Not that this means anywhere near as much as it used to in the era of free transfers, NIL, and essentially unrestricted tampering, but there’s still and will likely remain a strong correlation between the best programs in the country and the ones that bring in the best-regarded classes*, so let’s take a spin around the league and see who got bigger, stronger, and faster while addressing all their needs, and who missed on all their targets and will be in the Chris Ash Dimension by 2024 at the absolute latest.
As a refresher, the “composite” ranking here is the averaging of 247Sports, Rivals, and ESPN, the three major recruiting services in the business (even though ESPN has been phoning in recruiting coverage for ages now and probably shouldn’t be included anymore). These rankings place weight both on the quality of each recruit, and on the number of players.
It also perhaps goes without saying that there is still a signing period in February, and there are some big fish out there the likes of whom could materially change the standing of a class. We may refresh this article if anyone really moves and shakes during the signing period interlude, so bate your collective breath.
*Not you, TAMU and Miami
Ohio State: Composite rank #6 (#1 B1G), #124 transfer, 20 commits
MaximumSam: Buckeyes have the fifth ranked class in the land, are playing in the playoffs in two weeks, and everyone wants to fire the entire athletic department. Just another day in Columbus.
Green Akers: To offer a bit of context, it’s true the run-up to Signing Day did not go Ohio State’s way. A pair of 5* defensive ends spurned them at the finish line for Oregon (Matayo Uiagalelei) and Georgia (Damon Wilson), Auburn flipped 4* CB Kayin Lee, and there were a few decommitments earlier in the class, including the only running back commit they had for a room that’s been ravaged by injuries.
Still, this is another top-ten class, it’s once again the best in the Big Ten, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the parade of devastatingly talented receivers continues. The class’s jewel is 5* Brandon Inniss, and 4* WRs Noah Rogers and Carnell Tate would each be the best player in more than half of the league’s classes. OSU’s newfound problem with Michigan has nothing to do with the amount of talent in Columbus (though getting one of those top-shelf pass rushers would’ve been very nice), and that will remain the case as the ‘23 group cycles in.
Penn State: Composite rank #14, transfer rank #111, 22 commits
misdreavus: Penn State continued to load up on offensive linemen, landing a five-star in J’Ven Williams, and high four star in Alex Birchmeier. Both are top 50 recruits, and both are top 5 in their respective positions. They also addressed a need at linebacker with Tony Rojas, Ta’Mere Robinson, and Kaveion Keys, who, like Abdul Carter before them, are likely to see run early in their careers. The class overall is second in the Big Ten, and, unlike years prior, the gap between them and Ohio State is not of Grand Canyon proportions this time around!
Green Akers: Penn State continues to make hay with instate and regional recruiting, as Pennsylvania and Virginia each produced six players for this class, including ten of the fifteen blue chip (4 and 5*) players. Interestingly, though, Penn State eschewed New Jersey this time around, historically a fantastic source of talent for the program. Like Ohio State, they’ve also passed on the portal so far, though this is understandable when you can land prep talent like these programs do.
Michigan: Composite ranking #17, transfer rank #1, 23 commits
RockyMtnBlue: Michigan pulled in a couple low 4* guys late in corner Jyaire Hill and WR Karmello English. That pulls the class all the way up to...17th. Michigan’s highest-rated recruit is .947. OSU, by comparison, has 7 players ranked higher, and 2 more ranked just below (and well above our #2). It appears Michigan has decided to hire good football coaches who are not necessarily good recruiters. Or maybe it’s just that Michigan can’t get out of its own way with NIL. I’m going with “both,” but prolly more the latter. /smdh
Green Akers: As a quick aside, RMB predicted Michigan would win 3 games this year. Peep that top overall transfer ranking as things stand, which could include replacements for everybody they lose off of back-to-back Moore Award-winning offensive lines: OT Myles Hinton (Stanford) and inside guys Drake Nugent (Stanford) and LaDarius Henderson (ASU). Plucking TE AJ Barner from Indiana will ease the loss of Erick All and (probably) Luke Schoonmaker and ensure that Colston Loveland doesn’t have to do it all next year.
Those late pickups, Hill and English, slot in as Michigan’s 3rd and 4th best prep prospects, where the star prospect is edge Enow Etta, a head-to-head win over Mel Tucker. Harbaugh has plainly taken a developmental angle with the prep guys in this class, given 14 of them are outside the national top 400, but this roster is durable enough in most places to take it slow, and where they do need bodies next year, the transfers should be just fine.
