NCF On The Trail: Minnesota Gophers

After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we’re putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series -- the rest of which can be found here -- concludes with a look at recruiting expenses and why they've grown.

Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop can still remember sifting through thick stacks of manila recruiting folders in the mid-90s and reaching for a shelf of VHS tapes hanging above his desk.

There were no real recruiting support staffs to speak of. He'd pop a recruit's game tape into a VCR and then ready himself with a notepad. Fast forward, fast forward. There's the recruit. Fast forward, fast forward.

[+] EnlargeClayton Thorson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsDigital and online technologies are helping schools discover prospects like Clayton Thorson earlier and make more educated scholarship offers.
"Recruiting's changed a lot," Shoop told ESPN.com. "Our recruiting staff, they'll cut up tapes for me now. I don't have to sift through hours of recruiting tape anymore. Our interns will hand me 10 clips for a 2016 safety or something like that. You're investing to recruit good people."

As technology has evolved, so has recruiting -- and recruiting budgets. In just the past six seasons, according to a recent analysis from "Outside the Lines," recruiting budgets encompassing all sports have increased at 13 of 14 Big Ten schools and risen by at least 30 percent at eight of those. Higher gas prices, increased postage and other variables have undoubtedly played a role but several coaches and athletic directors also stressed how bigger staffs -- a result of newer technology -- have inflated those numbers.

At Penn State, Shoop can now rely on two full-time staff members, two graduate assistants and a team of 30 students/interns to help with recruiting. At Northwestern, the recruiting staff has tripled in just the last six to eight years. And, at Ohio State, one full-time position was recently added, in part, to help with recruiting presentations.

"Our technology has increased quite a bit," OSU athletic director Gene Smith said. "That's a big number for us."

That technology, such as online game film, has placed a bigger focus on immediacy. In an age where a top prospect's highlights can be filmed today and broken down by college coaches tomorrow, staffs can no longer wait until the offseason to evaluate players. And they can't drop everything on a Friday night in October, either, to give up game plan tweaks in favor of digesting film from a high school junior.

"Your coaches are doing this thing in the football season called coaching," said Chris Bowers, Northwestern's director of player personnel. "The time allocation a position coach would spend in March, he's not going to allocate that same amount of time in December or October. He can't. So, yes, there's been an increase in staff for sure.

"I would say at most universities -- I can't speak for everyone -- the recruiting staff is probably two to three times bigger than it was in '06."

In September of 2012, the Wildcats were able to jump early on the Clayton Thorson bandwagon because of that extra staff and technology. The ESPN 300 quarterback, who signed with Northwestern in February, hadn't started under center prior to 2012.

So, when he was due in Evanston, Ill., for a Saturday night game, Bowers noticed his high school coach uploaded his film to the Hudl website that Friday evening. Bowers contacted a GA, requested he cut-up some highlights -- and then forwarded the finished product to the coaching staff. Thorson received an offer that Saturday, partially based on something that was filmed less than 24 hours before.

And if this had all happened just a few years before, then how long would it have taken to make that same judgment call? Months?

"

You're investing to recruit good people.

" -- Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
"Yes!" Bowers said. "… Even if you were an aggressive recruiting staff, the high school coaches would still need to bring you a DVD or mail it to you -- and they might not do it until the end of the season."

Nationally, recruiting budgets have risen across the board, so it's hardly limited to the Big Ten. Still, the conference seems to be outpacing the competition. Between 2008 and 2012, Big Ten teams placed within the top-10 nationally in recruiting spending on just five occasions. In 2013, four conference teams (Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State) placed within the top 10 -- and Illinois wasn't far behind at No. 12.

But coaches and athletic directors were slow to label last season a turning point. After all, it's not as if the staffs had all doubled overnight. Instead, they cautioned, there were other variables that needed to be taken into account. At Wisconsin, for example, the budget is artificially low because the Badgers are provided a private plane and don't need to charter flights as much. At Iowa, a booster donation wasn't included in the recruiting numbers until a few years ago -- which could account for part of the jump. And at Minnesota, due to the campus location, increased flight and hotel expenses impacted the budget more than schools elsewhere.

