The formula for recruiting success in the Big Ten hasn't exactly been on lock like that of the recipe to Coca-Cola or the gold at Fort Knox.
In fact, it's been rather simple really—lock down your state, recruit the bigger population states in the Big Ten footprint and find some athletes from Florida or Texas (whichever suited your fancy).
Pretty simple stuff for the most part, yet in the past few years that tradition has been challenged by a group of schools looking to find an edge. Over the last few seasons, that edge has been building a pipeline into one of the most talent-rich states in the country, Georgia.
Schools like Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin have begun building a recruiting presence and base in a state where there was hardly any presence from the Big Ten before.
That's a tremendous task given its location in the heart of the SEC and ACC but one that has begun to produce dividends.
The roots of this transition to the state of Georgia can be traced back to two schools—Purdue and Ohio State.
Purdue has long had ties to the state thanks to head coaches Joe Tiller and Danny Hope, however, it was the hire of Urban Meyer that changed the game for the Big Ten down south.
Under Meyer, the Buckeyes have brought in names like safety Vonn Bell and linebacker Trey Johnson, as well as 247sports composite 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillian in this 2014 class.
To that end, those trailblazers showed that there were quality players to be had at almost all levels in Georgia.
Purdue has drawn in 12 players from Georgia over the past six years, including five during the 2013 class. Of those 12 players, names like current budding star DeAngelo Yancey and running back Akeem Hunt (to name a few) have all either begun to or already made their positive impression on the Boilermaker program.
This year, Big Ten teams will bring in at least 14 players from the state of Georgia, and it could be as many as 17 when it's all said and done. In 2013, the league also brought in the same number of players from the state, for a total of at least 28 players over the course of just two recruiting cycles.
In comparison, in the four years prior to the 2013 class, the B1G grabbed a total of 19 players.
While numbers are good, it's often about quality over quantity for Big Ten teams that step outside the conference footprint.
That's where you need to look at results of those trailblazing players. In the previous four years before the new influx in 2013, Michigan State was able to pull names like Keith Mumphery and Darqueze Dennard.
In that same 2010 class, Ohio State added Bradley Roby out of Georgia.
Names like Nick Tompkins (MSU), Imani Cross (Nebraska) and Steven Bench (PSU) all came to the Big Ten from Georgia.
It proved to the rest of the conference that there was some good value in spending time recruiting the state.
Of course, changes in coaching staffs also helped. Wisconsin's hire of Gary Andersen led an emphasis in Georgia and Florida specifically, while Kevin Wilson has begun to tap into Georgia for some of the hidden gems to bring to Bloomington, Ind. as well.
For the Big Ten, stepping up the recruiting game in the heart of SEC territory is a bold move. It's also one that appears to be paying off in big ways.
A number of committed recruits have seen SEC schools (especially Florida) make a late push on the, attempting to flip names like 3-star wide receiver Krenwick Sanders or even OSU commit McMillan.
However, the Big Ten team has stood strong in each case, a sign of the solid base B1G teams have laid in Georgia over the past few years.
According to Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, it's not a matter of selling the Big Ten to any kid from SEC country. He told Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal earlier this month:
There’s a lot of young men that understand the values of families and education. The Big Ten is not foreign to them. A lot of people want to say it’s SEC country. That may be true, what they’ve grown up with, but they understand also the power of the Big Ten Conference. It’s a good place for us to recruit.
The issue has been just simply not having a big presence with coaching staffs or recruiting people in the state prior to the last few years. More than anything else, that is what has changed at Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana.
It's those schools that have made a concerted effort to find the gems, go after some of the bigger named prospects and land them, which has people taking notice.
Of course, recruiting in a new territory is great, but don't think the Big Ten is abandoning the fertile recruiting grounds of a place like Florida either. In fact, Florida combined with Georgia could represent the resurgence the Big Ten is desperate to find.
The more the Big Ten flag is planted in a state like Georgia, the more talent that is likely to come. Having a school like Wisconsin and an up-and-comer like Minnesota joining in with Ohio State and Purdue the past few years also shows how serious the conference is about the state.
Will the rest of the Big Ten join in the party? If it does, the SEC versus Big Ten battle will be a very hostile one for years to come.
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