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Midwest invasion: Which schools from outside region recruit it best?

The Midwest does not see as many outside-the-region schools recruiting its territory as the Southeast does, but several programs have found recent success skimming the region’s talent pool. Here are the five schools that have had the most success over the last five recruiting classes.

MORE HELMHOLDT: Midwest underclassmen on the rise

1. KENTUCKY WILDCATS

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Mark Stoops
USA TODAY Sports Images

Since Mark Stoops took over as head coach prior to signing the 2013 class, Kentucky has been the most proficient non-Midwest program when it comes to poaching in-region talent. In the last five classes, Kentucky has signed 34 players just out of the state of Ohio, more than any other single state. Ohio is also providing 43 percent of the four-star talent the Wildcats have signed during that stretch. That trend continues in 2018, with seven commitments from the Buckeye State. They also have a commitment from the top-ranked prospect in Michigan, offensive guard Marquan McCall.

2. PITT PANTHERS

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Jester Weah
USA TODAY Sports Images

With Pittsburgh being located so near the eastern border of the Midwest, it is no surprise the Panthers end up on this list. Ohio has been the their most fruitful recruiting grounds, but they have also pulled top talent out of Detroit and Chicago in recent classes. When Paul Chryst was the head coach, he tapped areas further west in the region, adding impact guys such as wide receiver Jester Weah out of Wisconsin and Avonte Maddox from Detroit. Pat Narduzzi also came in with strong Midwest ties and has kept the Panthers' presence in the region strong, landing five Midwest four-stars in the last three classes.

3. WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

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Shelton Gibson
USA TODAY Sports Images

The Mountaineers nearly lost their place on this list after striking out with Midwest prospects in the 2017 class, but their cumulative talent haul from the region over the last five classes still makes them one of the more proficient recruiting teams from outside the region. The highlights have been four-stars Shelton Gibson, who went on to be a fifth-round pick in the most recent NFL Draft, Darrien Howard and Brendan Ferns. More impressive, though, is the total number of prospects the Mountaineers have pulled out of the region – 18 in the last five classes. They also have four from the region committed in 2018 and are making new inroads in the Chicagoland area.

4. CLEMSON TIGERS

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Hunter Johnson
USA TODAY Sports Images

When researching programs that have had success in the Midwest, one of the surprises is Clemson. It has been just in the last couple classes that Dabo Swinney and Co. have started casting their nets into the Midwest, but they have landed a couple of really big fish. The biggest catch came in the 2017 class when they lured five-star Indiana quarterback Hunter Johnson to sign. The Tigers also grabbed four-star Cincinnati offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst in February, and were able to pull four-star Xavier Kelly and three-star Isaiah Simmons from Kansas in 2016. They are hoping to continue the trend in 2018 with five-star Cincinnati offensive lineman Jackson Carman, who named Clemson his leader back in the spring.

5. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

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Darrin Kirkland Jr.
USA TODAY Sports Images

Butch Jones came to Tennessee following head coaching stints at a pair of Midwest-based programs in Central Michigan and Cincinnati, so it is no surprise that the Volunteers, especially in his early classes, had a strong Midwest flavor. Tennessee’s presence in the Midwest has not been as strong recently, landing just one prep prospect from the region in the last two classes, but those early classes produced impact guys such as linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. out of Indianapolis, tight end Ethan Wolf out of Ohio and running back John Kelly from Detroit.

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