NCF On The Trail: Big Ten Conference

Michigan and Ohio State have always fought for some of the same recruits. The Wolverines win some and the Buckeyes win some, and those recruiting battles have real implications on the field.

Each team could have used one or two more victories on the recruiting trail, so let’s take a look at a few current players recruited by both teams who could have made an impact for the opposing team in the big game on Saturday, and a few future battles that could impact games in the years to come.

Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
It wouldn’t be a real visit weekend in college football without a giant cookie cake, and that’s exactly what wide receiver Cameron Stewart was greeted with on his visit to Nebraska.
Cookie cakes are one of the more popular recruiting tools when it comes to social media posts and the Cornhuskers put together an excellent looking cookie cake.

There were no cookies tweeted from Michigan State's visiting targets, but there were plenty of happy faces after the big win against Rutgers.

ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Luke Farrell tweeted a few pictures after his visit and showed off his view. Farrell was joined by fellow ESPN Jr. 300 target Sean Foster, who got to meet Spartans basketball coach Tom Izzo on the trip. The Spartans had a lot of important prospects in attendance and the victory was a big deal for their recruiting efforts, but the bigger story might have been what happened in Ann Arbor to rival Michigan.

The Wolverines hosted a few big targets of their own, including Florida State receiver commit Auden Tate. Since the game was against Maryland, it only made sense that a few prospects from the state of Maryland would come check out the game. That list included ESPN Jr. 300 targets Devery Hamilton and Ellison Jordan as well as Stephen Spanellis. Unfortunately for the Wolverines the game ended in a loss and further uncertainty about the future of coach Brady Hoke and his staff. With a 5-6 record and its last game coming against Ohio State, the outlook is dim.

In-state ESPN 300 running back Mike Weber might have added insult to injury when he tweeted that he was decommitting from Michigan almost immediately after Maryland scored its go ahead touchdown in the game. Weber wasn't visiting Michigan, but had just come off a big playoff loss of his own and decided he had seen enough. The Michigan coaches have now lost seven ESPN 300 commits in the 2015 class and there is potential to lose more as tight end Chris Clark is planning visits as well.

Clark is the highest-ranked commit Michigan has left and he took to Twitter after the game to express his disappointment.

Big Ten recruiting: By the numbers 

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
We are in week 13 of the regular season and only a few months away from signing day. That means that programs have most of their recruiting done and are trying to fill in the last spots of the class.

This is a good time to take a look at the Big Ten recruiting efforts, where some teams are having success and some need help. The numbers below help show the makeup and statistics behind the recruiting classes within the conference.

Commits from different states:

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ESPN Jr. 300: What to know in the Big Ten 

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
The ESPN Jr. 300 has been updated with new rankings, and there are a ton of Big Ten commits and targets on the list. To help break down the movement and implications, here is all you need to know about the top list and the Big Ten conference.

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Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
In one of the coldest games of the season, Ohio State and Minnesota squared off in a back and forth match that ended with a Buckeyes win. The snow and cold might have impacted the play on the field, but it didn’t stop Minnesotans from enjoying the day.

The weather also didn’t keep the prospects from visiting as there were quite a few recruits in attendance.

He wasn’t visiting as a Minnesota target, but Ohio State five-star commit Jashon Cornell decided to attend the game to watch his future team in Ohio State. The Minnesota native didn’t have too far of a drive, but it takes some dedication to sit in that weather.
The Gophers did have some of their own targets on campus, too, including offensive lineman Tyler Moore. There is no confirmation if his mother's name is Mary, but there is confirming that Tyler enjoyed his trip. The Gophers weren't the only team to deal with bad weather as Wisconsin also had snow and frigid temperatures. While it was an excellent game to watch, Florida native Andre Smith made it very apparent he was aware of how cold it was. Offensive line commit David Moorman was also at the game and got the chance to do a little recruiting. Moorman spent some time ESPN 300 offensive lineman Jalen Merrick, who is also from Florida. Penn State wasn't hosting a marquee opponent in Temple, but it didn't stop some of the bigger prospects from coming out to the game. ESPN Jr. 300 wide receiver Brad Hawkins came out for the match and tweeted a picture from his seats. Hawkins is one of the bigger receiver targets along the East Coast, ranked No. 239 in the ESPN Jr. 300, so he will be a focus for the Nittany Lions in the future.

