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Midwest recruiting scene just got a little more crowded

Nov 30, 2011, 12:16 PM EST

brady-hoke

Way back in June, we took a look at the lay of the land in the Midwest, and noticed how the recruiting world might be shifting a bit. Back then, big news was that Russell Wilson — given his walking papers by North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien — was signing on the dotted line with Wisconsin. (A story that I was credited for breaking, even though that wasn’t 100 percent my intent to be completely honest.)

Well, with Urban Meyer taking the head coaching job at Ohio State, and all the changes at Penn State, it’s time to take another look back at what’s gone on in less than five months. Let’s just say it’s been substantial.

Let’s check in across the Midwestern powers and see what’s happened since June.

OHIO STATE

Here’s what I said then:

Where the Buckeyes go is anyone’s guess, but it’ll be with an interim head coach, an athletic director that isn’t likely to survive the rather large magnifying glass that peers over his department, and a flagship program that’s unraveling faster than twine down stairs.

A very realistic outcome is something along the lines of USC — and maybe worse — but drastic scholarship reductions are coming soon, which lessens the chance of a coach like Urban Meyer taking over the program, something that’d put a tourniquet on the blood that’s being shed.

Still, on field results still trump stability and until the Buckeyes prove they’ve lost it, it’s hard to catapult an Irish football program that’s just a year removed from its own coaching transition in front of one of college football’s perennial powers.
Verdict: Irish still in rearview mirror, but the passing lane is only a season or two ahead.

Well, it turns out that $40 million is worth more than worrying about NCAA sanctions, which seem closer to a slap on the wrist than an anvil being dropped on the Buckeyes. After one year with his family and tending to his health, Meyer is back in coaching and taking over Ohio State, at what looks to be another one of his “dream jobs.” (In his defense, I’ve got multiple dream jobs, too. If only the Twins were looking for a over-the-hill shortstop that can’t hit that moonlights as a million-dollar screenwriter and Naval Aviator.)

Meyer’s return to college football will make the state of Ohio much more competitive and he’ll also be recruiting a similar type of offensive athlete as Brian Kelly. He also might be making a sales pitch to one of the Irish’s coaches, with running backs coach Tim Hinton getting a lot of attention in the media as someone that might join the new Buckeyes staff.

Hinton’s brother Steve, a high school coach in the area, talked to the Lancaster Eagle Gazette about the opportunity to head back to Ohio State.

“Whenever Urban has gone to be a head coach, he has offered Tim jobs,” Steve Hinton said. “(Tim) had young kids and didn’t want to move for that reason. I know Tim and Urban talk throughout the year, and that they had a really good working relationship.”

Steve Hinton was unsure whether his younger brother would accept an Ohio State position under Meyer if he was pursued.

“It would be a tough decision to stay or to come home, especially because he loves Notre Dame and the atmosphere that’s there,” Steve Hinton said. “As a brother, I would love for him to come home, but I would understand if he stayed at Notre Dame.”

There has been no noise out of South Bend on Hinton leaving and he’s been visiting recruits this week and also has plans to stay on the trail into next week as well, according to several reports. Still, Hinton’s work with the running backs has been tough to ignore, and if he decides to join Meyer’s staff in what amounts to a horizontal move, it’ll be a tough loss to a unit that is in desperate need of coaching this offseason.

MICHIGAN

Here’s what I said then:

Remember when rival fan’s took to spelling Lloyd Carr’s name with three Ls, almost belittling the coach’s inability to win more than eight or nine games? That level of “mediocrity” wasn’t good enough for Michigan brass so they brought in West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez to kick-start a program that was still one of college football’s elite. Three loses became three wins and Rodriguez was never able to put together a defense that could withstand the Big Ten schedule, nor an offense that could make up for it.

After three turbulent seasons, Rodriguez is gone and Jim Harbaugh didn’t come to Ann Arbor. In his place, Brady Hoke, who has successfully played the “wake up the echoes” card that tends to work well amongst proud football programs.

