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Big10 Recruiting: Recruiting vs Performance

Purdue must improve their recruiting to get back to mediocre.

Wisconsin v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

National Signing Day is tomorrow, and it kicks off Coach Brohm’s attempts to get Purdue out of the basement of the Big10, or at least get us on the stairs leading out of the basement. Right now we’re huddled in the back corner fighting off large spiders.

Recruiting is the life-blood of college football. With a few exceptions, how you recruit is generally how you play. I’ve put together a handy list for people to reference when they ask themselves, “How is Purdue so bad?” or “What does Purdue need to do to get better?”

Big10 2016 Records:

Note: I’m using overall wins and losses, not just Big10 play...ties go to the higher ranked team...unranked tie goes to conf record.

  1. Ohio State (11-2)
  2. Penn State (11-3)
  3. Wisconsin (11-3)
  4. Michigan (10-3)
  5. Nebraska (9-4)
  6. Minnesota (9-4)
  7. Iowa (8-5)
  8. Northwestern (7-6)
  9. Indiana (6-7)
  10. Maryland (6-7)
  11. Illinois (3-9)
  12. Michigan State (3-9)
  13. Purdue (3-9)
  14. Rutgers (2-10)

Overall record for Big10 teams over the last 4 years:

Note: I’m going with 4 years instead of 5 because it generally takes a year for recruiting to catch up.

  1. Ohio State: 49 - 6
  2. Wisconsin: 41 - 13
  3. Michigan State: 39 - 14
  4. Iowa: 35 - 18
  5. Nebraska: 33 - 19
  6. Michigan: 32 - 19
  7. Penn State: 32 - 20
  8. Minnesota: 31 - 21
  9. Northwestern: 27 - 23
  10. Maryland: 23 - 28 (1 ACC season included)
  11. Indiana: 21 - 29
  12. Rutgers: 20 - 30 (1 AAC season included)
  13. Illinois: 18 - 31
  14. Purdue: 9 - 39

Teams ordered by BIG 10 Recruiting Ranking Over Last 5 years:

  1. Ohio State (1.6)
  2. Michigan (1.8)
  3. Penn State (3.4)
  4. Michigan State (4)
  5. Nebraska (4.6)
  6. Northwestern (6.8)
  7. Wisconsin (7)
  8. Maryland (7.2)
  9. Iowa (10.4)
  10. Minnesota (10.6)
  11. Illinois (11)
  12. Indiana (11.4)
  13. Rutgers (12.6)
  14. Purdue (12.6)

Teams ordered by Average Player Rating Over Last 5 years:

  1. Ohio State (90.414)
  2. Michigan (89.73)
  3. Penn State (87.66)
  4. Michigan State (87.002)
  5. Nebraska (86.08)
  6. Northwestern (84.686)
  7. Wisconsin (84.648)
  8. Maryland (84.49)
  9. Iowa (83.146)
  10. Minnesota (83.02)
  11. Indiana (82.668)
  12. Illinois (82.596)
  13. Rutgers (81.94)
  14. Purdue (81.926)

2016 Results Compared to 5 Year Big10 Recruiting Ranking:

  1. Ohio State (EXP 1) 0
  2. Penn State (EXP 3) +1
  3. Wisconsin (EXP 7) +4
  4. Michigan (EXP 2) -2
  5. Nebraska (EXP 5) 0
  6. Minnesota (EXP 10) +4
  7. Iowa (EXP 9) +2
  8. Northwestern (EXP 6) -2
  9. Indiana (EXP 12) +3
  10. Maryland (EXP 8) -2
  11. Illinois (EXP 11) 0
  12. Michigan State (EXP 4) -8
  13. Purdue (EXP 14) +1
  14. Rutgers (EXP 13 ) -1

4 Year Results Compared to 5 Year Recruiting Ranking:

  1. Ohio State (EXP 1) 0
  2. Wisconsin (EXP 7) +6
  3. Michigan State (EXP 4) +1
  4. Iowa (EXP 9) +5
  5. Nebraska (EXP 5) 0
  6. Michigan (EXP 2) -4
  7. Penn State (EXP 3) -4
  8. Minnesota (EXP 10) +3
  9. Northwestern (EXP 6) -3
  10. Maryland (EXP 8) -2
  11. Indiana (EXP 12) +1
  12. Rutgers (EXP 13) +1
  13. Illinois (EXP 11) -2
  14. Purdue (EXP 14) 0

Breaking Down the Teams:

Ohio State:

Urban Meyer has been at Ohio State for 5 years, and has dominated recruiting. They have the most talent, so it’s no surprise that they have the best overall record. Ohio State will be in the team to beat in the Big10 for the foreseeable future and will also be a major player on the national scene. If you want to be a perennial elite contender you need to recruit like Ohio State.


