Most of you know that Texas, Florida and California are the nation's top recruiting hotbeds, particularly for elite programs. You also know about population shifts and how the number of top recruits has swelled in the South and Southeast, and declined in the heartland.
But if you want specific numbers and visuals to illustrate the changes, ESPN Recruiting has you covered in this fascinating package about the top recruiting states and the top college football programs. The staff examined rosters from the nation's top 20 teams in 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010 to see the origins of the players. The results, best shown here and here, underscore the geographical challenges Big Ten teams face to match up to the nation's best in those years.
Items of note:
Pennsylvania produced the second-most recruits on top 20 teams of any state in 1940 and 1950 (trailing only Texas), and the most of any state in 1960 (123). Ohio produced the second-highest totals in 1960 (behind Pennsylvania), 1970 (behind Texas) and 1980 (behind California). The shift away from the Big Ten footprint seemed to begin in the 1980s, as Florida saw a significant surge in prospects and Georgia began to climb. The state of Michigan actually produced the fifth most prospects on top 20 teams in 1990 (124).
The numbers for 2000 show a significant drop-off for recruits in the Big Ten footprint. Michigan had 48, while Ohio had 37 and Pennsylvania just 22. All three states saw increases for 2010 -- especially Ohio, which surged to 116 prospects -- but numbers in southern states like Alabama and Louisiana also grew during the span. Although Ohio was the No. 5 state in producing prospects for top-20 teams in 2010, Michigan was the only other Big Ten state with a significant number (78). Note: The University of Nebraska didn't begin Big Ten play until the 2011 season, so the state's recruit total for 2010 (78) can't be attributed to the Big Ten.
The numbers for the states of Maryland and New Jersey, which soon will enter the Big Ten footprint, aren't as impressive as I would have thought. The states combined to produce just 28 players on top-20 teams in 2010. More impressive are the numbers for Maryland's neighbor, Virginia.
Aside from 1990, when Iowa produced 32 recruits on top-20 teams (mostly on the 18th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes), the state hasn't generated many recruits for elite teams. The numbers for Indiana aren't great, while the numbers for Illinois are so-so and certainly not as strong as they were in 1940 and 1950.
Keep in mind that these numbers come from specific seasons and can be affected by certain programs that recruit mainly in their backyards. There's a reason the state of Wisconsin had such a high total in 2010 (the Badgers won the Big Ten) or why Nebraska had big numbers in 1980, 2000 and 2010 (the Huskers' success).
But the patterns are still notable, and they underscore the need for Big Ten coaching staffs to invest time and energy in specific states -- including states far from home.