|Stefon Diggs took a very roundabout way of playing for a Big Ten team
I was going to put together two separate pieces on the guys who are committed to the Big Ten’s newest members (Maryland, Rutgers) and the two FBS teams who recently fired their coaches (Jeff Tedford at Cal, Derek Dooley at Tennessee). Instead, I’ll just combine the two separate posts into one.
First of all, let’s take a look at the guys Michigan could poach from Cal and Tennessee’s 2013 recruiting classes:
Cal: No current commits have Michigan offers
Tennessee: QB Riley Ferguson from Matthews (NC) Butler, WR Paul Harris from Upper Marlboro (MD) Frederick Douglass
Ferguson might not be a bad addition considering how thin the quarterback ranks are at Michigan, but Michigan likely won’t bring in a second quarterback to pair with Shane Morris. Harris would be a welcome addition, and he has said that he would reconsider Michigan, but I don’t see him getting interested enough to commit to the Wolverines. Cal has pulled in a few Michigan offerees over the past couple years, but generally, Michigan doesn’t compete against the Golden Bears very often.
Now I want to take a look at the recruiting classes and rosters for Maryland and Rutgers. I don’t expect that Michigan will pull any of these guys away from the two new additions, but these are the types of kids Michigan has lost to these teams over the past few years:
2013 Maryland commits: QB Shane Cockerille from Baltimore (MD) Gilman
Current Maryland roster players: RB Wes Brown, WR Stefon Diggs, LB Clarence Murphy,
2013 Rutgers commits: ATH Nadir Barnwell from Piscataway (NJ) Piscataway
Current Rutgers roster players: S Johnathan Aiken, WR Leonte Carroo, OT J.J. Denman, DE Darius Hamilton, RB Savon Huggins, OT Chris Muller, S Sheldon Royster, WR Miles Shuler
I don’t really care about the money behind the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten, because I care about the game of football, not the business. I understand that the Big Ten is trying to grab viewers and markets in D.C., Baltimore, New Jersey, and New York.
However, I think these new entries dilute the strength of the football product on the field. The Big Ten already gets all kinds of flak for not winning enough bowl games, not winning BCS championships, etc. Rutgers was a totally irrelevant football program prior to Greg Schiano, who is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; this year they’re hovering toward the bottom of the top 25 and it remains to be seen what they’ll do as Schiano’s recruiting classes filter through. Maryland had a few good years under Ralph Friedgen recently, but Randy Edsall has them floundering at 4-7 after winning just two games last year.
Maryland puts very few guys in the NFL (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Shawne Merriman, Vernon Davis, uhhhh…) and Rutgers is in the same boat (Ray Rice, Kenny Britt, Mohamed Sanu, uhhh…). So they’re mediocre teams who produce good NFL talent only occasionally.
Meanwhile, I think this potentially hurts the traditional Big Ten teams’ recruiting in those areas, including Michigan’s. Some kids from those areas used to want to play in the Big Ten rather than the Big East or ACC, which is partly why they considered teams like Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. Now those kids won’t have to leave their home states for the big stage. Kids from the recruiting hotbeds of the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and various New Jersey cities will be able to stay home, play nationally televised games, and attempt to beat the Michigans and Ohio States of the world.
I also hate the overall idea of expanding the Big Ten to 14 teams. It’s ridiculous to have a conference with that many teams, because there will literally be decade-long gaps when Michigan won’t play a team in its own conference. Michigan has no history of playing against Maryland or Rutgers; the Wolverines are 3-0 against Maryland (games were played in 1985, 1989, and 1990) and have never played the Scarlet Knights. Excluding fledgling Big Ten member Nebraska, I have great memories of games against every team in the Big Ten, even including watching Antwaan Randle-el at Indiana. Traditions will be created and “Big Ten” fans in 2030 might have fond memories of the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights, but for the next 20 years, these games will seem out of place.
Overall, I’m probably just a curmudgeon who hates change. Older Big Ten fans probably hate the presence of Penn State in the conference, but I grew up with it, so the Nittany Lions don’t bother me (except, you know, Jerry Sandusky). But I can’t help wondering what the future of college football holds. It seems like it’s headed in the direction of a major fracture. These conferences will continue to get larger and larger until perhaps the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC create their own beta version of the NCAA, while conferences like the ACC and the Big East could create a pseudo-Divison II. The one constant is change, but the problem is that we want things to stay the same.