Michigan State: Composite #25, transfer #22, 15 commits
Green Akers: Exhibit #13 squintillion in the universe of evidence that on-field results the season a player signs really have very little to do with how recruiting is going to go. To land a top-25 class with so few members requires excellent per-player quality, and Mel Tucker and his staff delivered there. In particular, this class addresses the need for better play in the trenches - MSU’s three 4* OL is more than they had in the previous SEVEN CLASSES COMBINED. They also restocked a defensive line that loses a ton of bodies, and even if it isn’t next year, the DE combo of Andrew Depaepe and Bai Jobe is certainly something to look forward to. 4* QB Sam Leavitt joins last year’s QB, Katin Houser, as either potential successors to or, if the fanbase gets it way, usurpers of Payton Thorne.
Of the transfers, Texas A&M DT Tunmise Adeleye and Liberty DL Dre Butler seem most likely to make big impacts immediately (aside from UNC transfer K Jonathan Kim). It would be great if Keyshawn Blackstock, the top JUCO OL in the country, were ready to go immediately, but that might be a bit much.
Nebraska: Composite #28, transfer #36, 21 commits
Jesse Collins: Nebraska went from okay to awful to not-so-bad in the matter of like four weeks, so all things considered, I’m happy! Matt Rhule is definitely a ‘go find really fast and long players and hope for the best’ guy so we’ll see if his development chops are what they are. Big win in getting Malachi Coleman to commit, decommit, and then commit again in the matter of a few weeks. He’s definitely the best athlete we’ve recruited. Oh, and Nebraska decided they like Nebraska kids again this cycle, which is interesting. Not sure it’s good or bad, but definitely interesting.
Green Akers: OK, we need to address something before turning to the particulars of Nebraska’s class. Nebraska hired Matt Rhule about a month before this early signing day, after spending almost the entire season with an interim, and STILL landed the best class in the division. No fucking wonder the West has never won a conference title, you bunch of slugs.
Anyway. Jesse is correct that Coleman is the star of the class, being the only top-200 prospect, and as a Lincoln local he’ll be the guy everyone wants to see. And that transfer ranking is only because they haven’t taken very many yet, but all six are probable contributors if not starters. Rhule plundered Florida’s portal entries for LS Marco Ortiz, LB Chief Borders (!!), and CB Corey Collier, and with Casey Thompson out of eligibility, Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims might have the inside track to the QB job.
Maryland: Composite #34, transfer #13, 24 commits
Don’t get me wrong; the transfers will help, they really will. But if Locksley has lost his recruiting fastball after finally building a little success, with back to back bowl games and what should be a pretty robust NFL draft contingent this year? Eeeesh. They do have three 4* prep prospects, but all three are edge players - Rico Walker, Dylan Gooden, and Neeo Avery, and nobody else in the class is inside the top 500. In fact, CB Kevis Thomas is the only other guy inside the top 900.
So, these transfers. WR Tyrese Chambers (FIU) kinda needs to be a star immediately, coming off a 51/544/4 season for the Panthers and into a room losing Dontay Demus, Rakim Jarrett and Jacob Copeland. S Avantae Williams (Miami) and OT Marcus Dumervil (LSU) profile as immediate starters as well.
Iowa: Composite #39, transfer #21, 21 commits
So the obvious kick in the balls here, and a move that plummeted Iowa’s ranking, was the late flip of instate 5* OT Kadyn Proctor to Alabama. Without him, Iowa’s new top prospect is OT Trevor Lauck, national #418 and the Hawkeyes’ only blue chip. This year’s contender for Random Detroit 3* Who Becomes A Thorpe Finalist is Kenneth Merrieweather. The transfer situation is also interesting; that ranking is made up of two guys, former Michigan teammates QB Cade McNamara and TE Erick All. McNamara is a massive upgrade over anything on the roster, but the structural limits of this offense are still there.
Northwestern: Composite #40, transfer #123, 19 commits
MNWildcat: Northwestern signed the #1 QB in Illinois, which is (1) damning with faint praise and (2) also A Thing. A solid G/C outta Michigan ranked #4 at C who had offers from both that state’s B1G teams [ed. note: this is Dylan Senda, who also happens to be an MSU legacy], a 4* linebacker and 4* tight end, and a lot of depth along the offensive and defensive lines. Looks like they’re trying to shore up those weaknesses in Establishing The Run and Preventing The Run From Being Established, which seem important in the Big Ten West, an entity which will notably Be Around for the next 5+ years and is surely not going anywhere. Most importantly, the ‘Cats picked up a commitment from no-star TE Jack Fitzgerald, meaning it’s only about another decade until Pat Fitzgerald reaches his FULL potential as head coach of Purple Iowa.
Green Akers: Northwestern had this class all but completed very early on, and the transfer thing just is what it is; as with their prep prospects, they just have a limited pool to draw from. So at the moment, that “123” is actually “a tie for last with zero transfers as we stand now”.