"We can't drive as much as others," Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague added. "So we've got to keep building the budget and being aggressive."

Regardless, the trend of spending more on recruiting each season appears to be a difficult one to stop. Whether it's an increased staff or costs elsewhere, few universities take a step back in spending.

But, on the bright side, it could be worse -- at least the era of "Be kind; please rewind" is long gone.

"That required a significant amount of manpower hours," Shoop said with a laugh. "And in some ways, now, it's a pro model. It's not like you have an entire scouting department, but I'm sure we're getting closer to that model now than ever before now, as far as people whose sole responsibility is player evaluation. ... It's incredible how the process has accelerated."

Big Ten class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
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National signing day is almost upon us and Big Ten teams have been feverishly adding prospects to their classes. Here is a look at the latest movement within the conference in the ESPN class rankings and trends from the past week.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 27, 2014
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There is only one weekend left for visits before signing day. Things are getting down to the wire, which means we are set to see a lot of activity in a short amount of time.

Here is a look at what happened within the Big Ten this past week.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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There have been commitments and decommitments across the board in the Big Ten, which means there has been movement among the class rankings.

As signing day approaches, teams will be looking to fill the final spots in their class. Here is a look at trends and a few items to watch within the conference:

Trending up: No Big Ten teams moved up in the class rankings for this week, but that doesn’t mean schools aren’t improving.

Penn State has been on a tear recently with James Franklin and his staff on board. Despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida and defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) to NC State, the Nittany Lions have added some big pieces as well.

The most recent was three-star athlete Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt to Penn State. McSorley was originally recruited as a defensive back by Franklin at Vanderbilt, but then the offer was switched to quarterback while he was committed to the Commodores.

McSorley will add some depth and competition at the quarterback spot for Penn State, as Christian Hackenberg and early enrollee Michael O’Connor are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

Indiana has also been on a nice run, picking up five commitments in the past week, from linebacker Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita), athlete Waynedriko Smith (Orlando, Fla./Orangewood Christian) and defensive backs Zeke Walker (Cayce, S.C./Brookland-Cayce) and Tony Fields (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby).

Trending down: Michigan hasn’t lost any commitments in the 2014 class, but the Wolverines lost ESPN Junior 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) over the weekend.

Harris is the No. 1-ranked running back and No. 17 overall in the 2015 class. Losing Harris and fellow ESPN Junior 300 member George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) is a big blow to the 2015 class.

Add in the fact that Michigan’s main remaining target for the 2014 class, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) could end up not picking Michigan and could end up at rival Michigan State or Ohio State, that’s more bad news for Michigan.

The Wolverines haven’t landed a commitment since August and steadily have been moving down the class rankings. If the coaches miss on McDowell, that would mean they missed on three major targets: McDowell, five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) to Alabama and in-state defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs) to Notre Dame.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 20, 2014
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As usual there is a ton of action happening around signing day. The Big Ten has had commitments, decommitments, offers and everything in between.

Here is a look at what took place within the conference on the recruiting trail this past week:


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Top-ranked Cornell takes two visits 

January, 19, 2014
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Two Big Ten teams got the chance to impress Jashon Cornell (Saint Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall), the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class, this weekend.

Cornell took in a Minnesota basketball game on Friday and then took a trip to Iowa for a junior day.

Cornell is from Minnesota so he is familiar with the Golden Gophers, but being able to see Iowa up close gave him a new perspective.


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Key recruiting visits -- Big Ten 

January, 17, 2014
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Now that the dead period has ended, prospects will continue taking visits to schools before signing day. The Big Ten has several top targets traveling all over the country this weekend, so here is a look at some of the bigger visitors for the conference.

1. DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes)
Visiting: Ohio State
Nnadi, who is ranked No. 253 in the ESPN 300, has Ohio State, Penn State, Florida State and Virginia Tech in his top group. The nation’s No. 21 defensive tackle visits Ohio State this weekend and with new defensive line coach Larry Johnson now officially hired by the Buckeyes, we’ll see where Ohio State ranks after this trip.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



Here’s are a few: WR Isaiah McKenzie is a bolt of lightning. He can really run, and while he may lack ideal measurables, he has some Tavon Austin qualities. RB Jeff Jones has flown way under the radar during the recruiting cycle and has been very impressive with his speed and explosiveness. We are still trying to figure out why no one is recruiting OC Jacob Bragg. We are hoping this week will open up some eyes. He has looked good. Considering four of our six original QBs have gone down to injuries and won’t be playing, we have been pleased with the likes of Rafe Peavey, Morgan Mahalak and Sean White as well. DT Garrald McDowell may be undersized, but he has been overlooked much in the same was as Isaac Gross was a couple years back down here for a lack of size.

Big Ten recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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As the calendar year winds down, there is still plenty to talk about within recruiting. Big Ten teams have been on a roll on the recruiting trail as of late, and each program is hoping that continues into signing day.

Here are five things for fans to watch as we head into the holiday season.

Under Armour Game

There are six Big Ten teams represented in the Under Armour All-America game this year with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State all having commitments scheduled to play in the game.

The game will be played Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla., but there will be plenty to watch before the big game. The participants will go through tough practices and skill competitions leading up to the event, which always has some interesting storylines.

The practices put the best players in the country against each other, so it’s a good measuring stick of top prospects.


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B1G high school performances 

November, 4, 2013
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Here is a look at some of the top performances from Big Ten targets and commits for the week.

Illinois:
Mike Dudek: Dudek helped Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.) beat O’Fallon 38-7 with three touchdown catches on the night.

Julian Hylton: The three-star running back had 159 yards on 30 carries with four touchdowns in his game. He helped lead Lincoln-Way North (Frankfort, Ill.) to a 41-6 win over Thornton Fractional South.

Indiana
Coray Keel: The Indiana commit and Snellville (Ga.) South Gwinnett wide receiver registered five catches for 108 yards and scored a 70-yard touchdown in a 30-28 win over Snellville Brookwood.


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Movers, shakers in updated ESPN 300

October, 29, 2013
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The Class of 2014 has had two months to show what it’s made of on the field. How are the nation’s elite prospects faring as we approach signing day? Here’s a look at the biggest names and notes from the most recent update of the ESPN 300:

The Big Movers

No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), ILB
Prior ranking: No. 59
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound Garrett jumped more than 20 spots in the rankings as he has added bulk to his frame, and at the same time retaining quickness and his fast-filling, downhill ability. Garrett has impact-type ability with a blend of lateral quickness, discipline and a nose for the ball.

Davion Hall
Max Olson/ESPNAthlete Davion Hall, who is committed to Baylor, jumped 30 spots in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
No. 45 Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), ATH
Prior ranking: No. 75
The 6-2, 194-pound Hall is one of the most impressive athletes in the class. He has a long, stoutly-built frame, is explosive, has physicality filling the alley at safety and very good ball skills at receiver. When he settles into one position at the next level, his upside is very high.

No. 64 Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown), RB
Prior ranking: No. 106
The Georgia commit is putting together a sensational senior campaign with more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns through eight games. The 5-11, 217-pound tailback continues to add strength to his compact body structure while maintaining his speed, overall athleticism and ability to bend.

No. 70 Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), DE
Prior ranking: No. 125
The Miami commit has flashed his high-ceiling ability, even though he is playing inside more than half the snaps as a senior. His combination of first-step quickness, arm length and the ability to play with low pad level sets him apart from most ends in the class.

No. 84 Rashaan Evans (Auburn Ala./Auburn), OLB
Prior ranking: No. 150
The 6-3, 217-pound Evans has filled out physically, and displays the quick-twitch burst and speed combination to be a factor off the edge. Evans has been dominant off the edge as a senior with double-digit sacks.

No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis), WR
Prior ranking: No. 144
The Florida State commit continues to flash the initial quickness, ability to get to top-end speed quickly, ability to play the ball in the air and elusiveness that makes the 6-2, 180-pound wideout one of the top playmakers in the class.

No. 128 Brad Kaaya (Hollywood, Calif./Chaminade College Prep)
Prior ranking: No. 171
The 6-4, 213-pound Miami commit is one the fastest rising quarterbacks in the class. Has added bulk to his tall frame, and continues to show the foot quickness, foot work and quick release that will be demanded of him at the next level.

