Breaking Down Big Ten Recruiting: Star Rating

With recruiting being such an inexact science, many theories and ideas get tossed around while writers and fans react to the latest commit or look forward to the next one. We thought it would be interesting to put some numbers to the practice, at least within the Big Ten. Later we'll share coaches' opinions on the topic and look at success rate of players with various ratings.

There are many ways to put together a roster, and the two teams that competed in the most recent Big Ten Championship Game have followed paths that are more than a little divergent.

Of course, Urban Meyer in his two-plus years on the recruiting trail has not taken exactly the same tact as predecessor Jim Tressel, but both of them successfully recruited far more highly regarded players than Michigan State mentor Mark Dantonio, a Tressel protégé.

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While this is obvious from an anecdotal standpoint, we thought it was time to put some numbers to the discussion by breaking down just how the recruits across the conference have rated since the common era of Scout recruiting rankings began in 2002.

Not surprisingly, Ohio State led the way in many categories, often by a wide margin. And so while that might not exactly be news, since this is an Ohio State site, we'll start there.

Ohio State was the only Big Ten school to average a national ranking in the top 10 (8.8) and its 82 top 100 recruits are 24 more than second-place Michigan's 58 and more than double any other school.

The clear trend, aside from the Buckeyes being on top, is a top two of Ohio State and Michigan with Penn State then clearly ahead of the next group despite ranking significantly behind the Wolverines. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State stand well above the rest in average national ranking at 8.84, 11.4 and 26.6, respectively, while Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and Illinois all clustered from 40-42 range as far as average class ranking.

The Nittany Lions (despite facing NCAA sanctioned-scholarship limits the past two years) outrated the rest by snagging significantly more four- and five-star prospects. Wisconsin and Iowa combined for less than half as many five-star recruits as Penn State and each individually had less than half as many four-star players.

Also of note: Wisconsin and Iowa forged nearly an identical average national ranking despite Iowa getting two more five-stars and 11 more four-stars. Wisconsin made up the difference in putting together a ratio of 3-stars to 2-or-lower-stars of roughly 2:1 while Iowa's was closer to even. Despite bringing in three more five-stars and nine more four-stars than Wisconsin, Michigan State ranked just behind the Badgers in average national ranking. That can of course vary from year to year depending on how classes stack up elsewhere.

Has this recruiting disparity been displayed on the field? For the Buckeyes, yes, but not so much Michigan or Penn State. Ohio State leads the way with at least a share of seven Big Ten championships while Wisconsin has won or shared three and Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan all have two apiece. It's also worth noting both Michigan and Iowa titles came early our survey period, so earlier classes had a greater impact on their success. The Wolverines won conference championships in 2003 and '04, while Iowa's came in 2002 and '04 (Ohio State's upset of the Wolverines at the end of the '04 season denied Michigan an outright title and delivered a share to Iowa).

Of course, multiple coaches have contributed to the recruiting philosophies and resulting rankings and success over the past decade-plus with the exception of Iowa, so there are bound to be some variances as a result. On top of that not every school has the same resources for recruiting nor the same local talent base, and those along with other factors will often come into play when it comes to success rate and deciding who to call.

Earlier this year, several Big Ten coaches talked about their recruiting philosophies and their view of the star ratings. They shared some interesting perspectives that varied from man to man, and we will bring you those later this week then take a look at what context that adds to our study.


    Other numbers of note:
  • Ohio State was the only school to recruit significantly more defensive players than offensive (28). Michigan signed four more defenders while Wisconsin had one more and Iowa had two. Everyone else had a majority of offensive players.

  • Only six schools have made recruiting junior colleges a habit with Minnesota by far the leader with 36. Purdue checked in next with 28 while Illinois (23), Michigan State (21), Indiana (18) and Iowa (12) also checked in in double-digits.

  • Wisconsin had the most three-star players (153) of any program but trailed the rest of the top seven in five-stars and four-stars by significant margins. In fact, only two five-star prospects have become Badgers (Travis Beckum and Josh Oglesby) compared to 13 for Penn State, 24 for Michigan and 34 for Ohio State. Michigan State (5) and Iowa (4) both beat the Badgers in this category while they tied Minnesota.

  • Wisconsin's deficit in four-star players was even more significant with 23 compared to 34, 32 and 30, respectively, from Iowa, Michigan State and Illinois.

  • Wisconsin had more than twice as many two-star-or-lower prospects than Penn State (95 to 41) but 20 fewer than Iowa (115).

  • Though Penn State and Iowa had nearly the same total of three-stars (125 and 130, respectively), Iowa brought in nearly three times as many players rated two stars or lower (115 to 41).

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