Brady Hoke's 14 committed prospects in the ESPN Top 300 lead the Big Ten.
The football season might be three months long plus another month of bowls, but the maxim still holds true: Football is a year-round sport. A large component of that year-round nature of football is recruiting, and Signing Day is less than three months away.
With that, ESPN.com has released its new Top 300 recruiting rankings, including the famed ESPN 150. You can peruse those lists for yourself, or you can check out ESPN.com's list of all the Big Ten commits (note to Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa fans: don't bother).
Things aren't a whole lot different from where everyone was in the rankings a few months back, but there are still some things worth noting.
It's the recruiting, stupid
Ever wonder why Michigan and Ohio State's off years are abnormalities, and their good years are great? Well, it's because they have a talent advantage 80-90 percent of the time they take the field.
Obviously, there are myriad other factors that go into wins and losses, but when you're capable of winning more one-on-one matchups on every play, odds are that you're more likely to be successful.
With that, it's impossible to look at the list of Big Ten commits and not note the same names over and over: Ohio State, Michigan and (to a lesser extent) Penn State. Those three schools have 19 of the 20 ESPN 150 commitments in the Big Ten; the lone outlier is Indiana (!) commit Rashard Fant... who comes in at No. 148. Hey, still counts.
That's why it's unlikely to expect any sustained challenges to the "powerhouse" schools' supremacy in the Big Ten over the long term. No, recruiting isn't exact on a micro level. But it is instructive on a macro level, and here we see that even the johnnies-come-lately like Wisconsin and Michigan State aren't likely to challenge the big boys for much longer.
What's up, Indiana?
As you likely noticed above, Indiana is in on this big-time recruiting with a commit from Rashard Fant, an "athlete" who's 5'10" and 165 and thus likely to end up at corner and returner. Fant's size is a bit of an issue, but his athleticism is outrageous and he'll be a difference-maker for the Hoosiers. Here, watch.
If Fant's commitment holds up until Signing Day, he'll be the biggest recruit to sign with Indiana in Kevin Wilson's short tenure in Bloomington. Wilson notably got a verbal commitment from Gunner Kiel last season, but Kiel defected once he saw that Indiana was not very good, and he's currently redshirting at Notre Dame.
Also, Indiana has a verbal from DE David Kenney, who didn't make ESPN's Top 300 but is a 4-star recruit on Rivals.com; Kenney was an Iowa verbal earlier in the season, but he's an Indiana native and his father was hired by Wilson's coaching staff earlier this year. He, too, should make a difference quickly for the defensively-starved Hoosiers.
Better get used to this
Recruiting has become an off-season activity in the Big Ten recently—specifically, the spring and summer before the year, not the few weeks between the end of the season and the early February Signing Day. As such, there are already 183 commits in the Big Ten, which works out to a hair over 15 commits per school. Looking at the top five Big Ten classes in the 247Sports.com composite recruiting rankings—i.e. the schools most likely to land this upper-level talent—that number jumps to almost 18 commits per class.
All of that is to say that what you're seeing from the Big Ten in its recruiting of the ESPN 300 (and 150) is pretty much where we'll be at the end of the year. Oh, there'll be more commits and maybe a decommit or two, but the overall picture's going to look pretty much the same.
It also doesn't help the Big Ten that there are only 37 uncommitted prospects out of the ESPN 150, which is basically one in four.
So while there's still recruiting to be done, there isn't a whole lot of it coming in these upper echelons of college football talent there in the Big Ten. Kind of a bummer, but then we're pretty much used to that by now this season.