For most colleges, this is a down period in the recruiting process. Coaches are preparing their teams for the 2010 season. For most, recruiting is on the back-burner until November or December. Everywhere, that is, except at Texas. It seems as though coach Mack Brown never sleeps, not if there still is a big-time prospect on his radar.
A few days ago, while rivals were getting ready for their season openers, Brown landed a commitment from one of the nation's leading running backs, Malcolm Brown of San Antonio, the best uncommitted player in Texas up to that point. He picked Texas over USC, Notre Dame, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M. I rate him as the No. 10 player in the nation, the second best running back behind LSU-bound Kenny Hilliard of Patterson, La.
Malcolm Brown is a great catch for Texas. The Longhorns have the best of both worlds. They get a majority of players in the senior class to commit for next year only two weeks after the February signing day so they have an entire year to evaluate juniors. They get ahead of everybody else. And Mack Brown is one of the top five recruiters in the nation.
Everybody thinks it is easy to recruit in Texas but, remember, some of his predecessors couldn't do the job. Brown has galvanized the state and most of the top players want to play for him. Already, Texas ranks among the top five schools in the nation in the recruiting sweepstakes for 2011. And they already are looking to 2012.
Meanwhile, Big Ten coaches are hoping to overcome what is perceived as a below-average crop of talent for 2011 by expanding their base to the East, West and South, wherever they can find talent. The best player in the Midwest is linebacker Lawrence Thomas of Detroit, who ranks as the No. 36 player in the country and is committed to Michigan State.
The next best prospect is 6-3, 251-pound running back/linebacker Rodney Coe of Edwardsville, who is being recruited by Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, USC, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Micnigan State. He is the No. 49 player in the nation and the only Illinois product on the top 100 list.
The Big Ten area is weak talent-wise this season. But I sense the conference is close to an upsurge in recruiting because several schools have hired good staffs that do an excellent job of evaluating young players. The Big Ten has experienced three below-average years in a row compared to the SEC, Big 12 and ACC and I think it is on the verge of a solid recovery.
I think an alarm went off when Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Nebraska doesn't have much high school talent within its boundaries so it must recruit nationally. They are coming into Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri. Hence, fewer players will be available for Big Ten schools unless they keep their good in-state players at home.