I've been thinking about this for a few weeks, but just haven't gotten around to posting it...
While ZK is routinely hailed as a terrific recruiter, and indeed, one of the best there is, I would argue that in reality he is not a great recruiter at all. Good-ish, maybe, but he's by no means the wizard he's made out to be.
It is indisputable that he is a great evaluator of talent and an excellent salesman. But if he were truly a great recruiter, he'd get kids who were 4 & 5-star athletes who also fit into his system, are coachable (i.e., can be made even better), and most importantly, who maximize the potential for winning seasons on a regular basis and who can/will turn Illinois into a perennial powerhouse (as opposed to a competitive-ish team with the occasional flash of brilliance).
It was the same at Florida. He could lure great talent and sell said talent on the program (although with Florida's pedigree it probably didn't take all that much salesmanship), but the on-the-field results were still marginal at best.
Ron ZK is not a great recruiter. He is merely a collector a great athletes. He's like a vintage/antique sports car collector who doesn't know how to drive.
By comparison, Tressel is a fantastic recruiter (the best in the B10). For that matter, I'd argue that Ferentz is pretty goddamn good too.
ZK? Meh, not so much.
In another Hawkeye-related corner of the webnets, Storminspank made an excellent analogy about this: "It'd be like buying a bunch of Porsches to drive through Alaskan terrain. While they look good and are fast, you need a Chevy truck or just an old hard working Dodge to fit your attack of plan. If you recruit for the sake of recruiting, are you that good of a recruiter? On paper, yes. In practice, absolutely not."
"Recruiting for the sake of recruiting." Exactly.
Also, is anyone else reminded of ZK when they see this guy?:
For some reason every time I watch UFO Hunters all I can think is "Holy crap! That Ron ZK knows how to stay busy!"