The Wolverines staff has taken dead aim at reclaiming Midwestern recruits and the message has been well received. Still, Hoke’s new offensive system could detract from the one strength Michigan had last year — a potent spread offense that ran Denard Robinson into the ground.
Verdict: For as bad as the Rich Rod era was, he still took 2 of 3 from ND. Dead heat, with this season’s match-up the likely tie-breaker.

That Hoke won ten games, including victories over Notre Dame and more importantly Ohio State has to have Wolverines fans ecstatic. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison transformed one of the worst defenses in school history into a statistically impressive group, and even while it was with a lot of smoke and mirrors, ten wins is ten wins.

Offensively, the transition to a pro set was a work in progress, with Denard Robinson still the team’s leading rusher and ball carrier. And while getting the losing streak off their back was nice, there’s got to be some sense of agony knowing that even in the Buckeyes worse moment, they still nearly had Michigan, with freshman quarterback Braxton Miller missing a wide open receiver streaking to the end zone near the end of the game. Now enter Urban Meyer, the perfect coach for Miller’s skillset.

With a recruiting class 23 deep — including 14 recruits that profile on the defensive side of the ball — Hoke and Mattison know they haven’t fixed anything yet. More impressively, the Michigan staff is doing their best to put a fence around the Midwest, with 17 recruits from Ohio and Michigan.

PENN STATE

Here’s what I said then:

The Nittany Lions might not be that close geographically, but with Penn State in the Big Ten, they’ll always be considered Irish contemporaries. Call it a rite of autumn, but one of these years is going to be Joe Paterno’s last in State College, and when that happens, the fertile recruiting grounds of Pennsylvania and the Northeast should open up.
Verdict: The program may not be what it used to, but JoePa still has his pick of the region.

Obviously, nobody could have seen something like what’s happened coming, and Nittany Lion football will never be the same. Penn State is without a head coach, without any clear idea (or precedent) what the NCAA will do, and the damage Jerry Sandusky (and his enablers) did to the school is immeasurable.

From a pure football point of view, without a head coach, there’s no telling what this will do to the football program and recruiting. Right now names like Charlie Strong, Dan Mullen, Chris Petersen, Mike London, Al Golden, James Franklin and Pat Fitzgerald are being circulated as targets by Penn State websites. Not to say they’re dreaming, but stepping into Happy Valley right now is more than just taking a new job.

The Lions have 15 recruits on board currently, with names like Armani Reeves and Tommy Schutt familiar to Irish fans. Notre Dame wasn’t ready to accept Schutt’s commitment earlier this season when he was ready to give it. They’d likely take Reeves, though he said back in early November that he was 100 percent committed to Penn State.

 

  1. nudeman - Nov 30, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Keith,
    What are the chances of Schutt and/or Reeves decommitting from PSU? Or any other high profiles guys who’ve committed there, for that matter?
    Both of these guys are Rivals 4 Stars and look sensational.

    • dmac4real - Nov 30, 2011 at 8:41 PM

      Weve already said no to schutt. He was ready to commit to us, but we decided to go with sheldon day instead.

  2. 9irish - Nov 30, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    Good follow up. With Mattison and Meyer both former ND coaches (and then Mattison being a former coach of Meyer), there is going to be alot of fighting for recruits into the future (and a lot of talking….trash, that is). Penn State, who knows how that mess will play out.

    • 9irish - Nov 30, 2011 at 12:52 PM

      Mattison was def coach FOR Meyer, is what I meant, btw.

  3. runners00 - Nov 30, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    I’m pretty sure you can get that Minnesota Twins job. . . . Shortstop’s nearly always been filled with crappy hitters like Alexi Casilla & Guzman (aside from Cabrera, Hardy and Bartlett — all decent hitters who lasted just one year with us b/c they were too good).

    Anyway, I suspect Urban’s entrance is going to make the midwest very, very difficult ground in the coming years. He is a great recruiter and a very successful coach. But Pennsylvania should open up a bit, as should the northeast, JoePa’s former territory. It’s not quite the same as Ohio, Michigan and the like. We’ll see.