Minnesota: Composite #41, transfer #17, 21 commits
A fairly typical Fleck class, with no discernible fanfare (top prospect, IOL Jerome Williams, is outside the national top 350). Somewhat interesting that they are not bolstering the OL with a transfer or two, as Chuck Filiaga and Quinn Carroll were very effective in that role and they will once again lose a ton up front. The transfer receivers, Charlotte’s Elijah Spencer (57/943/9) and WMU’s Corey Crooms (57/814/5), probably become their top two options immediately and should be a shot in the arm to a receiving group that’s been punchless since Rashod Bateman left.
Illinois: Composite #46, transfer #67, 21 commits
A modestly-ranked class for a staff that’s plainly going to rely on development, Illinois’ bigger concern this postseason has been DC Ryan Walters getting hired away by Purdue and taking vital recruiter Cory Patterson with him. Patterson’s St. Louis connections formed a critical part of the Illini roster late in the Lovie Smith era, and had carried over under Bret Bielema.
As far as the players go, ATH Kaden Feagin is the highest-rated prospect, but his positional destiny seems unclear. S Saboor Karriem, as the best-rated DB, has a short road to the field on paper given the volume of draft losses in that unit. ECU OL transfer Avery Jones could be needed in ‘23 as well.
Rutgers: Composite #55, transfer #110, 19 commits
I’m not passing judgment on the entire Greg Schiano Era II just yet. I’m just saying. If this is the talent level he’s going to be signing, he and his staff will have to overachieve on development with about two of every three kids they sign. Zero prospects in the top 500, and thus far, S Michael Dixon (Minnesota) is the only outside help they’re bringing in.
Wisconsin: Composite #57, transfer #96, 14 commits
Kind of...UW’s class is low in numbers but high in quality as Luke Fickell kept hold on pretty much everybody he wanted from the previous regime’s class, brought a couple of key commits with him from Cincy, and added a couple of unexpected surprises at the end, especially 4-star CB Amare Snowden. I don’t follow these things as closely as some, but, right now, according to 24/7, UW is 12th in the B1G in terms of points, but 5th in terms of average. This does not count 4-star QB Nick Evers, who is coming in from Oklahoma. Fickell has said he’s going to focus on the lines in the run-up to the Feb. signing period. If he build on the momentum he’s created, UW’s class is likelier to finish closer to 5th than to 12th. Most importantly, though, Fickell was successful enough that P.J. Fleck hurled a “negative recruiting” accusation UW’s way. That, plus the first two-game losing streak to Minnesota since 1993-94, means the rivalry is a rivalry again. November 25th cannot get here fast enough.
Green Akers: Evers is all but assured to be Wisconsin’s next QB. Graham Mertz and Deacon Hill transferred, Chase Wolf is out of eligibility, and Myles Burkett threw all of 5 passes this year, though if the interim staff gives him the nod in the upcoming bowl, perhaps he turns a few heads and changes that calculus. Anyway, Kind of’s point about having space left to work with is big to note here, both for uncommitted prep prospects and for the wave of portal entries that will happen as guys realize their coach brought in two transfers at their position.
Purdue: Composite #67, transfer #114, 11 commits
So this is not a difficult situation to understand - after Jeff Brohm peaced out, seven players decommitted from Purdue, and as of this writing, Purdue’s top prospect, 4* DL Kendrick Gilbert, has not signed his NLI. New head coach Ryan Walters’ first task should probably be securing Gilbert’s signature, but after that, he and recruiting coordinator Cory Patterson will need to assemble their board quickly.
Indiana: Composite #71, transfer #20, 13 commits
Yikes. So the good (?) news is, Tom Allen’s best incoming player, DL Andre Carter, is a transfer who was already quite good for Western Michigan, so he’s a plug and play. The bad news is Indiana lost far more than it’s gained in the portal thus far, including its entire QB room other than Dexter Williams II, who suffered a severe injury in the Bucket game, and this year’s freshman Brendan Sorsby, who stayed redshirted and be-clipboarded even as the depth chart ahead of him caught fire. Likewise, the crown jewel of last year’s class, edge Dasan McCullough, is off to Oklahoma.
Allen will presumably pull at least one more QB from the portal, as prep prospect Broc Lowry’s profile doesn’t shout immediate starter (Unranked nationally, #51 QB, #32 overall in Ohio). With potentially significant turnover in the secondary, perhaps look for someone like S Amare Ferrell, CB Jordan Shaw, or JUCO safeties Tyrik McDaniel or Jamison Kelly to get some immediate playing time. But for a program in need of positive vibes, it’s hard to look at that composite and feel optimistic.
I describe my team’s recruiting class as:
This poll is closed
Elite, unparalleled, foundation of multigenerational dynasty
Strong, especially relative to our main competitors, and will look plenty good once our excellent coaches mold ‘em a bit
Look recruiting isn’t everything, I’m confident that by the time these guys matriculate out our coaches will be vindicated
(inaudible through mouthful of Sorrow Cheese)