. I play baseball. I work at the airport, I cook for all the restaurants in the area. I cook anything from hamburgers to taco salads. I like to make quesedillas.

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UA jersey tour: ATH Brian Cole

September, 17, 2014
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If you ask some of Brian Cole's friends and family, they would tell you they think Cole has a chance to be the best football player to come out of Saginaw. That’s saying a lot since the Michigan city is home to some big-name football players, including current NFL player LaMarr Woodley among others.

Cole has ties to many of the former players from his hometown, including Michigan State receiver DeAnthony Arnett and former NFL player Stuart Schweigert. Cole doesn’t know Woodley personally, but he did get the opportunity to speak with him at an arena football game earlier in the year.

“LaMarr was teaching me about life and football,” he said. “We talked for a little while about everything. It was before I was committed to Michigan, so we didn’t talk about Michigan really.”

The ESPN 300 prospect was presented with his Under Armour All-America jersey on Wednesday and is the first from his hometown to play in the prestigious game.

“It’s just a blessing,” he said. “It’s real exciting and I’m just really thankful for this opportunity.”
If you could start a team with any player in your class, who would it be? I don’t really pay attention to recruiting that much. I would pick Alex Malzone; I'm the closest with him. I need that go-to guy at quarterback so I’d go with him.

What is your first football memory? My first Lions game, running on the field. I got selected for the halftime show. I was about five and I won, we had to do a relay race, put different clothes on and the big shoes. I was a size four an they were a size 13. Me and my dad walked in and some big, tall guy asked us if we wanted to be in the halftime show, I didn’t know what was going on but I was excited.

What football player did you idolize growing up? Barry Sanders. He was good, he could do it all. Watching his highlights he was unstoppable, he could make you miss and he could do anything.

If you could take on one athlete in any sport, who would it be? I like hockey. I would take on Zdeno Chara. We play NHL video games and Chara always wins the fights in that game so that would be funny, because he's so big.

What number do you wear and why? I wear No. 1 because God is No. 1 and that’s my favorite number. I’ve talked to the Michigan coaches about the No. 1 at Michigan. I’m going to get it. I’m going to earn it, you have to earn it, but that’s my goal. I haven’t talked to Devin Funchess about it yet, but I saw that he has it.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I’m humble. Most people really don’t know me, so they don’t know. I don’t really talk about sports, either, unless people ask me. I like hockey, too. I was always an active kid and all my friends had ice rinks in their backyards so I learned how to ice skate at a young age and I would always rollerblade and play hockey. I wish I knew how to play hockey.

Recruits weigh in on the Big Ten 

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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It’s a vicious cycle. You have to win to get the right recruits, and you have to get the right recruits to win. That’s the merry-go-round the Big Ten conference is currently on, and depending on who you ask, recruits have varying opinions on the conference.

Prospects from the North tend to believe the conference is still in the upper echelon, while a good amount of Southern recruits would say quite the opposite.

The Big Ten has an overall record of 24-14 with only two undefeated teams left, compared to the SEC with eight undefeated teams. The Big Ten also has the lowest winning percentage (63 percent) this season for any Power 5 conference, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

You could argue that there is a direct correlation to those wins and losses when comparing the number of big-name commitments as well. The SEC currently has 87 ESPN 300 prospects committed where the Big Ten has 27.

An ESPN 300 prospect from the South who wished to remain anonymous believes part of the Big Ten’s problems on the field and recruiting have to do with geography and coaching.

“The recruiting areas from the North and Midwest aren’t really a hotbed for recruiting. Plus, other than Ohio State or maybe Michigan, there’s not really any big cities or things you can sell recruits on outside of the university,” he said. “Like what does a kid from Florida do at some of those places? Plus, getting a well-known coach like Urban Meyer is a big reason why kids down here like Ohio State.

“They know he can turn things around there and they’ll win. They need to get bigger-name coaches where kids can say, 'Yeah, I know him and I know he’ll get me ready for the NFL.'"

That isn’t the sentiment for every prospect, but plenty of other Southern ESPN 300 recruits agreed with this thinking.

The Northern prospects interviewed did believe the conference is top-heavy with a few teams in the national championship conversation every year, but they had different thoughts on the outlook as a whole.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
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Penn State picked up some good news from the NCAA, which resulted in more positive news on the recruiting trail this weekend. Ohio State solidified its spot in a top target's list, and a few new offers were extended this week.

Here is a look at the latest happenings on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten.


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ESPN 300 OL Matt Burrell names a leader 

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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ESPN 300 offensive lineman Matt Burrell Jr. has already taken an official visit to Ohio State, and that trip has resonated with the No. 61 ranked prospect. He still has four more official visits to take, but Burrell says he has his list in order as it stands.


