How each new B1G coach fared on his first National Signing Day
It was almost like Inauguration Day for some coaches in the B1G.
Four coaches got their first taste of the crazy, hectic event known as signing day. And while a few veteran coaches secured top 25 classes for their program – Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Maryland and Nebraska – the newbies were just dipping their toe into the major college football recruiting tub.
Lovie Smith was the most experienced of the group, having nearly a full year to recruit and bring a strong group to Champaign. It’s safe to say he had the biggest advantage of the four newest additions to the B1G, and it showed as the Illini signed a pretty impressive class.
The other three – Tom Allen, P.J. Fleck and Jeff Brohm – were working on abbreviated time, hoping to just get a few noteworthy commitments from this class before diving head first into the 2018 pool.
Here’s how each of the four coaches fared with his first class when signing day ended:
Lovie Smith, Illinois
Of the four coaches going through signing day for the first time in the B1G, Smith was the most successful. That’s not too surprising, as he had a full year to recruit this class, unlike the others.
Smith harped on keeping in-state recruits at home and re-establishing a presence in Chicago and St. Louis. And that’s what he was able to do. The Illini signed 10 commits from Illinois – the most the program has had since 2003 – and were able to steal a few from the St. Louis area. By the end of signing day, Smith had produced Illinois’ best recruiting class since 2011, a big accomplishment for a guy trying to steer the program back in a positive direction.
With the entire defensive line moving on, that was an area Smith focused plenty of attention, bringing in six guys who could play up front. The biggest signing from that group came from Kendrick Green, the eighth-ranked player from Illinois. Commitments from Olalere Oladipo and Deon Pate were nice additions, as well.
The other major signature of the day came from receiver Ricky Smalling, the highest-rated player of the class. Illinois needs to find some playmakers, and he might jump into that mix early in his career.
Really, the only surprise of the day was junior college quarterback Dwayne Lawson not signing with the Illini, needing to work on his grades before committing per a report. Still, the former Virginia Tech gunslinger is expected to be in Champaign by June.
Just one year into his role, Smith has already delivered on his promise to keep in-state recruits and become more prominent in St. Louis. That approach paid off in Smith’s first recruiting go-round.
Tom Allen, Indiana
Though there were some hidden gems in the 2017 class, Allen’s first class as head coach at Indiana leaves something to be desired.
Indiana’s class ranked 13th in the B1G and 63rd nationally.
Juwan Burgess was the surprise of the year, as Allen was able to flip the three-star athlete from USC. And he’s the type of player that could have an immediate impact for the Hoosiers.
Dual-threat quarterback Nick Tronti – who was named Florida’s Mr. Football – is another guy to keep an eye on with this class. He wasn’t a huge prospect early in the recruiting process, but several teams showed late interest. Tronti is one of the highest-rated quarterbacks the Hoosiers have signed since Nate Sudfeld, who turned out to be pretty darn good.
Allen’s knowledge of Florida – thanks to his year as defensive coordinator at South Florida – did pay off, as he was able to get signatures from nine players hailing from the Sunshine State. And the Hoosiers maintained a strong presence at home too, bringing in five from the Indianapolis area.
Overall, Indiana’s 2017 class does have some guys to watch and a few who could play right away. But Allen is going to have to bring in some better classes in the future.
P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
If there’s anyone that can salvage a class in just three weeks, it’s Fleck.
Considering the extremely late coaching change, the unhappiness with the current players and the overall mess that was surrounding the program, Minnesota’s incoming class doesn’t seem quite so bad.
Fleck, somehow, brought 19 commits to Minnesota in that short time frame. Flipping nine recruits from Western Michigan might have been his saving grace.
Minnesota’s class was more about quantity than quality, with the Gophers signing 26 players, tied for third-most in the B1G. Fleck’s biggest addition was Blaise Andries, a three-star offensive tackle who was rated as the top recruit from Minnesota. He was also able to keep five of the state’s top 10 recruits at home, a nice victory for his first major class.
On paper, this looks like a typical group Minnesota. But considering everything working against Fleck, it was somewhat remarkable that his first class wasn’t a complete bust.
Jeff Brohm, Purdue
This was another disappointing class for the Boilermakers.
Purdue had the worst recruiting class in the B1G and was the lowest ranked team from a Power Five conference (71st). But Brohm was able to address some areas of need for the Boilermakers in his abbreviated trip on the trail.
Brohm inked five receivers and a total of eight offensive and defensive linemen, both areas that he wanted to improve moving forward. The big addition for the Boilermakers was receiver Isaac Zico, a player expected to hit the field upon arrival in West Lafayette.
Losing commitments from receivers C.J. Hayes and Malcolm Robinson to Michigan State and Minnesota at the last second were big blows to this class and dropped Purdue significantly in the 247 Sports rankings.
With Purdue’s recent woes, Brohm wasn’t able to secure as many high school prospects as he would’ve liked, and instead had to settle for several junior college transfers. That might actually be somewhat of a benefit for program, as its going to need guys who are ready to play immediately.
Like Allen at Indiana, Brohm has a lot of room for improvement if he wants to get his program headed in a good direction.