NCF On The Trail: Minnesota Gophers

Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 30, 2014
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Rivalry week did not disappoint this season throughout college football and the Big Ten. Michigan and Ohio State played in "The Game" and Minnesota battled Wisconsin for a spot in the Big Ten championship game, while plenty of recruits took in the exciting matchups.

In the 2015 class, UCLA offensive line commit Andre James took his official visit to Ohio State to see what all the hype was about.


Ole Miss offensive line commit Drew Richmond was also supposed to make the trip but ended up canceling the visit.

The Ohio State commits were also on hand to help recruit during the big game as well. Justin Hilliard, Matt Burrell and Jashon Cornell spent some time with ESPN 300 defensive lineman Neville Gallimore and four-star receiver Lawrence Cager.


Gallimore came all the way from Canada for the official visit, and the Buckeyes could be in good shape after the trip.


The Buckeyes also hosted some 2016 targets, including ESPN Junior 300 offensive lineman Michael Onwenu from Detroit.


Onwenu was joined by some of his Cass Tech teammates, including ESPN Junior 300 defensive back Lavert Hill and 2017 receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, among others.

ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was also on hand for the game and got to meet former Buckeyes receiver Cris Carter before the game.

Robert Washington, an ESPN Junior 300 running back, made the trip up from North Carolina with his father and took to twitter to show off his view.


The Buckeyes weren’t the only B1G team with big prospects on campus, though. Penn State also had a ton of recruits in attendance for its game against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions didn’t win the game, but they did get some good news when ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Jake Zembiec committed on Saturday.


Zembiec got a chance to hang out with some of the other Penn State commits on hand and build some friendships for the future.


ESPN Junior 300 offensive lineman E.J. Price and 2016 defensive end Tommon Fox drove up to Happy Valley from Georgia, and the trip was worthwhile as both prospects were offered scholarships.


Wisconsin had a big game as well, playing Minnesota for a spot in the Big Ten championship game. With that type of game, it’s only natural recruits would want to see it in person.

Linebacker target Christian Folau was one of those prospects and got a chance to snap a picture with Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon after the Badgers' win against the Gophers.


The Badgers also hosted ESPN Junior 300 running back Antonio Williams this weekend.


This visit is likely a big one for Wisconsin because Williams is slated to announce his decision Dec. 4. The Badgers are seemingly the leader, and with the win on Saturday it looks as though it will be very tough to beat Wisconsin for this talented back.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

November, 11, 2014
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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.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

November, 7, 2014
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videoWe are in the latter half of the season and recruiting is getting down to the wire. This will be an important weekend in the Big Ten with a few big games, including Michigan State and Ohio State.

Here is a look at some of the big recruiting visitors expected to be on campus this weekend.


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The center of Bill Snyder’s program at Kansas State is local players, and K-State has done a masterful job with the 2015 class in the Sunflower State. Plus, Utah hasn’t grabbed a lot of recruiting headlines so far this season, but one Pac 12 recruiter says it should be.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: To win at the highest level, Arkansas has to keep the elite local recruits at home. Bret Bielema has done a so-so job of that so far, but if he can land K.J. Hill this week that might help give the Razorbacks some much needed recruiting momentum. Plus, five-star Torrance Gibson put on a show on national television Sunday and potentially gave fans a glimpse as to where he’s leaning, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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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.


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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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