Wisconsin is one of the big exceptions in recruiting. Wisconsin, despite coaching changes, has a system they specifically recruit. While Wisconsin doesn’t get the highest rated players, they generally get guys that fit their system. There is a reason why Wisconsin coaches are valued on the coaching market. Their “system” allows them to out perform their recruiting. The one problem with the Wisconsin system is their talent provides little room for error. Yes, they are consistently good, but will they ever have the talent to actually compete for the big prize? I’m skeptical.

Michigan State:

Michigan State has been a steady upper-echelon performer in the Big10. They took good talent to the CFP in the 2015 season and found out what it’s like to face elite talent. Last season was an absolute train wreck for Sparty. They couldn’t find a quarterback and the defense took a significant step back without Narduzzi running the show. Michigan State should have too much talent to put together two clunkers in a row, but if they do, it will be interesting to see if Dantonio’s seat starts warming up a little bit. He’s bought himself plenty of time, but questions about Narduzzi being the driver of the success may start to surface. Personally, I think Sparty bounces back if they find a serviceable quarterback.


Iowa is another team that out performs their recruiting. Kirk Ferentz recruits to his system, and when he hits on the right players, Iowa is tough to beat. Their problem comes when they have to step up against elite talent outside of the Big10. Iowa has dropped 5 straight bowl games, and I’m just not sure they will ever have enough talent on the field to do more than compete in the Big10 on occasion. Certainly nothing wrong with that, but they seem like a team that will always be stuck at “good” but never really get to “great”.


The Huskers should have enough talent to compete with the big boys in the Big10, but seem to be stuck at 9-4. They fired Bo Pelini because he couldn’t get his team from good to great, and Mike Riley managed to go 9-4 this year, getting beat when they attempted to step up and play the upper tier of the Big10. As of now, Nebraska recruits and plays like it is the 5th best team in the Big10. I’m thinking that Riley has to make a move in the next 2 seasons into the 10-11 win range, or Nebraska will once again be looking for a coach that can get them over the good but not good enough hump.


Michigan is a little misleading because it doesn’t factor in the “Harbaugh Effect”. One of the many reasons Hoke had to go was that his teams underperformed their recruiting on a regular basis. Michigan is a brand that is easy to sell, but you’ve got to put the talent together on the field. Hoke could get the talent, but couldn’t assemble it in a coherent manner. Harbaugh has won 10 games the last two seasons. If I were to project this forward 5 years, I would put Michigan in the top 2, possibly a step behind, Ohio State, as long as Harbaugh remains at the helm and doesn’t die or maim himself in a recruiting stunt.

Penn State:

People act like Penn State was some sort of “underdog” that “came out of nowhere” to compete in the Big10 this season. The truth of the matter is that Penn State has been under-achieving its talent level, and that’s why Franklin’s seat was getting hot. As it is on most teams, the talent finally rose to the top, and Penn State met expectations this year. With a dynamic quarterback in place, look for Penn State to be in the thick of the Big10 race again next year. They have plenty of talent, and when you combine that with a good quarterback, things start to fall in place.


There is no stranger team in the Big10 than Minnesota. They are on their 3rd coach in 5 years, but usually manage to put a decent product on the field. The transition from Kill to Claeys was smooth because Claeys just moved up a rung on the coaching staff. The move from Claeys to Fleck will be interesting. Will Fleck be able to recruit enough to push Minnesota onto the next level of Big10 teams and be an actual contender? I’m skeptical.


Northwestern is another interesting case. If you asked people if Northwestern over or under achieves, I’m guessing the vast majority of people would say they over achieve. Pat Fitzgerald has the luxury of coaching a team with such a putrid history, that he appears to be over achieving even when he is under achieving. I’m not sure the Northwestern fan base cares enough to except anything more than “not terrible” from Northwestern. I think Fitzgerald keeps the program at a decent level with an occasional 10 win flare up when the schedule sets up right, but never pushes them much past O.K., and I think that’s probably more than fine with Northwestern.


Anytime you can fire Randy Edsall, it’s probably going to benefit your football program. The Terps are positioned to put together solid recruiting classes year in and year out if they can keep some of the Maryland/D.C./Virginia talent in the area. D.J. Durkin gave Maryland a recruiting boost this year, pushing the team to a 5 year high 5th place ranking. I think Maryland is one Big10 team poised to make a run at being a consistent top 4 or 5 team if Durkin can continue to improve recruiting. If I were buying stock in a football team, I would consider Maryland a solid investment.


