Big Ten: Breaking down the five-stars of the past four cycles
In the first part of a weeklong series, Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney break down five-star players by conference over the last four full recruiting cycles, from 2015 to 2018. Today, we start with the Big Ten.
The Big Ten East has dominated in recruiting at the high end for the last four recruiting cycles as three teams - Ohio State with 11, Michigan with four and Penn State with three - are the only conference schools to sign multiple five-stars. The Buckeyes have been especially impressive under former coach Urban Meyer, as the Big Ten powerhouse has landed more five-star prospects in the last four cycles than all the other conference teams combined. Iowa is the only school in the West Division with any five-stars. The Hawkeyes signed one in 2017.
OHIO STATE - 11 PLAYERS
Breakdown: There have been some major hits among Ohio State’s five-stars, as Bosa is in the running to be the first player taken in the NFL Draft in April. He cut his college career short, but he’s such a special defensive end pro teams are taking a serious look at him as the best overall player. Wade led the team with three interceptions this season, Okudah has been solid as well, and Young led the team with 10.5 sacks and has a bright future in the NFL. There have been some disappointments as well: a transfer from Grimes and some players in the later classes who have yet to make an impact so far for the Buckeyes.
Farrell’s take: It’s no surprise that Ohio State is No. 1 by far on this list the way Meyer has recruited. Most of the older five-stars on this list have panned out well, and I assume the others will as well as they get a chance. The big question is whether the Buckeyes will continue to dominate at the five-star recruiting under Ryan Day. I think they can.
MICHIGAN - FOUR PLAYERS
Breakdown: Gary has dealt with injuries at Michigan, but he’s such a special defensive lineman that there is a decent chance he will be a first-round selection in the NFL Draft. In nine games this past season, Gary had 44 tackles with 3.5 sacks. After a quiet season two years ago in which Peoples-Jones had no receiving touchdowns, he emerged as transfer quarterback Shea Patterson’s favorite target and led the team with 47 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns. Anthony has not made much of an impact yet in Ann Arbor and Solomon has decided to transfer to Tennessee.
Farrell’s take: It’s a bit hit or miss so far for Michigan, as Gary’s career wasn’t as brilliant as expected but he will still be a first-rounder. Peoples-Jones has emerged as a star, while time will tell on Anthony. Losing Solomon hurts, but I assume Michigan will continue to recruit one or two five-stars a year for the next several years under Jim Harbaugh.
PENN STATE - THREE PLAYERS
Breakdown: Wade has had a limited role in Penn State’s secondary so far and has decided to transfer, which is a major disappointment. Parsons, as expected, has been a tremendous success already in the Nittany Lions’ defense and he led the team with 82 tackles this season. Shorter was limited this season and only played in three games.
Farrell’s take: Penn State is just behind Michigan for five-stars over the last four cycles, and I expect that will continue with James Franklin and his elite recruiting ability. Wade has been a disappointment, while Parsons has been a home run and the jury is still out on Shorter. Penn State will remain behind Ohio State and Michigan, however.
IOWA - ONE PLAYER
Signee: A.J. Epenesa
Breakdown: The Hawkeyes don’t have the impressive numbers of five-star signees in the Big Ten, but Epenesa has been a tremendous player and a huge success in Iowa’s defense so far. This past season he led the team with 16.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. He’s going to be closely watched by NFL teams next season because of his dominance on the defensive line.
Farrell’s take: Epenesa has been a great get for Iowa, a team that doesn’t recruit five-stars that often. It’s a bit surprising that the Hawkeyes are the only other team aside from Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State to recruit a five-star in the Big Ten in the last four cycles. Other teams clearly need to step up in recruiting in the conference.