NCF On The Trail: Northwestern Wildcats

The longest days in Big Ten recruiting

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6
2:00
PM ET
Recruiting can be a non-stop grind for the coaches who have to procure that talent. Some days are longer than others. We talked to several Big Ten head coaches this week and asked them to describe their longest days out on the trail. Here are their stories:

Nebraska's Mike Riley

"It seemed the whole thing was full of long, memorable days. But when recruiting reopened in January after the dead period, I’ve got our personnel staff and our coaches usually making my schedule, where I need to go. So my first day out, I visited North and Central High in Omaha. I did a home visit with Michael Decker. I went to the Outland (Trophy) banquet, and I did another home visit with Daishon Neal. And then it was 10 o’clock at night. It was a full day, and it was a great day, because I hadn’t been in those high schools before. I loved meeting the coaches and seeing our players at the high schools. I always like home visits. I think it’s a real important part of the process."

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald

"My last week of recruiting, I started on Sunday, flew from Chicago to the Bay Area. Then Sunday night, flew down to L.A. I was in L.A. on Monday and then Monday night I flew to Dallas, spent Tuesday in Dallas, flew Tuesday night to Houston, spent Wednesday in Houston, flew to Atlanta, spent Thursday in Atlanta, and then spent Friday in Chicago. Spent a lot of time at Chick-fil-A. It was a long week and our staff did a great job."

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio

"It hit me when I came out of a hotel room one day. I stayed in the same chain of hotels, and I walked out of the room and down the hall and I couldn't remember what room I was in. I walked back and took a guess on which room I was in, just to check my key to make sure I was in the same room. I was basically going from place to place for two weeks and sometimes two places in a day. I think I was in Orlando. I got back in the room. There were three doors and I guessed the right one."

Penn State's James Franklin

"One day I remember from a previous year. I had just taken a job [at Vanderbilt] and I was flying around and my luggage got lost and I wore the same suit for five days. I'm a hugger, and my hugs got a little less intimate as the week went on. My luggage couldn't keep up with me. Every time I got to a city or a state, the next day the luggage would get there and I'd already gone to the next state. It wasn't real fun. I was going to Target and buying underwear and undershirts, all that kind of stuff, and kept dousing myself with deodorant and cologne. It didn't help that we were flying commercially."

Rutgers' Kyle Flood

"We had one day where we went from New Jersey to Chicago to Tampa and then back to New Jersey. We started at about 6 in the morning and I finished at about 2 in the morning. I was with Norries Wilson and Jim Panagos at different legs of the trip. Norries came with me to Chicago and then to Tampa. He stayed there and went to Jacksonville. And then I picked up Coach Panagos in Tampa and he came back with me. We were fortunate. Everything ran according to schedule, the way I like it."

Maryland's Randy Edsall

"One day, I was here in Maryland, I was down on the east coast of Florida, then to the west coast, and then all the way to Mobile, Alabama. Then the next day I was in Charlotte and then Virginia Beach. Got all that done, really, in a day and a half. You kind of think, 'hey, what day is it, what time is it,' all those sort of things. But those are the things you have to do."

Minnesota's Jerry Kill

"I've gone from Mobile to Mississippi to Texas, and back to Chicago. But the most unique story I can tell you is something that happened for the first time ever this year. I was on a plane that was starting to go down the runway when I had a kid commit. Seriously, we were going down the runway, I didn't think we'd hear from the kid and he calls me. I'm trying to get the pilot to keep the wheels down so I can talk to him."

Indiana's Kevin Wilson

"My longest day was when we finished up on Martin Luther King day. We had a team leadership program going on, we had recruits on campus and then we had to leave Bloomington and go to Shadyshide, Ohio. By the time we get back to Columbus, it's about 1 a.m. Shoot, there was one day where we had official visits going, I was interviewing a couple of guys for behind-the-scenes jobs, and we had a walk-on day. Those kinds of days wear you out, and you're like, "Who planned all this [stuff]? You're killing me?" And it was me. I'm the guy who planned it. Sometimes we all get screwed by travel and those days, and you're like 'hey, just got to get it done. I'm kind of tired. I want to put my feet up here for like 15 minutes and take a little nap.'"
No drama. Pat Fitzgerald wants as little of it as possible on national signing day. Northwestern's recent recruiting cycles follow a familiar pattern: the Wildcats load up early on commitments, pick up a few more later in the process and have few, if any, surprises on the first Wednesday of February.