The Hoosiers are nothing if not consistent. They recruit like a 5 - 6 win team, and play like a 5 - 6 win team. In Indiana terms, a consistent 5 - 6 win team is a solid start. It will be interesting to see how the coaching change effects the Hoosiers in recruiting. They were able to sell a dynamic offense in order to pick up play makers, but with Allen taking over and bringing Tennessee cast off DeBord on board to call plays, that may no longer be the case. Indiana is going to have to recruit themselves over the 6 win barrier, and I’m not sure I see that happening.


Rutgers is a tough team to get a read on. They are a program capable of winning 8 or 9 games a year...which surprised me somewhat. They’ve won 8 or more game 6 times out of the last 10 years. They don’t have much competition in terms of regional teams competing for recruits, but man, this Kyle Flood to Chris Ash transition has gone...poorly.


Illinois should be better. They have a solid in-state recruiting possibilities and should be the premier program in the state, but have somehow taken a back seat to Northwestern. Bringing in Lovie Smith was a bold move, but I’m not sure if it will actually pay off. Illinois was expecting a recruiting bump by bringing Smith and his NFL resume to Champaign, but that didn’t pay dividends this season. Personally, I think they would have been better served bringing in a more dynamic college recruiter, but they didn’t ask my input. If Lovie wants to pull the Fighting Illini out of the Big10 gutter, he needs to bring in better players consistently. Illinois has the potential to recruit in the top 12 of the Big10.


Well, this is about as low as it gets. Purdue recruits and performs at the bottom of the Big10. How does Purdue get back to being a mediocre team? They need to start recruiting like a mediocre team. Jeff Brohm was brought in to spice up the offense, and he brought the majority of his Western Kentucky staff with him. Brohm’s life-blood at Western Kentucky was the JuCo and transfer market. He’ll have to branch out and start consistently bringing in higher level high school prospects if he wants to compete in the Big10, because I don’t think the JuCo and transfer model is sustainable at this level. He obviously gets a pass on this class, but I really want to see Purdue move up at least to 10th in recruiting next year. I know Brohm has a good scheme, but that will only get you so far in the Big10.

Showing My Work:

This is the overall 247 recruiting rankings over the last 5 years (starting with 2017 and going in descending order). Teams are ranked on overall average, but each year and Big10 ranking is displayed (Big10 Rank Average Player Rank)

Ohio State (1. 94.62) (1. 91.56) (1. 90.19) (3. 86.60) (2. 89.10)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 1.6 AVG Player Ranking - 90.414

Michigan (2. 91.21) (2. 89.86) (3. 87.81) (1. 88.74) (1. 91.03)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 1.8 AVG Player Ranking - 89.73

Penn State (3. 88.88) (4. 88.08) (2. 89.08) (4. 86.16) (4. 86.10)

AVG Big10 Ranking -3.4 AVG Player Ranking - 87.66

Michigan State (6. 86.17) (3. 88.83) (4. 87.70) (2. 86.71) (5. 85.60)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 4 AVG Player Ranking - 87.002

Nebraska (4. 87.38) (5. 85.58) (5. 86.17) (6. 84.72) (3. 86.55)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 4.6 AVG Player Ranking - 86.08

Northwestern (8. 85.12) (7. 84.45) (8. 84.00) (5. 85.77) (6. 84.09)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 6.8 AVG Player Ranking - 84.686

Wisconsin (7. 85.63) (6. 85.02) (6. 85.31) (8. 83.98) (8. 83.30)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 7 AVG Player Ranking - 84.648

Maryland (5. 86.66) (10. 83.75) (7. 84.00) (7. 84.53) (7. 83.51)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 7.2 AVG Player Ranking - 84.49

Iowa (9. 85.06) (8. 84.18) (11. 83.11) (11. 82.05) (13. 81.33)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 10.4 AVG Player Ranking - 83.146

Minnesota (12. 83.24) (9. 84.17) (13. 82.94) (10. 82.29) (9. 82.46)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 10.6 AVG Player Ranking - 83.02

Illinois (10. 84.04) (13. 81.40) (10. 83.52) (12. 81.61) (10. 82.41)

AVG Big10 Ranking 11 AVG Player Ranking 82.596

Indiana (13. 82.93) (11. 83.44) (9. 83.57) (13. 81.22) (11. 82.18)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 11.4 AVG Player Ranking - 82.668

Rutgers (11. 83.87) (12. 83.18) (12. 82.95) (14. 79.40) (14. 80.30)

AVG Big10 Ranking - 12.6 AVG Player Ranking - 81.94

Purdue (14. 82.28) (14. 81.18) (14. 81.83) (9. 82.61) (12. 81.73)

AVG Big10 Ranking 12.6 AVG Player Ranking - 81.926