The Big Ten's getting better. Yesterday's early-signing extravaganza was a little more evidence in support of that sentiment because, at least in my view, it showed more growth from the conferences biggest growth opportunity –– the West Division.
Long the little brother, the schools in the West have made coaching upgrades (Nebraska, Purdue), facilities upgrades (Minnesota, Northwestern) and its ol' reliables (Wisconsin, Iowa) have remained reliable in recent years. That was all true entering yesterday, but now you can think about adding slightly elevated recruiting to the list.
While the rankings aren't final yet, there won't likely be a ton of change between now and February and the Big Ten West teams had a pretty good day, either exceeding their typical range for recruiting rankings or ending the day near the top end of that range (or, in one case, falling victim to a quirk of the scoring system).
Here's a quick recap of how recruiting went in the Big Ten West Division.
NEBRASKA (24th nationally in 247 Composite) | Drama-free was the description of the day. Minus the two junior-college commits not signing, the Huskers landed everyone they expected to and added three via signing-day commitments. The ranking is very much in Nebraska's typical range, but the Huskers have room to add ahead of February and it still topped the division.
PURDUE (25) | Is this Purdue's best recruiting class ever? Ask me in four years, but it's the highest-rated class at Purdue during the recruiting-rankings era (2001 and on). The class got off to a strong start when the 4-star freak of a defensive end (George Karlaftis) who lives two minutes from Ross-Ade Stadium committed in 2017. The Boilermakers landed three other 4-stars as well.
WISCONSIN (27) | The Badgers' class currently ranks as the best of the Paul Chryst era and the highest-ranked since Wisconsin landed the 21st-ranked class in 2001. Wisconsin landed a 5-star offensive tackle (of course) in Logan Brown and the fourth-ranked pro-style quarterback, Graham Mertz from Leawood, Kansas.
MINNESOTA (35) | P.J. Fleck's has somewhat quietly raised the Gophers’ level, signing the 59th-ranked class in his short-cycle in 2017, the 39th-ranked class last year and the 35th-ranked class after yesterday. Nebraska has swiped one of the top players in the state the past two years, but if the Gophers start keeping those guys at home you’ll know Fleck really has things working.
IOWA (39) | The Hawkeyes sure are consistent, even in recruiting. Iowa's class right now is near the top end of its typical range, but it's full of Iowa-like players. Two of the three top-rated players in the class are 4-star offensive tackles from Iowa. A tight end ranks among the top four. Iowa held off a late push from Ohio State to keep 4-star outside linebacker Jestin Jacobs, an Ohio native, in the class. Also keep an eye on running back Tyler Goodson, a high 3-star from Georgia power North Gwinnett. He might be a steal.
NORTHWESTERN (46) | The Wildcats have gone 15-4 in Big Ten play the past two seasons, but it's hard for Northwestern to raise its recruiting level drastically given the admissions challenges. That said, this class ranks near the top of Northwestern's typical range and it includes a name you should just learn now: WR Genson Hooper-Price. And while it doesn't help with these rankings, remember that the Wildcats also added former Clemson quarterback (and 5-star) Hunter Johnson prior to this season.
ILLINOIS (66) | A thing I'll never understand –– why do team recruiting rankings place so much weight on quantity? The Illini's class includes just 11 players at this point and ranks 66th largely because of it. But based on the average rating of the players in the class, Illinois ranks higher in the Big Ten West than Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota. (Wisconsin also edges out Purdue for second based on average rating.) We'll see what the Illini do before February, but for now I like this class and it looks like one should probably look at Illinois (i.e. heavy in Illinois and Missouri with a dusting of dudes from Lovie Smith's home state of Texas).
The Grab Bag
- I did a quick recap of some of the geographical quirks of the Huskers’ 2019 class.
- Jacob Padilla has everything you need to know from Scott Frost’s signing-day press conference.
- SB Nation looks at some national winners and losers from early signing day.
- If you missed our extended signing-day Hail Varsity Radio Show, give it a listen here.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.