[+] EnlargePat Fitzgerald
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesOf the 20 players in the Wildcats' 2015 class, Pat Fitzgerald has recruited nine at WR and DB.
Although Northwestern had a few recruits head elsewhere late in the process, it finalized a diverse class Wednesday featuring 20 prospects from 11 states. The Wildcats went heavy on perimeter players with five wide receivers and four defensive backs.

ESPN.com caught up with Fitzgerald to discuss the class.

Was it another no-drama signing day? How would you describe finishing off this class?

Pat Fitzgerald: It was a perfect job by our staff. We had 14 guys verbally committed prior to their senior years, which has become par for the course for us. We had to make some additions late in the process, six guys during their senior year. It's a great group of guys, a great group of families.

What positions were the biggest needs in this class?

PF: Like everyone, you look at your needs not only for this year but next year's class of guys who will move out. We felt we had to get some competition on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Added six guys who I feel are going to do that. And our skill positions, especially at wide receiver and DB, to add nine guys who can really run, good size, physical DBs.

Guys seem to play earlier at the perimeter spots. What impact do you see the new guys making at those positions?

PF: Singling one guy out would be a little premature. Charlie Fessler's a wide receiver who's a big, tall, athletic kid. Same thing with Cameron Green from here in Chicago, a tall, athletic wide receiver. And then in the slot we added two dynamic guys. Flynn Nagel is a Julian Edelman-type guy, 94 catches in his senior year. And Jelani Roberts is as fast a kid as we'll have in our program. He has the fastest 40-yard dash that I've timed at our camp that we've ended up signing. As an average, we had him at 4.3 flat. He just ran the 10th fastest 55-meter dash in high school in the country. He can really fly. In the secondary, that group is very talented, so it should add instant competition.

You also picked up several linebackers. What is your assessment of players such as Nathan Fox and Simba Short?

PF: Fox, [Tommy] Vitale and Short are three thick, big, physical, athletic guys. We've looked at guys at linebacker who played in space and have played multiple positions throughout their high school careers. These three guys are similar to that, but they're a little bit bigger and still have that athleticism. With the Big Ten West, you have to be able to stop the run, first and foremost. We really like the additions of these three.

You've redshirted a lot of players in the past. Is that still the message or do you point to Justin Jackson and other freshmen who played a lot?

PF: Philosophically, we've redshirted guys because the young men have redshirted themselves. I haven't really changed what I've told any kid. The No. 1 thing you do after you sign is you have to prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally to come here and staff. If you don't do that, you're going to redshirt yourself. I'm not going to have to make a decision. Each year, we've had from 4-10 guys who, two weeks into training camp, we feel like have an opportunity to play. But our staff have to evaluate whether those kids are going to play their position or just play in the kicking game. From a philosophy standpoint, I would prefer not to use a freshman year in the kicking game alone. Every coach has a different approach. I've gotten that reputation that we redshirt a lot of our guys. We don't necessarily do it as a staff. The young man does it to himself first and then if they get to a point where they're close to playing, I just don't believe in wasting a kid's year in the kicking game.

You always recruit nationally and this year saw a wide net -- Maryland, Georgia, California. Are there new areas coming up or the same target spots?

PF: Yeah, 11 states in the class. We're always going to start and end here in Chicago, and to have 25 percent of the class from where we need to win is always going to be important. But we're a national university and to add a couple young men from Maryland, now having that footprint of the league expand; to get down in Georgia and get two DBs and recruit speed and athleticism; and the areas that we always have success because of the academic brand and the Northwestern brand of football -- Texas, California and Ohio -- are always going to be areas we should be strong in.

There are a lot of decommitments now and you saw some of it. Is that just the landscape or you guys struggling the past two years?

PF: I don't think it had anything to do with us on the field. When kids watch us play a couple years ago when we started relationships, we won 10 games and you could argue we could have won some more or lost some. In the last two years, we're a handful of finishes away from me not being a D-minus head coach. That's football. It has more to do with the way the process is. The guys that fit, you have to recruit all the way to signing day. That's just the way it is.

Do I wish it was like other sports, that when you commit other schools stop recruiting kids? That's just not the case. It would be naive to say that. We go about our business a certain way and we've had things happen in the process. I wish those kids the best of luck. I appreciate their families allowing us to be part of the process. It's not the ones you don't get. It's the ones you get. We're fired up about the 20 guys we have.