Other Big Movers

WR Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp): From No. 99 to 49.
Texas A&M ATH commit Nick Harvey (Richmond, Texas/William B. Travis): From No. 101 to 60.
RB Joe Mixon (Berkeley, Calif./Freedom): From No. 100 to 72.
Georgia QB-DT commit Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford): From No. 157 to 94.
Oregon RB commit Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial): From No. 154 to 99.
RB Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock): From No. 176 to 108.
Ole Miss S commit C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian): From No. 201 to 134.
Alabama C commit J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge): From No. 246 to 188.
Georgia DT commit Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): From No. 266 to 201

ESPN 300 debuts
No. 89 Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westbury), WR
The 6-6, 215-pound pass catcher returned to the football field as a senior after playing only basketball as a junior, and has quickly become one of the most coveted uncommitted prospects in the country featuring deceptive initial quickness, and the high-point timing and size to win 50-50 balls in the air.

No. 287 Darrion Owens (Orange Park, Fla./Oakleaf), OLB
The 6-3, 220-pound Owens has transitioned from safety to outside linebacker as a senior without skipping a beat. Long, rangy and with edge-rush ability, the Miami commit is a top senior riser.

No. 295 Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland), WR
The 6-1, 196-pound Georgia commit was a standout at Mark Richt Camp in June. Williams is blessed with straight-line speed, change-of-direction ability, strong hands and the physicality and strength to play through contact.

[+] EnlargeJoe Mixon
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTailback Joe Mixon is ranked No. 72 in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
More Who Moved Into The ESPN 300

Ohio State ATH commit Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall): No. 148.
LSU DE commit Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass): No. 298.
Baylor WR commit Ishmael Zamora (Alief, Texas/Elsik): No. 245
Alabama OLB commit Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest): No. 284.
DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes): No. 257.
DT Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin): No. 292.
Minnesota RB commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn): No. 181.
Virginia Tech DT commit Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel): No. 299.

Injured Reserve

David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North), QB
The Alabama commit suffered a season-ending knee injury. The 6-5, 241-pound Under Armour All-American is No. 44 after being 32nd previously.

Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech), RB
The Tennessee commit suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener, requiring a second shoulder operation in less than a year. The 6-4, 222-pound Hurd is now No. 62 after being 39th.

Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), WR
The 6-3, 172-pound Harris hasn't played this season due to a lingering hamstring issue. The Michigan commit checks in at No. 85 after previously being 72nd.

Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), DT
The 6-6, 295-pound Shaw has been sidelined with a neck injury this season. He checks in at No. 186 after a prior ranking of 82nd.

Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central), OLB
The 6-2, 202-pound Rhaheed missed the first six games of the season before returning to the field in late October. The former LSU commit is No. 260 after being ranked 133rd previously.

Kyle Berger (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius), OLB
The Ohio State commit was sidelined his senior season with an ACL tear. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after being ranked No. 281.

Treyvon Paulk (Milton, Ga./Milton High), RB
The Tennessee running back commitment recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after previously being ranked No. 294.
Here are the top performances by Big Ten commits and targets from the weekend.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Big Ten conference, check out our conference rankings:

1. Michigan, 15 commits: The Wolverines are No. 6 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, which includes nine ESPN300 prospects -- among them headliner and No. 2 overall Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic High). Michigan could make a move into the top-5 by winning the race for No. 4 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High). Defensive tackle and No. 67 Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mi./Southfield High) is another top target still in play. No. 41 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic High) will visit Nov. 29, and is another top target remaining.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

September, 30, 2013
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The Big Ten doesn’t need an entire schedule of games to make news, and it proved it in the recruiting world.

Here’s a look at what happened off the field in yet another busy weekend of looking toward the future.


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B1G high school performers 

September, 9, 2013
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Big Ten commits and targets were all over the field making plays this weekend for their teams. Here is a look at some of the top high school performances from Big Ten prospects.

Illinois
Mike Dudek: The Neuqua Valley (Ill.) receiver had 12 receptions for 244 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown touchdown in a 58-35 loss to Naperville Central.

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