NCF On The Trail: conference evals

Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The Big 12 is up Thursday.

Biggest obstacle: Texas is one of the top states in the country for producing recruits, which is great considering it's in the heart of the Big 12. The problem is that Big 12 teams not only have to fight one another for those prospects, but programs from around the country recruit Texas hard as well. For the 2013 recruiting cycle, the conference signed roughly 170 high school prospects, and 102 were out of Texas. Think about that: One state supplied 60 percent of the prospects signed within the entire Big 12. If you take newest member West Virginia -- which is not only new to the conference but also not a part of that region -- out of the mix, then a staggering 66 percent of the prospects signed among nine of the teams in the conference came out of just one state. Four of the teams in the conference are based in Texas, and while the states that the other six programs in the conference call home produce some good prospects as well, none can rely heavily on just in-state talent to build their classes from year to year. As a result, almost the entire conference often depends heavily on the talent from one state.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. Notre Dame is up today.

Biggest obstacle: Relevance in today's era. This term is thrown around a lot when it comes to Notre Dame and the perception of the Irish in today's college football world. It's important, however, because the Midwest alone does not provide a deep enough pool for Notre Dame to build a top-10 program. The Irish must be a national recruiter, which has its challenges despite being perceived as a strength. Academics, an unreasonable fan base expectation level and weather can also play a role.


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Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. This week, we are examining the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each one's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The ACC is up today.

Biggest obstacle: Getting out from under the SEC's shadow. This conference shares the same player pool and it needs every matchup versus the SEC to count. Clemson beating LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in 2012 was big, but over the course of the past few years Clemson, Virginia Tech and FSU haven't always fared as well, and South Carolina has been a thorn in the side of Clemson. This conference needs a resurgence from Miami and North Carolina as well as NC State. The middle- and bottom-tier teams in these two conferences are very comparable. The ACC needs its powers to consistently dominate on and off the field, and for recruiting classes from the likes of FSU, Clemson and Miami to produce double-digit wins.


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Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences, plus Notre Dame, to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The Big East is up today.

Biggest obstacle: Perception. Although the Big East is an automatic qualifying conference for a BCS bowl game (for now), it is not perceived the same way by prospective recruits as the other five BCS conferences. The departure of Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia did not help its cause, either. Adding quality mid-major programs with more of a national layout has not enhanced the image. You can claim you are a BCS conference, but if the top players in the country don't buy it, there is a ceiling that will be tough to raise. With the departures and additions, this conference is perceived to be more of a glorified mid-major.

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Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The SEC is up today.

Biggest obstacle: When it comes to recruiting in the SEC, the biggest obstacle arguably comes from within. No conference recruits as consistently strong from top to bottom as the SEC and the margin for error is very small. From 2006 through 2013, the SEC has had no fewer than six programs finish within the top 25 of the class rankings in any given year, and the 2013 final class rankings saw all 14 teams finish in the top 40, including 10 in the top 25. A program could be having good success on the recruiting trail and still find itself in the middle or even the back of the pack. Mississippi State, for example, finished with the 25th-ranked class this past cycle only to finish 10th within its own conference.

Being able to recruit as a member of the SEC brings with it many benefits, but as a result of that there are no weak links among SEC teams on the recruiting trail. Alabama has posted back-to-back top-ranked classes and a group that includes programs such as Florida, Georgia and LSU are usually top 10-15 staples, if not top class contenders themselves year in and year out. Other programs within the SEC have shown the ability to have success and even make a big impact as well. Ole Miss this past cycle broke from the pack to land a top-five class that included the nation's top-ranked prospect (Robert Nkemdiche). Even Vanderbilt, long considered a back-of-the-pack staple, made a surge on the recruiting trail as well under the direction of James Franklin and finished with a top-25 class for 2013.
Competition on the recruiting trail is tough all over, but in the SEC it has proved to be extremely fierce and a class that would be great in any other conference simply might not be good enough as a member of this conference.


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Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. First up: the Big Ten.

Biggest obstacle: There are two problems: perception and a limited talent pool. The consensus top states in the nation for talent are Florida, Texas, California and Georgia, and unfortunately for the Big Ten, none of them is in the Midwest. Talent can be found within the states in the Big Ten's footprint, but a good deal of work on the recruiting trail within this conference needs to be done outside of its base. For the 2013 class, only roughly 57 percent of the players signed by Big Ten teams came from the states that house Big Ten programs, and many of those came out of Ohio. By comparison, roughly 71 percent of the prospects signed by Pac-12 schools for 2013 came from within its own states, and in the SEC, that number was closer to 85 percent. Granted, California supplied the majority of the talent signed by the Pac-12 teams -- and the Golden State is big enough to supply an entire conference -- but the Big Ten lacks any one particular state that can act as a key feeder for an entire conference, like California for the Pac-12 or Texas for the Big 12. It's a problem because the farther these Big Ten teams have to stray from their base for talent, the tougher it is for it to lure prospects from competing programs that might be closer to home.

Besides having to often cast a wider net for talent than most of its BCS counterparts, the conference has also battled some perception problems about its ability to compete at the elite level nationally. Only one program, Ohio State, has won or even been to a BCS title game, and its past two appearances saw the Buckeyes come out on the losing end. Beyond the national title game, the conference has struggled in recent years to come out on the winning end of bowl games, in particular New Year's Day bowls. Coming up short on the national stage against rival conferences have left a dent in the perception of the Big Ten, which can create an obstacle in the ever-competitive arena of recruiting when battling for top talent.

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