Completed class: Northwestern Wildcats

February, 4, 2015
Feb 4
12:21
PM ET
Northwestern has announced its 2015 class:

Three-stars
Flynn Nagel, WR -- Marist High School, Illinois
Nathan Fox, ILB -- Clear Lake High School, Texas
Jared Thomas, OG -- Cathedral High School, Indiana
Cameron Green, WR -- Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Illinois
Trent Goens, DE -- Chino Hills High School, California
Simba Short, OLB -- De La Salle High School, California
John Moten, RB -- John Burroughs High School, Missouri
Jordan Thompson, DE -- La Salle High School, Ohio
Adam Lemke-Bell, OT -- Oak Park-River Forest High School, Illinois
Tommy Vitale, OLB -- Wheaton-Warrenville South High School, Illinois
Charles Fessler, WR -- Cathedral Prep School, Pennsylvania
Steven Reese, S -- Buford High School, Georgia
Joe Gaziano, DE -- Xaverian Brothers High School, Massachusetts
Jacob Murray, S -- Coppell High School, Texas
Lloyd Yates, QB-DT -- Oak Park-River Forest High School, Illinois
Andrew Otterman, OG -- Delbarton School, New Jersey
Jelani Roberts, WR -- Gilman School, Maryland
Trae Williams, RB -- Athens High School, Ohio

Two-stars
Alonzo Mayo, CB -- Gilman School, Maryland

Ungraded
Montre Hartage, CB -- Crisp County High School, Georgia
Signing day is less than 48 hours away. While you breathlessly await your team's official unveiling of its class and chew your fingernails over late decisions, a great debate continues over whether recruiting rankings really tell us anything.

For a little more enlightenment, we decided to look at this year's first-team All-Big Ten honorees to see where each player ranked as a prospect. Any player on offense or defense who made either the coaches' first team or was a first-team pick by the media was categorized through their ESPN Recruiting rankings (we'll save kicker prospect rankings for another conversation).

Here's what we found:

Five-star recruits

None

Four-star recruits (7)
Three-star recruits (14)
Two-star recruits (2)
Not ranked (3)

* -- junior college recruits

Three-star recruits typically don't generate a lot of hype on signing day, but that's where the bulk of the Big Ten's top performers checked in out of high school. That includes 2014 Big Ten offensive player of the year and Doak Walker Award winner Gordon; Big Ten offensive lineman of the year and Outland Trophy winner Scherff; Coleman, who also rushed for 2,000 yards; Big Ten receiver of the year Lippett; Big Ten linebacker of the year Hull; Big Ten defensive back of the year Drummond; a possible first-round pick in Waynes; 2013 Big Ten defensive lineman of the year Calhoun.

Seven four-star prospects more than lived up to their rankings, especially Barrett, Bosa and Zettel in the 2014 season. But there were almost as many two-star and not-ranked prospects as there were four-star recruits on the All-Big Ten first team. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin and Minnesota were able to unearth those diamonds in the rough.

The All-Big Ten second teams are another eclectic mix. They include four-star prospects who fulfilled their promise such as Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett, Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs and Wisconsin center Dan Voltz. There are also a whole bunch of three-star guys who more than reached their potential, like Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, Minnesota running back David Cobb, Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. Then there are the true overachievers, with two-star prospects like Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah and Northwestern's Nick VanHoose, and guys who were almost completely overlooked in Michigan State left tackle Jack Conklin and Minnesota defensive back Eric Murray.

The lesson here? Nothing is really guaranteed in recruiting rankings. While you may be focusing on the four- and five-star guys on Wednesday with good reason, sometimes the two- and three-star prospects become the ones you really have to watch on Saturdays.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
9:00
AM ET
It’s the first weekend of the contact period, so there are plenty visits on tap within the Big Ten. Some teams are trying to secure commitments, and some teams are just trying to build better relationships with the prospects already committed. Either way, this weekend will help a few programs seal the deal on signing day.

Michigan

Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 9, 2014
11/09/14
11:42
AM ET

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.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

November, 7, 2014
11/07/14
9:00
AM ET
We 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.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 19, 2014
10/19/14
9:47
AM ET
Minnesota and Purdue ended up stealing the show over the weekend within the Big Ten. The two programs went back and forth with touchdowns, interceptions and exciting plays.

The Gophers were the home team and pulled out the victory in front of a few important visitors on Saturday.

