Welcome to the Potluck! By way of introduction, I’ll explain the menu. Those of you who enjoy your Sunday mornings properly by partaking in the festival of knowledge that is CBS Sunday Morning may be aware that Cleveland is undergoing a bit of a renaissance these days. For the first time in a long time, the money is flowing into the city instead of rolling out by the trainload. The downtown and waterfront are being revitalized. The Cavs won the city’s first title since Jesus was a corporal. On the iffy side, the Big Republicans are coming en masse, but politicians’ money spends as well as anyone’s.
So why Cleveland? For one, we’ve talked about Columbus a lot. But more importantly at the moment, Cleveland is The City. Like most states in the B1G, the fanaticism for our land grant university spans the length and breadth of the state. Cleveland has long been a plentiful coffer for the Buckeyes, with Glenville High producing such outsized talents as Ted Ginn Jr., Troy Smith, Cardale Jones, and Donte Whitner.
We shall therefore begin our gastronomic journey in Cleveland. The city was once the 5th largest in America, was the nation’s first Motor City, and saw the rise of great self-made millionaires like Standard Oil’s Rockefeller. It’s been a tough 90 years or so for the town that became the poster child for the burning rivers that plagued rust belt cities, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the city’s love for its deep ethnic roots. Scores of Jews, Poles, Hungarians, and eastern Europeans of all flavors made Cleveland a place of wonderful foods and cherished tradition.
Before we dive into the meat of the discussion, let’s have some meat! J&J Czuchraj meats in Cleveland’s West Side Market makes the best beef jerky on earth. They’ve been featured time and again on Food Network as the place to go for meats, especially jerky. Fair warning: it’s a meal in itself.
Urban Meyer lurched B1G recruiting into the 21st century when he arrived in Columbus. Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio whined in 2012 that Meyer was playing dirty, by not honoring the unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” of not trying to flip B1G commits. Ohio State fans applauded his approach, and the results certainly speak for themselves. The following season, in the face of more complaints from Bielema, Meyer’s response was simply that other coaches across the Big Ten needed to step up their game in the off-season.
“We do need to as a conference need to keep pushing that envelope to be better,” Meyer said to 97.1 The Fan. “Our whole conversation [at the Big Ten coaches meeting] 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.”
Are you comfortable with how teams recruit now in the B1G? Who’s a big recruit your team landed that you might have missed otherwise? Which big recruit do you regret your team missing on the most?
MNW: Off the bat, I'm not a big recruiting guy. I honestly could tell you maybe 2-3 recruits NU has coming in this year, and I don't care all that much about 'crootin battles.
Beyond that, given Northwestern’s recruiting standards and the way in which they change Fitzgerald's process compared to the rest of the B1G (fap fap fap Madison is soooo tough), I'm pretty comfortable with how things go down. We could have a back-and-forth about bagmen and how everyone totally does it, but meh.
In terms of recruits I wish the 'Cats would've gotten, there's QB Deuce Wallace, who flipped to Vanderbilt, I believe. That was a bummer, given Thorson’s struggles in 2015. But I'm confident in the program’s ability to develop recruits (note: does not apply to WRs) who can compete at the B1G level.
Jesse: It’s tough. For me, I think recruiting is a really important part of winning. Don’t get the talent? Well, you might get a once in a lifetime, ‘coach em up’ winner, but you’re probably going to get embarrassed by the teams that did recruit well. But like, at what cost?
Recruiting is an inherently awkward dance in selling something that may or may not be best for a kid. Each B1G team has had to up their game and I guess that the best part is that we’re giving scholarships to more people, but it’s still weird to hang on the whims of a 17/18 year old kid, no?
That said, it’s hard to answer the one we landed because of the B1G, but we’ll go with Keyshawn Johnson, Jr. based on his dad’s friendship with Riley. The Calibraska movement is something else, and I dig it. As for biggest miss? Seeing Andrus Peat go to Stanford was a tough one. It was an inevitability, but I had convinced myself we had a chance. I was not so smart.
