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June 13, 2010

Roundtable: Realignment's effect on recruiting

With conference expansion come questions about how recruiting is going to be affected by the realignments.

We asked the Rivals.com recruiting staff to weigh in on some general questions related to realignment and recruiting.

How will recruiting in the state of California change if the Pac-10 adds five or six schools from the Big 12? Conversely, could the Pac-10 "holdovers" now have more recruiting success in Texas?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
If the Longhorns and Sooners so choose, I definitely think this could open up avenues for Texas and Oklahoma in monster recruiting territories such as Los Angeles. Now, with the success that Texas has in its own backyard, I can't imagine it's going to alter too much from the blueprint that has been so successful in the past. But I would imagine it would allow the Longhorns to cherry-pick a national recruit in L.A. or other parts of California a little bit easier than in the past.

I can see Oklahoma dedicating more time and effort in California, though. The Sooners have had recent success in the state; they signed two of San Diego's best players last year. And unlike Texas, OU doesn't have a natural recruiting base to work with. We know how important Texas is to the Sooners, but it's still a battle against the Longhorns and Aggies in the state to get top kids. But concentrating on both Texas and California could be a winning game plan for the Sooners. We've seen it be successful in the past, but with the ability to sell kids on playing at home, it could be even more powerful of a pitch.

Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech never really have done a ton in the state of California, outside of some spot recruiting and looking in at junior college prospects. With Oklahoma State's success in Houston and in east Texas, I don't see the Cowboys altering their plans and recruiting too much more in California. A&M has the same type of recruiting foothold with local kids and has done a solid job with kids across the border in Louisiana. Tech might be the one that could look toward California more, but I still see the Red Raiders sticking in Texas and working Tommy Tuberville's ties in the Southeast.

Colorado always has recruited California hard. In fact, the Buffaloes have recruited it harder than Texas, so the winner in this move could be the Buffs. They've been fighting a losing battle with Pac-10 teams, but now that they're in the league, that's definitely going to be something that will give them more ammo.

I have zero doubt we're about to see more Pac-10 teams push into the Lone Star State. Arizona is the only team that has had a sustained effort over the past five years, and the Wildcats have signed plenty of good players from Texas. Others, such as UCLA, USC, Oregon and Oregon State, have dabbled in the state with some success, but none have made it a true priority. But now that they're going to be in the same league as Texas, et al., it's going to definitely allow them to get their feet in the door. It's not going to happen overnight, as they're going to have to work hard to build relationships with coaches in the state, but we've already seen successful results from Arizona.

What is the biggest negative, recruiting-wise, in a 16-team football league?

Mike Farrell's answer:
I think the biggest issue will be that it will be harder for teams to win consistently year after year with so much competition in such a large league.

Selling the idea of consistently going to the conference title game and a BCS game with so many talented teams will be harder in recruiting. Teams such as Texas and Oklahoma are almost assured of battling for a division title and the chance for a BCS berth in a 12-team conference and a six-team division, but with added teams in each division and a harder schedule, it won't be as easy. Competition will be tougher on the field and, as a result, off of it in recruiting.

I also think a 16-team conference brings more competitors to the floor when it comes to recruits. While schools often go out of their region to recruit prospects, more times than not their toughest battles are with conference opponents for big-time recruits. Add more teams to a conference and you have more natural competition for recruits within your own conference.

Will Nebraska's move to the Big Ten allow them to dive more into traditional Big Ten states, especially in Ohio, where it has had some success before?

Greg Ladky's answer:
Absolutely. Most prospects in the Midwest grow up dreaming of playing the Big Ten.

But this move is a great one for Nebraska for two additional reasons. One, it strengthens coach Bo Pelini's ability to use his roots as a Youngstown, Ohio, native on the recruiting trail. Landing Braylon Heard was huge last year. Imagine being able to tell other top-tier Ohio prospects that at Nebraska, you can play in the Big Ten.

Second, Nebraska is trying to develop more of a power running game. As more and more high school programs nationwide use the spread, I think in Big Ten country, more than anywhere else, you still can recruit lineman who know how to run block and running backs used to a power rushing attack. Pelini and company will find more of that in Ohio and across the Midwest, instead of trying to compete against Texas and Oklahoma on the Big 12 recruiting trail, where more prospects come from spread-type offenses.

