The recruiting hauls were basically finished up yesterday and the national rankings are out. I use these rankings with caution, as I'm skeptical that anyone can tell the difference between the #50 wide receiver nationally compared to the one ranked 75th. And that doesn't even factor in questions like who will fit who's system, who will mature physically and which ones will adjust to college life and perhaps having to get knocked around a bit on the field for the first time in their careers.
But general trends can be gleaned from this data. When Ron Zook came to Illinois he began to make a splash in the recruiting rankings. Pretty soon he was splashing down in the Rose Bowl. So while caution is good, outright dismisal isn't. Here's a few thoughts:
--Minnesota is the new Illinois. Rick Brewster landed a Top 25 class, ranking higher then rival Wisconsin and significantly higher then Penn State. I have been harshly critical of the Minnesota administration for firing Glen Mason and then not winning a single conference game this past year. Nothing Brewster does will ever change that fact, but the strong recruiting move he's making suggests that Minny may not be confined to the basement forever.
--Penn State has to get something settled with Joe Paterno. Either extend his contract or put a succession plan in place and make it public. The Nittany Lions were a non-factor in the rankings this year, inexcusable for a school in the heart of football-mad Pennsylvania and with access to similiar riches in Ohio and New Jersey on either side. It isn't Joe Pa's age that's driving this--he was pulling in highly ranked classes as recently as a couple years ago, but without a contract beyond this season no one really knows what's happening in State College. Can't blame the kids for going elsewhere.
--Notre Dame continues to get highly rated classes with Charlie Weis, ranking #2 behind only Alabama this year. The Irish had expected '07 to be a rough year, though admittedly no one ever dreamed it would get as ugly as it got. But the talent is coming in, and a lot of it on defense. Help is on the way in South Bend.
--And Michigan & Ohio State continue to lead the class in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes didn't hit the top five as they have done recently, but both teams produced Top 10 classes. Rich Rodriguez in particular, needs system-fitting talent as he revamps the Wolverine offense.
--Highly regarded quarterback Terrelle Pryor out of Jeanette, PA was the rare top prospect not to make up his mind and can sign somewhere this spring. Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State are all considered in the running for his services.
ESPN.com has a brief note on each team's class at this link.