Since the East Coast and surrounding areas are so important to Penn State, it was a huge visit with ESPN Jr. 300 defensive back Eric Burrell out of Maryland. Burrell is ranked No. 80 in the 2016 class and was also on campus with 2017 offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

Maryland ended up losing its game to Michigan State, but once again it was a good game to have recruits on campus for. Some of the prospects in surrounding areas, including ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Naseir Upshur took a visit this weekend. The Terps also had some official visitors, including defensive lineman Wesley Annan.

Because of its location, Maryland has some unique selling poins for recruits, some of which Annan was able to check out for himself. Annan got to check out the Lincoln Memorial since it's so close to campus. There aren't many other schools that can boast that type of experience for recruits.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
Another week has gone by and plenty of news happened throughout the Big Ten. Here is a look at the most important recruiting news that occurred.

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Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
Michigan State had a marquee home game against Ohio State on Saturday, and that brought in a ton of visiting prospects.

One of the more sought-after recruits was ESPN 300 linebacker Ricky DeBerry, who was on his official visit for the big game. DeBerry was also with current Michigan State commit Felton Davis, another Virginia prospect.

Since this was such a big game featuring these two schools, it was only natural that a few Ohio prospects made their way to the game. That included 2016 defensive back Tyrece Speaight, who spent some extra time on campus.

The game brought in prospects from all over the country, but since the state of Michigan is so important to the Spartans, it was also a big opportunity to impress the in-state prospects. Cass Tech offensive lineman Michael Onwenu tweeted a picture from his seat during the game, giving a good glimpse of the view.

Another big in-state offensive lineman, Michael Jordan, was in attendance for the game.

Jordan has an offer from both Michigan State and Ohio State, so it gave him an opportunity to check out both programs. The Spartans didn’t win the game, but the atmosphere and excitement definitely made an impression on all the prospects on hand.

Minnesota has been on a roll this season, and the Gophers had an exciting game themselves Saturday against Iowa, winning 51-14.

The Gophers won the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy and gave a few visiting prospects the opportunity to pose with the infamous pig.

Minnesota commit James Johannesson also got in on the action after the game, capturing a photo with a few of the current players in the locker room.

Northwestern faced off against Michigan Saturday and had some important prospects on hand as well.

One of the hottest prospects in the Midwest for the 2016 class is defensive end Khalid Kareem out of Michigan. Northwestern was Kareem’s first offer and he has since blown up with what seems like daily offers.

Kareem had already taken one trip to see the Wildcats and took another trip to see the team play the Wolverines.

Northwestern hosted a few other visitors for the game, including receiver Elijah Ball, who took a scenic shot of the stadium during the game.


Urban Meyer recently said that Michigan State has a great team, but the Spartans are no rival of Ohio State. The Spartans stood in the way of the Buckeyes winning a Big Ten championship last year, but Meyer made it clear their rival is still Michigan.

While recruits still agree the Wolverines are the biggest rival for the Buckeyes, the prospects see it differently when it comes to Michigan State.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
The Big Ten had a busy weekend with a few commitments, offers and important visitors. This is the Big Ten weekend recruiting wrap outlining the most important happenings from this past few days.

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Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 2, 2014
Nov 2
Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan all had a few big recruiting visitors on campus this past weekend. Of course those recruits took to social media to share their experiences and document what happened.

Offensive lineman Branden Bowen is currently committed to Utah, but he made the trip out to see the Buckeyes play Illinois.
As Bowen noted in his tweet, he is from Utah, where it was significantly warmer than Ohio. The weather wasn't terrible in Columbus, but it got pretty cold at the game given that it was at night.

