Deep down inside, we all care about recruiting. And I say that fully admitting the fact that I drive the hate train when it comes to kids making those video announcements telling the world where exactly they’ll enroll in school. And there’s not much I dislike more than watching some kid picking one of three hats off the table like some sort of street hustle where you gotta guess which one is hiding the big rubber ball.
But yes — all of that aside — we love recruiting, because it’s the backbone and lifeblood of our favorite college football programs. And college football is special in the sense that it’s so local. Our teams represent our states and towns with the uniforms they wear, and it’s always nice to have a bunch of kids from the state putting on the uniform.
When we see a local kid with the talent to stay home and play for the home team decide instead to attend college and play outside the state, it hurts and stirs our emotions. We get sad and then angry. Did our coaching staff not do enough? Is there something more in the way of facilities that would have kept him home?
Are we too crazy of a fanbase as a whole?
Recently, using one of those preseason magazines, I scanned through the rosters of all 14 Big Ten programs and began counting the number of players who were from the state of the team they played for. Some of the results were surprising.
These aren’t exactly stats and they may not mean much in terms of what goes down on the field this year, but perhaps it’s something to keep an eye on while you are monitoring the recruiting process.
Leading the way with the most home-grown players on their rosters were Iowa and Wisconsin, tied at 50 players each. Wisconsin didn’t really shock me, but Iowa did. The thought that you could field a fairly competitive college football team with that many guys from Iowa never really crossed my mind before. Good on Iowa for keeping them home, and good on the state for producing that kind of talent.
Another program that surprised me with the amount of homegrown players on the roster was Nebraska. Living in Omaha, I can’t walk down the street without hearing people talk about the guy they just signed or the local kid they let get away. And when a local kid does leave the state, people get angry. I point and laugh, but Big Red Nation can’t stand it. As a result, the program gets a lot of grief on the message boards and social media when it happens.
Well, after further review, maybe it’s time to give the Nebraska break in that department, as they currently have 40 players from the Cornhusker state on the roster. That’s good enough for fifth-most in the conference. What’s even more impressive is the fact the Nebraska has the smallest population of any state that calls itself home to a Big Ten school.
Another number that stuck out was the 44 players from New Jersey on Rutgers’ roster. I hear a lot of people -- myself included — say that Rutgers would be better if they could just keep more guys from that talent-rich state home. Perhaps it’s not so much about quantity as it is quality, as Rutgers has the fourth-most home-grown players in the Big Ten.
Here is the overall list from most to least, with the total number of home-grown players in parenthesis:
1. Iowa (50)
1. Wisconsin (50)
3. Ohio State (47)
4. Rutgers (44)
5. Nebraska (40)
6. Maryland (38)
6. Michigan (38)
8. Michigan State (37)
8. Penn State (37)
10. Minnesota (27)
11. Illinois (25)
12. Indiana (24)
12. Purdue (24)
14. Northwestern (16)
Also of interest (in my opinion) is the fact that Indiana and Purdue both have 24 home-grown players on their rosters.
In terms of other surprises, I was a little shocked to see Minnesota’s number so low considering the state’s population is three-times that of Nebraska.
And saving the worst for last — how about Illinois? Yikes! The two Big Ten school’s in the nation’s fifth-most populous state were only able to keep a combined 41 players home. That looks even worse when you compare it to the total of the two schools in Michigan (75), and again — Indiana 48.