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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Rutgers and Penn State played in what turned out to be an exciting game, right down to the wire. There were a few other big home games for Big Ten teams, which means there were important recruits on campus as well.

Here is a look through social media as to how those visits went.

Rutgers vs. Penn State:

It was a packed house and an exciting atmosphere for Rutgers first Big Ten game. There were a ton of local prospects including No. 5 ranked 2016 target Kareem Walker.


He and the other visiting prospects had good seats to take in the contest, and fellow ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Naseir Upshur gave the fans a look at their view.

This was a big game for both teams, as Penn State heavily recruits the East Coast and New Jersey. The targets for both teams said they are watching closely as to how the programs compete with a new coach at Penn State and a new conference for the Scarlet Knights.

Going into the visit a lot of the recruits said they were hoping to see an exciting game and they got just that.
Maryland vs. West Virginia:

Rutgers wasn’t the only Big Ten team hosting important prospects. Maryland had a handful of big time recruits for the game against the Mountaineers.

While the outcome on the field wasn’t what Maryland was hoping for, getting ESPN 300 athlete Ryan Davis and No. 2 ranked Byron Cowart is a huge win for the program.
Michigan vs Miami (Ohio):

The Wolverines came away with a win on Saturday, and while it wasn’t a huge visit weekend, Michigan did still have visitors on campus.

A few of the commits, including Tyree Kinnel, Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Alex Malzone were able to reconnect on the visit and spend some time at their future home.

Malzone took some video of the trip and gave the fans a look at what it’s like to walk out of Michigan’s tunnel as a recruit on game day.
New Jersey has produced 32 ESPN 300 prospects since the 2013 class, so it’s hardly a coincidence that college coaches from all over have made the state a priority on the recruiting trail.

Those elite prospects don’t always stay local, either, as 14 schools have benefited from the wealth of talent. While recruiters will always go where the talent is, college coaches believe the prospects from the Garden State come well prepared, for a variety of reasons.

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has recruited the area for years and believes the high school coaches in his home state are a big reason there is a continuous stream of talent.

“I think there’s a value placed on the high school football coaches in New Jersey and as I travel around, recruiting these schools for a long time, you go into a New Jersey high school, you can sense in the community how important that position is. We’ve got some of the best high school coaches in the country right here in New Jersey,” Flood said. “There might be other places in the country with talent, but I’m not sure how important football is in the community. I think in New Jersey, football is very important and that all leads to why high schools are recruited the way they are.”

Flood doesn’t believe there has been more competition, necessarily, for New Jersey prospects recently, but that there might be more coverage since Rutgers has joined the Big Ten. What used to be battles with out-of-conference programs are now Big Ten battles.

Programs such as Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, which landed ESPN 300 prospects in the last four classes from the state, know how valuable to the state is in recruiting and make it a priority.

Penn State, for example, has placed three of its coaches in the state, dividing the areas up strategically between receivers coach Josh Gattis, quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne and offensive coordinator John Donovan.

“We do a really good job making sure we’re splitting up the territory in the state. It’s really easy for us because it’s just a three-hour drive to New Jersey,” Gattis said. “We consider the region very important to us, and that’s the state of Pennsylvania, the state of New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. It’s a great state with a number of talented athletes. They play great football and we have a huge Penn State support within the state, so it’s important to us.”

The Nittany Lions have landed 10 New Jersey prospects in the past two classes, including five ESPN 300 prospects.

The recruits themselves have even noticed how many programs come through their state. Running back Kareem Walker, the No. 5 prospect in the Class of 2016, hails from New Jersey and has already seen his interest from college programs spike through the roof.

Walker holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and more.

The ESPN Junior 300 prospect understands his ability has attracted the offers, but believes his home state has something to do with the interest from schools out of the region.

“I think the schools in the South know, without a doubt in their mind, that guys from Jersey can compete. We’re just as fast, and just as strong as a guy that’s from their hometown state,” Walker said. “I think Jersey guys can be just as strong and as fast as the Southern guys and it’s not a problem trying to adapt at those schools. I definitely think that’s why they come up and recruit guys from Jersey.”

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

September, 9, 2014
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It was an interesting weekend for the Big Ten on the field to say the least. The play on the field has raised a few questions in terms of recruiting, but there were plenty of positives for the conference as a whole.

Because of that, we are here to give you a recap of what took place and what to watch in the future.

Biggest news:


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
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With all the high profile visitors throughout the Big Ten this weekend, plenty of those prospects took to social media to document their trips.

Here is a look at some of the best posts from the weeekend.

Penn State vs. Akron:

ESPN Jr. 300 Penn State commit Shane Simmons had the chance to show a few fellow recruits why he chose the Nittany Lions. Simmons hung out with receiver Trevon Diggs and teammate J.P. Urquidez.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan:

The Fighting Irish hosted a ton of big visitors themselves. None may have been bigger than ESPN Jr. 300 quarterback Malik Henry, No. 2 ranked prospect in his class.

Henry has Notre Dame very high on his list, as does ESPN Jr. 300 offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer, who also took in the night game.

Fellow ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Jake Hausmann was also in attendance and tweeted out a few pics of his trip as well.
Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech:

The Buckeyes had the biggest visitor list than any other team in the conference. Despite the loss it was still a big night for Ohio State, and an incredible atmosphere for the visiting prospects.

While he isn't a recruit, Lebron James was on hand and on the sideline, which certainly helps the Buckeyes' recruiting efforts.

Ohio State commits Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell were doing their best to recruit as many visiting prospects as they could. The two five-stars were with No. 1 ranked prospect Josh Sweat and fellow ESPN 300 prospects Jordan Whitehead and Matt Burrell for a good part of the night.

The Buckeyes certainly were hoping for a win, but the crowd and experience will assuredly carry more weight than the outcome.
As it stands now, nine Big Ten teams are set to play night games at home this season. If it were up to the coaches within the conference, that number would be way up. (

Though a night game has many benefits outside of recruiting, it’s impact on recruiting cannot be overstated. Hosting a game at night can provide an exciting atmosphere, easier travel time for recruits and more time for coaches in front of the visiting prospects.

"A night game in the Horseshoe, those are big hits and that's the one thing a night game does, it gives you the opportunity to get guys here. Not just the state of Ohio, the surrounding areas as well, because they can travel," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "Otherwise you couldn’t ring them in if it was an earlier game. Someone shows up in the middle of the first quarter, or they have to get up at five am to get here, then that’s not really setting up for a nice visit.

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Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
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There are plenty of big games within the Big Ten this weekend, but none will have as many high-profile prospects as Ohio State’s night game against Virginia Tech.

[+] EnlargeJosh Sweat
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTop recruit Josh Sweat is visiting Columbus this weekend.
Ohio State has a ton of talent scheduled to be on campus, and this weekend could have a huge impact on future recruiting efforts in Columbus. The Buckeyes aren’t the only team playing in a meaningful game, though, so here is a look at the three biggest recruiting events for this weekend.

Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech:

There is no bigger visitor in the entire country than No. 1 prospect Josh Sweat, who will be at the Ohio State game this weekend. Sweat is taking his first of five official visits and if all goes well, this trip could boost the Buckeyes on his list.

The night game should provide for an outstanding atmosphere, and Sweat will take that in with fellow ESPN 300 prospects Damien Harris, Matt Burrell Jr., Kevin Toliver II and Jordan Whitehead -- among others. Toliver is committed to LSU but just getting him on campus is a win, since he is the No. 5-ranked prospect in the country.

It’s also a big deal to get Whitehead and Harris on campus as Harris recently took a visit to Kentucky, one of the top schools on his list.

This will be a huge weekend for Ohio State with not just the prospects listed above, but even recruits watching at home on their television. No matter the outcome this is a big win for the Buckeyes and future recruiting.


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Since he was hired by Wisconsin, coach Gary Andersen has landed nine commitments from California and Texas prospects. The three years prior to his hiring, the Badgers had landed just one recruit from those two states.

Andersen undoubtedly recognizes that the in-state and Midwest recruits are priority No. 1 for Wisconsin, but he also realizes there is an opportunity for his staff to cast a wider net.

"Our first year, we weren't really in Texas, but we realized after Year 1 that we should be. We had an extra coach on the West Coast, and so we moved [safeties coach] Bill Busch from the West Coast into Texas and Florida because we thought we needed to upgrade ourselves by numbers," Andersen said. "The bottom line is that we have a brand that we believe can be accepted at a very high level at any school in the country, and because of that we want to make sure we get ourselves into as many schools that have the caliber of athlete and students we're looking for."


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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so this Brady Hoke impersonation by former Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer must be pretty flattering.

Mealer has told reporters he can do a spot on Hoke impression since he was a senior at Michigan, but this is the first time he has publicly revealed the voice antics.

 
The Big Ten programs have done a nice job filling out their 2015 classes so far. There aren’t any teams that have closed out all their available slots though, which means there are still some big targets on the board.

As commitments and decommitments happen, this list could change, but here is a look at a few remaining must-get targets for the conference.


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