Athlete Alex Barnes is still on the board and made his way to campus for the game. He chose a good game to visit for as the atmosphere and weather were both great.
Barnes could either be a running back or end up on defense, so his versatility would be useful at Minnesota. The Gophers also had a big defensive lineman in attendance with 2015 defensive end Anree Saint-Amour. Northwestern had a big game at home as well, hosting Nebraska. While the Wildcats got off to a good start, the second half was a different story in the loss to the Huskers.

It was still an exciting atmosphere and a good game for prospects to see the program up close.

The coaches made an offer before the game with 2016 defensive end Khalid Kareem, who traveled from Michigan for the visit. The biggest game of the weekend, though, was probably Ohio State and Rutgers. The Buckeyes were the home team and as usual, they had a ton of big recruiting targets on campus.

The coaches secured a commitment from 2016 tight end Kierre Hawkins and had the opportunity to impress a few other potential commits as well.

One of the bigger 2015 prospects on hand was offensive lineman Josh Wariboko, a former Oklahoma commit, who took an official visit to Ohio State on Saturday. Wariboko put an X in place of the letter M in his tweet, following suit with the Ohio State coaches as a shot at rival Michigan.

The Buckeyes got a double-dip visit with brothers Daniel and Josh Imatorbhebhe on Saturday as well. Daniel is a 2015 tight end while Josh is an ESPN Jr. 300 wide receiver, ranked No. 162 overall in the 2016 class. Getting both prospects on campus at once was a bonus for the Buckeyes and Josh will be a big target for the next class.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 14, 2014
10/14/14
10:00
AM ET
There weren't too many big games within the Big Ten this past weekend, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any recruiting news. Offers were extended, commitments were made and decommitments were contemplated.

We take a look at the week that was and what could happen in the future within the conference.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 7, 2014
10/07/14
10:00
AM ET
video
We are in the thick of the college football season and recruiting has started to heat up. With commits taking visits, offers going out and prospects committing, there is plenty to talk about within the Big Ten.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Early Offer: B1G's losses will hurt 

September, 7, 2014
9/07/14
10:23
PM ET
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Ohio State and Michigan State likely won’t see any effects of their defeat’s this weekend, but two Big Ten recruiting coordinators believe others like Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern could be hurt by the non-conference losses. Plus, USC should be able to gain some momentum against Stanford after beating the Cardinal. We also continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider


The Opening presented by Nike Football will take place July 7-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects set to compete. With four days of dynamic training, coaching and competition among the best of the best, The Opening is the perfect chance for recruits in the Class of 2015 to make big jumps and shine on the national stage.

Here are five prospects with the most to gain at the prestigious event:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider


Momentum seems to be building for creating an early signing period in college football. The Conference Commissioners Association will discuss the idea as part of its agenda at a meeting later this month.

As with many things in life, the devil is in the details. The ACC recommended an early signing date of Aug. 1. The SEC at its meetings last month came out against changing the recruiting calendar, but would like to use the Monday after Thanksgiving if an early signing period does happen.

The Big Ten has not endorsed a specific stance on an early signing date as a conference. Based on interviews given to ESPN.com and other media outlets, most league coaches are in favor of it. Again, though, preferences on the when and the how differ.

Several coaches support the junior college signing period of mid-December as the right time to allow high school prospects who don't want to wait until February to sign their national letters of intent.

[+] EnlargeKirk Ferentz
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsIowa's Kirk Ferentz is among the Big Ten coaches who favor an early signing period after the regular season.
"To me, that would be the perfect time," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said last summer. "I still don't understand the resistance. All it is is an opportunity to sign. They don't have to sign. I don't think anyone is going to lose a scholarship. It just gives everyone a chance to lay their cards on the table and say, 'I'm 100 percent sure now' or, 'Still not quite there.' That would be great for both parties, I think."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, Wisconsin's Gary Andersen and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio are among others who back an early signing period in December.

"It sure would clear up recruiting for a lot of us," Andersen told ESPN.com. "In my opinion, if a kid's committed, let's have him go to the school where he wants to go, and we'll move on in recruiting and get the guys we want. I think it's the most logical answer."

A possible downside of having the early signing period in December would be that it puts more pressure on coaches to concentrate on recruiting late in the season, when championships could be on the line, or during bowl preparation. In-season recruiting pressures would grow even higher with the SEC's post-Thanksgiving recommendation.

Most who favor an early signing period say their schools and coaching staffs are spending too much valuable time, money and energy trying to re-recruit players who might have signed earlier. That's why some coaches, such as Indiana's Kevin Wilson, support a signing date before or right at the beginning of the season.