Bowen didn't come very prepared and ended up wearing shorts to the game. If he ends up choosing Ohio State I'm sure he will invest in a pair of long pants for the winter. The Buckeyes also got the chance to entertain one of their newest commitments, linebacker Jerome Baker. The ESPN 300 linebacker flipped from Florida and was excited to take in the game with no stress. Ohio State had another in-state linebacker on campus outside of Baker in Cincinnati native Anthony McKee. McKee doesn't have an offer yet, but depending on how the class plays out he could find himself with an offer down the line.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall was hoping to build a rivalry with conference opponent Penn State and the game this past weekend might have been a nice foundation for that rivalry.

The Terps players refused to shake hands with the Penn State players at the opening coin toss, which caused quite a stir on Twitter among recruits. There were plenty of prospects in attendance to see the incident as well, including ESPN Jr. 300 commit Shane Simmons and ESPN Jr. 300 target Robbie Robinson. The staff was expecting another ESPN Jr. 300 target in E.J. Price, but he tweeted that he was unable to make it to the game.

Wisconsin wasn't at home on Saturday as it took on Rutgers, but that doesn't mean the Badgers' targets weren't watching.

One of the bigger 2016 recruits, ESPN Jr. 300 running back Antonio Williams, has been paying close attention to most of Wisconsin's games this season, including this one. Williams has said the Badgers lead for him as of right now and as the No. 148-ranked prospect in his class, he would be a huge addition.

Michigan also had some prospects on campus, mainly from the 2016 and 2017 class.

Sophomore quarterback Andrew Marty tweeted a picture from the end zone before the game. Two of the bigger targets on campus, ESPN Jr. 300 defensive end Prince Sammons and offensive lineman Michael Jordan, both got to spend some time together as well. Finally, Nebraska was hosting a few official visitors for the 2015 class for its game against Purdue.

Offensive lineman Zach Robertson and receivers A.D. Miller and Tony Brown were the three most prominent.

Miller is an Illinois commit, who initially was trying to keep his visit under wraps, got a first-hand look at the Nebraska fan base. The Huskers beat Purdue and gave the targets a good game to come and see. The atmosphere was exciting and the prospects all enjoyed their time in Lincoln.

Virginia recruiting roundtable 

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
There are 20 prospects ranked in the ESPN 300 and ESPN Jr. 300 that hail from the state of Virginia, and all are highly sought after recruits. With so many touted recruits in one area, we thought we would give a few of them a chance to voice their opinion on various recruiting topics.

What is one thing you would change about the recruiting process?

[+] EnlargeJosh Sweat
Tom Hauck for Student SportsJosh Sweat, the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 300, said he'd like to change the emphasis on size over production in recruiting.
Josh Sweat: One of my biggest gripes at the beginning was that they take size over production. I understand you can do a lot more with size at the college level and you can breed them, but you can’t teach toughness. That was one big thing. I’ve seen guys with excellent highlight tapes but a little undersized and the guy that’s about 20 pounds heavier than them and 6-foot-4, he’ll get most of the attention. Even though you look at the guys and you know who plays better. I’ve never been the biggest defensive end, at The Opening I barely pushed 240, so that’s something I’ve noticed.

Clelin Ferrell: I would like for the schools to be able to pay for the families to come with you on official visits instead of just the player. I would also like to have official visits before our senior year, because by then a lot of kids have already made up their mind or it’s too late because we’re in season and in school.

Levonta Taylor: I would change that you can do more stuff early. Some kids want to get the process over sooner. There’s been a lot of pressure on me since September 1 hit. I’m a two-sport athlete with track and football and I have everyone saying come do this, or come do that. It’s going to be hard for me this year to balance everything. I’d like to take officials earlier.

Garrett Taylor: In terms of recruiting I think it would be easier if you could take officials before your senior year, or the summer going into it. If you could take officials earlier that would help. Once it gets late in the process, especially for me right now, it’s a scramble to put your visits together and it’s tough. Especially so you don’t have to take them during the season, I think that would make it a lot easier.

Do fans ever influence how you feel about a school, or the decision you’ll make?

Ferrell: That’s not a good thing. Some guys like it, some guys don’t. With me it’s not a good thing because a lot of times it will lead to fans arguing with players, or talking trash to players if the player says he doesn’t like the school. For me, I don’t like that too much.

Levonta Taylor: It’s fun sometimes, you’ll see one school’s fans try to influence you and then another set of fans will get jealous and they’ll go at it. It’s crazy. Social media, the fans get crazy. The weirdest thing someone said to me was that I could go to their school and start right away. I get something every week.

Ricky DeBerry: Of course sometimes you read that stuff but it really has no affect on your decision. It’s whats in your heart and what you and your family think is best for you. It’s a piece of it that you have to accept, there’s not pressure behind it. You appreciate the love and support.

What’s the best recruiting pitch you’ve gotten from a coach?

Ferrell: I would say the time I took my visit to Michigan. I met with Coach [Greg] Mattison and he was the former defensive coordinator at the Baltimore Ravens. That was my favorite team, and when I went to his office and met with him he had an NCAA 15 video game screen with my face on the cover in a Michigan jersey. Then he had a video of my highlight tape comparing me to Terrell Suggs. That was one of the things I really liked. I never had a coach watch my film and tell me what he liked and didn’t like.

Jahvoni Simmons: It was a unique situation when I went to the UNC versus Duke basketball game. I went up there for a recruiting visit and they sent us on a little runway thing. It was like a red carpet that we walked up, I had never seen anything like that.

DeBerry: I feel like I have some great conversations with some great people. A lot of people talk up the academic piece and say the NFL stands for Not For Long. It really opens your eyes and focuses you on school more. I got a bunch of mail with my face on it and portraits of me. It’s ridiculous what these schools can do. The Tennessee mail I got, they drew a portrait of me in a Tennessee jersey. Coach [Butch] Jones signed it and said 'Ricky, come to Tennessee.'

Garrett Taylor: It would have to be when Michigan sent me this edit and they put my face into the helmet and they had me in the uniform and it said, 'Next big corner.' It was cool to see yourself in the uniform and picture yourself in the uniform.

What’s the worst recruiting pitch you’ve gotten from a coach?

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Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
We are moving later and later into the season, which always means there is potential for decommitments, flips and surprise visitors.

You could see all three scenarios happen in the Big Ten this weekend, which could be an important recruiting weekend for a few teams.

Nebraska vs. Purdue:

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Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in a news conference on Monday he doesn't expect to talk to his bosses about his job until the end of the season. That could pose a problem for recruiting as prospects are left wondering what the future holds for the Wolverines now sitting with a 3-5 record on the season.

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Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
Wisconsin had a big recruiting weekend, hosting several visitors for its game against Maryland. The Badgers came away with the win and the coaches also landed a few commitments.

Athlete Zack Baun and linebacker Jordan Griffin both announced their commitment to Wisconsin on Saturday, giving the Badgers 21 commitments in the 2015 class.

This type of visit is big for the uncommitted prospects, but it’s also important for the committed recruits to take in the atmosphere and spend time around the program.

Michigan State had a huge game at home Saturday, hosting quite a few commitments, targets and in-state prospects. The Spartans beat rival Michigan in resounding fashion and in front of an exciting atmosphere.

The visiting recruits got to see quite a show, and the Spartans likely helped themselves with the in-state recruits, especially the 2016 and 2017 class.

Because Michigan State came away with the win, the prospects also got to see an exciting environment in the locker room after the game.

While the Spartans handled Michigan fairly easily, the game in Happy Valley with Penn State and Ohio State turned into an outstanding game. The two teams went to overtime, where Ohio State eventually won. The sentiment from the prospects on campus, though, was that it was crazy and exciting.

Penn State losing won’t matter as much to prospects because of the way it happened and the fact that the crowd was loud and the visit seemed to make a lasting impression on many of the recruits. The Nittany Lions had some big 2015 targets on hand, including ESPN 300 offensive lineman Matt Burrell, who was taking an official visit.

Penn State coach James Franklin made sure to get a little recruiting done before the game with Burrell and Indiana quarterback commit Tommy Stevens, who was offered by the Nittany Lions.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
This is shaping up to be an important weekend for the Big Ten, with rivalry games and big recruiting visitors on tap.

Plenty of recruits are making their way to Big Ten games this weekend, so here is a look at some of the top prospects who will be on hand.

Ohio State vs. Penn State

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