Hot Reads: Big Ten Gains Ground in Recruiting
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: Big Ten Gains Ground in Recruiting

February 02, 2017

The SEC had another strong day in recruiting. Given its proximity to talent, the SEC’s worst day in recruiting is never going to be that bad, but the race for talent by conference appears to be getting a little more competitive.

To account for different conference sizes, and different class sizes within those conferences, let’s take a look at how much top-rated talent ended up in each conference as a function of overall signees. Here is the blue-chip (4- or 5-star recruits) percentage for each of the Power 5 conferences (per Scout):

SEC 38.4%
P12 31.3
B1G 28.9
ACC 18.4
B12 18.3

And in case you’re curious, nine blue-chip prospects signed with Group of 5 schools (0.6 blue-chip percentage) and 11 signed with Notre Dame (52.4).

That’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t mean whole lot without some context, so here is the four-year trend among the Power 5.

That provides a better snapshot of the balance of power among the conferences. The ACC, which has access to the most fertile recruiting grounds in most cases, is still largely a three-team conference when it comes to recruiting (Clemson, Florida State and Miami). The Big 12 has always been carried by Texas and Oklahoma, but with the Longhorns reset this cycle the conference as a whole took a significant drop. The SEC’s numbers took a bit of a hit, too, with a four-year low blue-chip percentage of 38.4. That made room for big days from the Pac-12 and Big Ten.

If the SEC owns the most valuable recruiting territory in the land, the Pac-12 has its own high-yield island in California, so its slight bump this year might be more in line with the natural ebb and flow.

The Big Ten, however, has made steady gains over the past four years. Adding Michigan and Jim Harbaugh as a top-flight recruiter to Ohio State’s annual excellence helps, but it’s not all about the top two. Penn State and James Franklin continue to sign talent-dense classes. Mike Riley is making small but steady gains at Nebraska. D.J. Durkin, in his first full cycle at Maryland, should be scaring the crap out of other conference coaches if he continues to keep his local talent at home.

While there’s still plenty of ground to make up on the SEC, the trend in the Big Ten is encouraging. The conference of gray days will probably never accumulate the number of blue-chip prospects its sunnier rivals will, but in terms of a percentage it’s getting closer. In terms of blue-chip percentage, Nebraska’s class (45%) ranked 17th nationally, just a step behind Penn State and UCLA and a step ahead of Texas A&M and Miami. Maryland’s class (37.9%) was sandwiched by Texas and Oregon. Northwestern (16.7%) was only a spot behind Tennessee.

Of course, the raw number of blue-chip recruits in a conference still matters. That’s depth, presuming those school can hold on to all of that talent, but in terms of total talent distribution the field may be leveling ever so slightly.

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