Al NamiasIV: I'm not comfortable with the way recruiting works at all, but part of that is because I work with high school students. About five years ago, I worked with an 8th grader who was already 6’2”, 250 lbs and everybody knew he would be a big-time prospect. The way the teachers and his fellow students treated him was embarrassing, and that was before he went on to high school and coaches began tweeting at him how great he is, etc. Luckily, he had his feet on the ground and, at least while he was still in 8th grade, he was centered. Maybe that changed when he reached 11th grade and grown men repeatedly told him how wonderful he was. He eventually became a 4-star prospect and scorned his hometown Badgers for MSU (I'm an Iowa fan, but I live in Wisconsin), which prompted other grown men to tell him what a skunk he was (they used less diplomatic words because a person’s real colors come out when they can hide behind a screen). Anyway, it's easy to imagine what could happen to an un-centered boy’s ego when so many people tell him how terrific he is. However, like the Cold War and the philosophy of Mutual Assured Destruction, everyone has to kiss adolescents boys’ asses just to keep things equal.
Kirk Ferentz is “old school,” at least compared to the rest of the conference, and he pushed against modern recruiting practices for a long while, but he has had to keep up with Joneses. I'm certain much of Iowa’s current top-15 2017 recruiting class would not have committed to Iowa if Ferentz and staff didn't play the game.
I remember Iowa coming in second for Sean Lee. Iowa had solid linebackers while Lee was at PSU, but a player like that only comes along so often. Besides, a linebackers corps of Edds, Angerer and Lee would have been something to remember. Rumor had it that Ferentz stopped recruiting western PA because he missed on Lee.
LPW: Pat Fitzgerald has reputedly said that “All’s Fair in Love and Recruiting”, and given he’s the vice-dean of Big Ten coaches, I’m not sure he’s totally thrilled at this. All of his colleagues are fierce recruiters, but maybe he pines for the old days of how Barnett and Walker recruited players.
In terms of recruits we missed out on, I’ll go with a fairly big name: Andrew Luck. Northwestern had an offer out for him.
I also wish Kyle Prater had committed to Northwestern out of Proviso West. Or maybe linemen like Dan Voltz or others. I am glad that Fitz is owning Illinois in head to head recruiting battles.
Zuzu: I do not like the way modern recruiting works at all, but I recognize that I am a hypocrite because I still enjoy the reaped benefits of said recruiting tactics. What I dislike most about modern recruiting is the creepy worshipping of these essentially children by adult fans and the players’ egos that it inflates. Have you ever seen some of these kids’ Twitter accounts? They act like gods. As for a player that Rutgers got who we may have missed-- Darius Hamilton is the last truly great recruit (5 star) we have and he was recruited by Schiano. Hamilton, as a defensive end, should kill it in his last year and Ash’s first. In terms of a player Rutgers missed, and I hate that I am giving Penn State fans the satisfaction of saying this, but Saquon Barkley is a player that the Scarlet Knights could have really used. Barkley particularly hurts since he flipped from Rutgers, but hopefully these losses happen less in this new area.
Stew: Caring is creepy. And while Ferentz’s recruiting strategy has changed a bit, I’m not sure it’s so much to do with Meyer. It was at a point, that Iowa’s recruiting coordinator famously quit to open a couple of Culver’s franchises in Tennessee. Ferentz was at a breaking point and had to adapt, with or without Meyer. As for one that we’ve landed? I’m not going to count anyone in the ‘17 class yet, because they haven’t signed, yet. And before there, the number of big time recruits Iowa has actually landed is tiny, and those few weren’t for much of any recruiting changes, yet. Iowa has mostly been on the losing end of those. Melvin Gordon was probably the biggest miss there. He was committed to Iowa, Biels keeps after him, Iowa implodes to end the season, and the rest is history. You see, AIRBHG doesn’t just work on RBs that make to Iowa’s campus.
Aaron Yorke: I’m not a huge recruiting guy, so maybe that’s why I don’t see an issue with the Big Ten coaches employing some more intense tactics in order to try to catch up with the SEC. I guess as long as we don’t have coaches sleeping over at recruits’ houses, I’m okay with how recruiting is now. Oh, what’s that? We do have coaches sleeping over at recruits’ houses? Maybe someone should look into that.
Anyway, Penn State’s head coach James Franklin has roots in Maryland, so maybe the Lions would have missed out on this year’s top defensive recruit Shane Simmons without him. Simmons is a four-star defensive end out of Hyattsville, Maryland who has the potential to boost Penn State’s pass rush right away. It’s great to have him at the top of the class when the team has lost Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel, and Austin Johnson to the NFL Draft.
For the same reason, it’s disappointing that Penn State didn’t land four-star defensive tackle Adam McLean in the 2015 class. The Gaithersburg, Maryland product ended up choosing the Terps to become their most highly rated recruit that year. With all the turnover on the defensive line, Penn State could really use someone like McLean to plug in up front.