  4. gtizzo - Nov 30, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    Good work here Keith,

    Your dreams are interesting, I think you have a shot a screenwriter. Covering ND means dealing with high drama if you can channel that you should win an Oscar in 5 years. You could fake the Naval Aviator with a 80 inch flat screen TV, and Xbox and surround sound. Don’t defend Meyer he is a phony who has no sense of integrity. He leaves Florida for “Health and Family”, then takes a job with ESPN the world wide leader in sports gambling.and covers games every week. When did he spend time with his family again? Didn’t his daughter says something about him not even thinking about coaching at Ohio State before the season started? His supposed “heart” issues I guess were solved by ESPN favorite P90X. Never trust anyone who goes to work for ESPN, they can never be trusted.

    • nudeman - Nov 30, 2011 at 4:25 PM

      gtizzo
      While we (you) are doing conspiracy theories, anything new on the JFK assassination?

      • 9irish - Nov 30, 2011 at 6:05 PM

        Eh, just saying Meyer was full of crap is fair enough. Or, maybe he just couldn’t miss the opportunity (even if he does blow another gasket in a couple of years). Don’t see Brian Kelly going anywhere for awhile (I hope), so I think it was more of a moment of opportunity than anything else. Talk about walking into a team that is an easy fix.

    • papadec - Nov 30, 2011 at 10:51 PM

      gtizzo – are you really including Mike Golic in that blanket statement?

    • runners00 - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      I think I agree with you. Meyer’s first “Dream Job” was Florida, where he won a couple of titles. Then he abruptly quick for an announcing gig, only to discover his next Dream Job: managing the football program of The New Convicts, Ohio State.

      I’m confused about the sports gambling allegations on ESPN. Far more troubling, it seems to me, is ESPN’s intrusion into college sports, and in particular the conference alignment that seems to be going on again. They lose out on a Big East contract only to tell two big teams in the BE to leave the BE for the ACC. It’s so corrupt — as are most of the conferences and conference commissioners.

  5. somebadhatharry - Nov 30, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    Did anyone really think Meyer was going to stay away from coaching for more thqn a year or two?

    • txbeej - Nov 30, 2011 at 8:14 PM

      No way. I thought he did pretty well as an analyst, but it must be tough to call a game knowing you could do a better job than the two guys getting paid to coach in it, and you could hear it in his voice on several occasions that he believed just that. (And why shouldn’t he? Count the rings.)

      I doubt anything less than a “stop or die” order from his doctors could keep him out of coaching for good, and maybe even that wouldn’t suffice.

  6. 10of14 - Nov 30, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    Good job as an analyst? The guy has NO personality…period and him, along with respected, but boring Chris Spielman was by far the worst broadcast team I have heard in decades. He can win, but OSU is on thin ice with him. They are under the eye of the NCAA and someone like Meyer who likes to recruit thug athletes, not students is a huge reach for OSU. In fact, I will go further and say that OSU is taunting the NCAA with his hire saying once again, we are above the law of college football. I said it on here from day one of the OSU saga; Gene Washington is and has been so popular as an NCAA board member, that he and OSU are nearly untouchable. I was right!!

    • 9irish - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:15 AM

      I think you’re talking about Gene Smith (OSU athletic director) and don’t worry, I’m not knocking you for not googling stuff off the top of your head. He was part of the ND 1973 and 1977 Nat’l Championships (player/coach)

      Urban Meyer is an interesting man…broadcasting, you could more feel the guy thinking than talking, but it was his first year in the booth. But he knows how to coach, that’s for sure.

      I have many friends that are OSU fans (ugh) and they are not thrilled with him being there. Immediately, yes…long term no. He did not take the ND job that was hanging out there for him for years because the timing was never right and he did not want to have to go thru the merciless way of having to find the right people for Notre Dame, regardless of their athletic talents. He learned this when he coached there.

      So, my OSU friends agree with you…they are worried that he will field a team of great players who shouldn’t even be students…and OSU could end up in a whole lot of trouble. Not all of them feel that way (Jim Tressel? who the hell is that?) but you would be surprised at the number that do feel that way.

      Go Irish

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