Beasts From the Big Ten East

New blood part of what’s fueling a recruiting surge at Penn State and other power programs in the B1G’s East Division

We're still roughly half a year away from signing day for college football's Class of 2016. So a lot can (and probably will) change in the interim.

But barring an unlikely total collapse through the 2015 season and on through January, the Big Ten East is poised to have a very strong recruiting showing this year.

As of Monday morning,'s rankings included four B1G East teams -- Ohio State (No. 1), Michigan State (No. 4), Penn State (No. 7) and Michigan (No. 12) -- in the top dozen.

Five short years ago, it was a much different story. In the final recruiting rankings for the Class of 2011, exactly two teams from the entire Big Ten were in the top 25. Ohio State finished sixth and Nebraska checked in at No. 19.

In fact, from 2008 through 2015, there were never more than three B1G teams in the final top 25. Since rankings were introduced in 2002, there have been only two years (2007 and 2004) where four BIG teams ranked in the top 25. There have never been more than four.

So what is going on now?

Well, since 2011, there have been coaching changes at three of the B1G's powerhouse programs -- all of them now residing in the East Division.

It started with Urban Meyer, who took over at Ohio State in 2012 and only improved the Buckeyes' consistently strong recruiting. This despite dealing with residual NCAA sanctions from the Jim Tressel era.

That same year, Bill O'Brien took over a Penn State program that seemed to be headed toward years (if not decades) of recruiting struggles stemming from the Sandusky scandal and subsequent NCAA sanctions. Yet somehow, O'Brien held things together for two seasons.

He left for the NFL following the 2013 campaign, and the dynamic James Franklin -- thanks in part to the sanctions initially being lessened and ultimately dropped -- has quickly re-established PSU as a recruiting force. The Lions had the nation's No. 13 class in 2015, a group that ranked second in the B1G.

And then there is Michigan. Brady Hoke had two strong classes (No. 4 in 2012 and No. 2 in 2013), but on-field struggles and questions about his job security pretty much put the kybosh on that.

Hoke was fired following the 2014 season and replaced by Jim Harbaugh. While it was too late to salvage the Class of 2015 (the Wolverines landed only 14 players), as of Monday morning Harbaugh already had 21 commitments for his Class of 2016.

While all this was happening, Mark Dantonio quietly turned Michigan State into a formidable recruiting power. Consider that from the time he took over the Spartans in 2007 until 2014, MSU had zero top 25 recruiting classes.

But the Spartans were ranked No. 19 in 2014 and No. 18 in 2015. It is difficult to envision them dropping out of the top 25 between now and Signing Day. This for a program that had ONE top 25 class from 2002 through 2013.

Ohio State and Penn State both appear to be locks to finish in the top 15 this year. As of Monday morning, the Buckeyes had the nation's highest average star rating (3.95) while PSU checked in at No. 12 in that department. So if they both hit or even get near the limit of 25 commits (OSU now has 17, PSU 18), they'll maintain strong overall rankings.

Michigan still has some work to do to ensure a top 25 group -- the Wolverines have 21 commits in the fold, but their average star-rating of 3.14 could lead to a plunge in the rankings when other programs start stocking up on more highly rated prospects.

But if we had to wager right now, we'd say those four B1G East teams will end up in the top 25.

And a key reason for that will be the new blood leading three of the programs.

With all that out of the way, here are some recruiting facts to consider as Big Ten programs continue to build their respective classes this year:

Big Ten Top 25 Recruiting Classes Since 2002

Ohio State (8)
Penn State (13)
Michigan State (18)

Ohio State (5)
Michigan State (19)
Penn State (25)

Ohio State (1)
Michigan (2)
Nebraska (11)

Ohio State (3)
Michigan (4)

Ohio State (6)
Nebraska (19)

Penn State (9)
Michigan (11)
Ohio State (20)

Ohio State (1)
Penn State (11)
Michigan (14)

Ohio State (4)
Michigan (6)
Illinois (19)

Michigan (10)
Ohio State (16)
Penn State (19)
Illinois (20)

Penn State (6)
Michigan (9)
Ohio State (13)

Michigan (2)
Ohio State (7)
Iowa (8)

Michigan (5)
Ohio State (11)
Penn State (12)
Michigan State (13)

Michigan (8)
Ohio State (25)

Ohio State (3)
Penn State (16)
Michigan (19)

The Big Ten Top 25 Classes Since 2002 By Program (41)

Ohio State (14)
Michigan (11)
Penn State (8)
Michigan State (3)
Nebraska (2)
Illinois (2)
Iowa (1)

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