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Nebraska Football

Hot Reads: Recapping Early Signing in the Big Ten East

December 21, 2018
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While the teams in the Big Ten West Division had a pretty good early signing day as a whole, it was still a step behind the teams in the East. Or at least the top teams in the East.

Nebraska's 24th-ranked class (by 247Sports composite rankings) was the best in the West, but would've ranked fourth in the East, which is pretty much how this always goes. What's the best a West team has ever finished in a national recruiting ranking? Scan down the list of the West teams and that best-ever ranking almost has to have come from Nebraska and it most likely was Bill Callahan's 2005 class (No. 5 at Rivals). Unless you want to venture back into the days when Max Emfinger, Allen Wallace and Tom Lemming settled the the unruly frontier of ranking prospects, that's Nebraska's best recruiting class (by ranking) of the online era and almost certainly the best any current West Division team has done.

But Ohio State and Michigan routinely land in the top five. Penn State, especially of late, can get there, too. The East has three of the 10 all-time winningest programs and all three have good access to high school talent. The West has one with less access to high school talent. That's the divide and it plays out in recruiting about like you'd expect every year.

This year was no exception, but within the East there were some interesting things happening. Let's take a quick tour of what early-signing brought for teams in the East.

MICHIGAN (8th in 247Sports composite) | The Wolverines were very good in 2018 and it won't matter to many outside of Ann Arbor because they didn't beat Ohio State. But Michigan will exit early signing with the lead for the top class in the conference. Five-star safety Daxton Hill, a Michigan commit who flipped to Alabama late, flipped back to Michigan for a Wednesday win. The Wolverines’ class is loaded with talent, again, which is good but it's going to have to result in something more than top-15 finishes soon.

PENN STATE (10) | James Franklin's not slowing down. The Nittany Lions have 16 4-star prospects in this class (and one 5-star). Penn State got a nice early signing day boost with the commitment of 4-star IMG Academy running back Noah Cain. Based on average player rating, this class is better than Michigan's, just smaller.

OHIO STATE (12) | Five years from now when everyone is writing about the collapse of the Ohio State empire, they'll point to Dec. 2018. Urban Meyer announced his retirement, Ohio State went with a first-time head coach and the Buckeyes signed a class that didn't even rank in the top 10. Now the collapse just needs to, y'know, happen, and I wouldn't jump to that conclusion yet. Ohio State lost two big-time prospects early on early signing day –– 4-star safety Jordan Battle (Alabama) and 4-star quarterback Dwan Mathis (Georgia) -- but did keep the home-state star, No. 1 defensive end Zach Harrison, home. Ohio State still has the most talented class in the Big Ten based on average player ranking, it just sits at 16 players right now and (for some reason that remains hard to understand to me) it gets dinged in the national rankings for this.

MICHIGAN STATE (28) | Fairly standard Michigan State class. The Spartans ranked behind the East's big three, but right with the top teams in the West. The class does include the top-rated offensive guard in the country, 5-star Devontae Dobbs.

INDIANA (40) | Indiana got its West on, signing its best class in years. The Hoosiers landed three 4-star players from Indiana, no small feat given what Purdue's doing right now, and Tom Allen can add another accolade to his résumé. But this is the plight of coaching at a mid-tier team in the East. It's possible to do a really good job, and feel like you're not gaining any ground on the traditional heavyweights.

RUTGERS (60) | Man. Rutgers. What's the model for the Scarlet Knights to be competitive in the East (and Big Ten as a whole)? I don't have it, but this class isn't a sign of any paradigm shift. (Not that I expected it to be.) Rutgers made the decision to send freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski to the lions this season, and that's what it looked like (49.1 completion percentage, four touchdowns, 18 interceptions). Maybe it's nothing, maybe it's something, but Rutgers' committed quarterback, Zamar Wise, didn't sign with the Knights on Wednesday and still hasn't.

MARYLAND (83) | New head coach Mike Locksley has a reputation as an ace recruiter and he'll have every chance to prove it over the month ahead. Maryland has only signed six players so far. Five others are still listed as commits. That leaves a lot of work to do before February signing day for Locksley. He'll probably win a big battle or two, but fact is there aren't a lot of players left.

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