"I had guys who were committed in the summer who in the last weekend [before the February signing date] changed their minds," Wilson told ESPN.com. "It would be nice if there was an early signing period on the first of September. I don't know if we've got to move the calendar up, but we waste a lot of time and a lot of money babysitting kids who have made their decisions."

Michigan is one school that could have benefited in recent seasons from an early signing period. The Wolverines have sewn up the majority of their classes under Brady Hoke in the summer before the prospects' senior year of high school. Hoke's staff could have locked up those commitments and focused on filling out the final few spots or moving on to the following year's class.

Hoke would like to see an early signing date, but with a caveat.

"If there's an early signing period, there probably needs to be an early visitation period for those kids," he told ESPN.com. "Maybe the first two weeks in June to get on your campus."

That's a big deal for Big Ten coaches, who would love to see prospects be able to take official visits before the start of their senior year. An early signing date without an earlier visit calendar could put the league at a disadvantage against schools in more talent-rich areas. (We'll look more closely at this issue on Thursday in the blog.)

[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska's Bo Pelini says allowing earlier official visits must be a part of any move toward an early signing period.
Nebraska's Bo Pelini has said he would not support an earlier signing date without those earlier visits (and even then, he said he would need more time to study the issue). Schools such as Nebraska and Minnesota, which are farther away from talent-rich hubs, simply wouldn't see many benefits to an early signing day if the rest of the recruiting calendar remained the same. Players in blue chip-heavy areas -- such as the South, Texas and California -- would be more apt to take unofficial visits at schools closer to home and then could get pressured into signing before they ever made a trip up north.

Ohio State under Urban Meyer has thrived during the final weeks of recruiting before the February signing day, as his staff has built a reputation of being great "closers." So it's no surprise that Meyer was one of three SEC coaches to vote against a proposal to support an early signing date in 2008, when he was still at Florida. Meyer said at the time that "recruiting should be done in December, January and February. I think [an early date] speeds up 17- and 18-year-olds to make a decision that affects the rest of their lives."

Maryland's Randy Edsall has proposed that schools shouldn't even send out any type of scholarship offer until Sept. 1 of a high school prospect's senior year in high school, and then those offers would come from the university's admissions office, not the coaches. That would slow things way down and make sure prospects have achieved the necessary test scores and admission standards. Yet Edsall also said this spring that if recruiting continues at its current accelerated pace, that "there definitely has to be an early signing period."

There are other issues with the early signing date, including what protection the players would have if the coach left for another job after they signed. Plus plans change in recruiting all the time.

"I see the pluses and the minuses with it," Dantonio told ESPN.com. "If you have a committed guy and he signs with you, he truly is committed. That’s a positive. I also think if you take one quarterback and he thinks he’s the only one, and all of a sudden you take two, how does that all play out?

"I do think it keeps people from poaching off you, whether it be us poaching off somebody or somebody else [poaching]. It makes people hold to their word. If they don't want to sign then, they’re still open, and you know they’re open. But I would make it a mid-December type deal. I’m not in favor of August; I'm not in favor of September. I'm in favor of, ‘They've had a chance to at least visit and be on campus a couple places, so they have a feel.’”

College football does appear headed for an early signing date soon, if only the details can get ironed out.

"We get into these discussions, and everybody kind of has their own agenda of what's in the best interests for their school," Penn State coach James Franklin told ESPN.com. "But for a lot of different reasons, an early signing period makes sense for everybody."
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."

Getting to know Jauan Jennings 

April, 1, 2014
4/01/14
2:00
PM ET
Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

HOOVER, Ala. -- When ESPN Junior 300 star Jauan Jennings visited Auburn this past weekend, he had the opportunity to take in the Tigers’ first scrimmage of the spring and watch quarterback Nick Marshall, a player not so different from himself.

Marshall played quarterback in high school but signed with Georgia as a defensive back. After committing a violation of team rules, he was dismissed from the team and ended up in junior college. One positive that came from the incident was that it gave Marshall an opportunity to return to the position he loves, and now he’s one of the top returning signal-callers in the SEC.

“He came from not playing quarterback at first,” Jennings said. “He was a defensive back. He did a lot of things I want to be able to do. A lot of coaches don’t feel I can play quarterback. A lot of fans don’t feel I can play quarterback. I want to say, ‘I told you so.’”


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES