Monday, February 11, 2013

BIG TEN NEEDS TO HIT REFRESH WHEN IT COMES TO RECRUITING

Urban Meyer
(TBT/Lee Hudnell)
Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer stated last week that teams in the Big Ten Conference need to step up their game when it comes to recruiting.

"We do need as a conference to keep pushing that envelope to be better," Meyer said Thursday during a radio show on 97.1 in Columbus. "Our whole conversation needs to be about ‘how do we recruit?’ When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the top 25 that’s something that we need to improve."

Only three teams were ranked in the top 25 by ESPN: Ohio State (3), Michigan (6) and Penn State (24). 

Furthermore, out of the top 300 recruits listed in ESPN's rankings, Ohio State and Michigan did their part, as the Buckeyes snagged 17 (eight in top 100) and Michigan 15 (four in top 100). However, the rest of the Big Ten (10 schools) hauled in just 13 combined, with only two players in the top 100.

That is inexcusable. Two teams cannot carry a conference.

So how can the Big Ten compete with those in the Southeastern Conference when it comes to recruiting?

Here are a few ideas ...

1. Update the style ...

— It seems the Big Ten is stuck in that old school, black and blue style of football. But kids aren't attracted to I-form, power ball any longer. They like spread, they like up-tempo, they want fireworks and excitement. Other than Ohio State, and to an extent Michigan, the rest of the Big Ten hasn't hit the refresh button in the past 50 years.

Sadly, this has made the conference uncool. And as we all know, kids want to be Fonzie.

2. "The gentlemen's clause" needs axed  ...

— College football recruiting is ruthless, as the SEC has shown us in recent years. Just because a kid has committed, doesn't mean he's off limits. Meyer, who won two national titles in the SEC at Florida, hasn't adopted that unwritten agreement between Big Ten coaches. Meyer recruits the players he covets, whether they have pledged for another school or not. 

"Let me make this real clear: Everybody (outside of the Big Ten) does that. And it's not wrong. Okay," Meyer said of recruiting committed players before signing day. "At the end of the day the young person has the right to go to any school he likes." 

Let's face it, you will never hear Alabama's Nick Saban, LSU's Les Miles, Florida's Will Muschamp or South Carolina's Steve Spurrier complaining because another coach is trying to recruit their "committed" players. Last season, when Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema complained about Meyer's recruiting tactics, it just confirmed how far behind the conference is compared to the SEC.

3. Venture out of the midwest ...

— This kind of feeds off of the first idea I offered ... in order to change the "style" to an up-tempo, explosive scheme, you need the players to run it. While the midwest is loaded with great talent — and should never be ignored — scouting players from the south and west are crucial when looking for speed. 

The Big Ten is notorious for being a slow conference, and the major reason why? Other than Ohio State, the Big Ten doesn't recruit hard enough in the south and west.

Of the 24 Ohio State signees for the class of 2013, half of them came from outside of the midwest, including 10 from the south. 

The rest of the Big Ten needs to adopt this formula, ASAP.

4. Winning on a national stage ...

— Again, the No. 1 idea I listed previously is essential in making this happen. The Big Ten hasn't won consistently on a national level in years because they haven't changed their "style" in years. 

To compete with the SEC, you have to recruit ruthlessly like the SEC — over-signing, poaching other's commits, etc. — in SEC territory (speed, speed, speed).

This is what Coach Meyer is speaking of when he says the Big Ten needs to keep "pushing that envelope."

He knows firsthand that the SEC excels because they keep on "pushing" when it comes to recruiting ...

While, the Big Ten continues to keep mailing it in.