Midwest Spotlight: Five recruiting surprises
This year has seen no shortage of surprises, and those surprises have not subsided with the dawn of the fall season. From surprise commitments to class changes and the effects of COVID-19, recruiting in the Midwest has continued to see surprises develop this fall.
ARIZONA STATE DROPS THREE COMMITS
No team from outside the region has made a more determined recruiting effort in the Midwest over the last year than Arizona State. The Sun Devils had more offers to prospects in the region than many Midwest-based programs, and that effort has started to produce results. A pair of Midwest four-star prospects signed with Arizona State in the 2020 class, and the Sun Devils had landed four commitments from Midwest in the 2021 class.
Just when their momentum was peaking, however, Arizona State torpedoed it themselves by dropping three of their four commitments from the region. It remains to be seen how much this impacts their recruiting efforts in the region, but it definitely has arrested their momentum for the time being.
FIVE-STAR 2022 WR LUTHER BURDEN COMMITS TO OKLAHOMA
That St. Louis Cardinal Ritter’s Luther Burden decided Oklahoma was the spot to play out his college football career was not surprising. That he came to that conclusion so early in his high school career is.
The No. 1 ranked wide receiver prospect in the 2022 class, Burden had offers from colleges across the country. Several of those schools immediately jumped out as strong contenders, including an Ohio State program that recently recruited Cardinal Ritter successfully for another wide receiver prospect. Oklahoma was one of only two schools he visited before the NCAA shut down visits, and his relationship with receivers coach Dennis Simmons clinched the commitment for the Sooners.
NEBRASKA TAKES A THIRD TIGHT END
Tight end was a position of need for Nebraska coming into the 2021 recruiting class, but that need looked met when the Cornhuskers landed the commitment of four-star Thomas Fidone, the No. 2 ranked prospect at the position, over the summer. The position really looked solidified when three-star in-state tight end A.J. Rollins committed two days after Fidone.
Nebraska would not be done at the tight end position in the 2021 class, however. The fastest-rising tight end in the Midwest since quarantine ended has been Firth, Neb., prospect James Carnie. Committed to Miami (Ohio) since May, Carnie started to receive increased Power Five interest after a couple summer outings, then saw the offers come in after early senior season film emerged. Nebraska was the offer he was waiting on, though, and he committed one week after they offered in October.
WISCONSIN COMMIT BRAELON ALLEN RECLASSIFIES TO 2021
The impact COVID-19 has had on the college football recruiting process has forced prospective student-athletes to make major changes to cope. In the case of Fond du Lac, Wisc., four-star Braelon Allen, the change that made most sense for his football future was to switch from the class of 2022 to the class of 2021 and prepare to enter Wisconsin next June.
Allen made his decision two months after committing to play for the home-state Badgers. Wisconsin does have immediate roster needs at the safety position, and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Allen is physically ready to make the jump to the Big Ten next season. Whether he is mentally ready remains to be seen, but Allen did make the sacrifices to be afforded this opportunity.
ILLINOIS THE ONLY STATE NOT PLAYING FOOTBALL
At the start of September, three Midwest states had postponed their high school football seasons to the spring, as did individual cities and counties, like St. Louis. While the high school athletic associations in Michigan and Minnesota reversed their earlier decisions and ultimately are playing high school football this fall, Illinois has resisted calls for a return to high school football.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker doubled down on his decision not to allow high schools within his state to play football this fall, even saying neighboring states that are allowing contact sports are endangering children and families. No outbreaks of COVID-19 have been tied to football being played at the high school level, but what has been endangered are the college opportunities for prospects in Illinois who are now seeing those opportunities go to kids in neighboring states who are playing this fall.