Let's say Notre Dame remains an independent for the foreseeable future. Will there be any impact -- positive or negative -- when it comes to recruiting?

Mike Farrell's answer:
As long as Notre Dame isn't shut out of a chance to make a BCS bowl and play for a national title, I don't think the Irish will be affected.

Is it more attractive to be in a conference with annual rivalries? Yes. But is it a deal-breaker for a program as storied as Notre Dame? Not a bit.

The Irish still can have rivalries with schools such as Michigan, Michigan State and USC -- as long as those schools have the flexibility to still schedule them. The tricky thing is that if there are four 16-team mega-conferences, eventually those teams would be pressured to do less out-of-conference scheduling, especially of tougher opponents, so it could hurt Notre Dame's overall ability to schedule.

But if a Notre Dame team that still wins nine or 10 games is BCS-eligible, nothing changes as far as selling the program to recruits.

Nebraska has done a good job recruiting Arizona, California and Texas of late. With the Huskers in the Big Ten, will they be able to recruit those areas as successfully anymore?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
I think for many of the same reasons they'll still have some success in Texas, the Huskers should be able to remain somewhat effective in California and Arizona.

Nebraska has built great bonds with coaches in Arizona and especially in California's "Inland Empire" region. That still is going to be able to get the Huskers in the door. But will it be enough is a tough question to answer, especially if the new teams in the Pac-10/Pac-16 push harder on those kids.

Nebraska now will be battling Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma for recruits, but the Huskers will not be able to sell them on the fact that they would be playing game in their home states -- something the Longhorns, Buffs, Sooners and others will be able to do.

I still anticipate Nebraska having some success in those states, but if they shift their focus more to the Midwest, as expected, recruiting in California and Arizona might not be as important as it has been in the past.

With the expansion of the Big Ten and Pac-10 happening, do SEC schools have any reason to worry on the recruiting trail?

Barton Simmons' answer:
This essentially is a Western expansion that's being discussed. To this point, I can't see the SEC getting significantly hurt by the moves.

The only issue that the SEC schools would have is that they no longer could stake the claim that they are playing in what is undeniably the best conference in America. A recruit in Texas or California who wants to compete in the nation's most competitive conference may not have to go to the SEC to do that anymore.

With a revamped conference that includes all the teams from the Pac-10 and almost all the best from the Big 12, you can make a great argument that the Pac-16 becomes the nation's best conference.

A Texas A&M move to the SEC could only help the conference, adding more visibility in the state of Texas and further expanding the conference's reach West.

Will the Big 12 "leftovers" be able to recruit effectively anywhere?

Barry Every's answer:
I still think recruiting Texas is a viable option for all these schools. The state of Texas produces more than 300 Division I players a year, and these colleges were not out-recruiting the likes of Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma in the state anyway.

Where the real problem lies is recruiting the few top players within their own states. With Nebraska in the Big Ten, it now can raid the states of Kansas and Missouri for players who want the big-time experience offered by the Big Ten. It also opens those states up to being ransacked by Iowa, Illinois and other regional teams that will be in the "better" conference.

Boise State, BYU and Utah have recruited well along the West Coast in the past few years. Will the Pac-10's additions of the five or six Big 12 schools impact that trio in any way?

Adam Gorney's answer:
I don't think there's any question that adding teams from the Big 12 to the Pac-10 will have a negative effect on the recruiting efforts of Boise State, BYU and Utah.

The players they targeted on the West Coast might choose to play for the Pac-10 newcomers rather than drop down to a lower-level conference.

With 10 teams in the Pac-10, there were only so many players who could be signed each season. Now, the conference will add as many as six teams, so more players will get picked off by league schools. The Texas schools will have similar recruiting bases -- meaning I don't think the Longhorns will have to recruit California, Oregon, Arizona or Washington any more than they do now -- but other schools joining the conference should have an easier time picking up prospects from those states.

Even top-rated kids on the West Coast might give Texas a more serious look since they'll be part of the conference now.

Adding six teams to the same recruiting pool is going to have a negative impact on the "smaller" schools in that area; there's no other way to look at it.



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