By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – College football recruiting rankings rarely catch my attention because so much of it is just hype, speculation and guess work.
But after learning that Rutgers has landed yet another prize recruit in the 2022 class – Philadelphia four-star linebacker Anthony Johnson – I was curious to see where the Scarlet Knights currently sit in the Rivals team rankings for the class of 2022, and the answer was telling.
There are four teams from the Big Ten currently ranked in the Rivals’ top 16, and Rutgers, that’s right, Big Ten laughingstock Rutgers, is one of them.
The Scarlets Knights’ 15-player class is ranked 16th by Rivals, while Iowa’s 2022 recruiting class, which currently has eight players, is ranked 64th nationally.
Of course, the situation still is fluid, and a lot could change, especially from Iowa’s standpoint with nearly half of its 2022 class still left to fill.
But from Rutgers’ standpoint, there clearly is enough proof to show that that the decision to rehire Greg Schiano as head coach is paying huge dividends in recruiting.
Johnson is the seventh four-star recruit to commit to Rutgers’ 2022 class, while the other eight players in the class are 3-star recruits.
Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan are the only Big Ten teams ranked ahead of Rutgers in the Rivals 2022 team rankings, with Penn State and Ohio State ranked first and second, respectively, and Michigan 14th overall.
Coaches often talk about the importance of sealing a state’s border in recruiting, and Schiano is certainly having success with that as seven of Rutgers’ 15 recruits in the 2022 class are from New Jersey.
Rutgers only finished 3-6 last season, which was Schiano’s second debut as the Rutgers head coach. But it still exceeded expectations, considering Schiano took over a program that was riding a 21-game losing streak in the Big Ten, with most of the losses not even competitive.
It took an eight-year, $32 million contract to convince Schiano to return to Rutgers, and right now, it looks like money well spent.
The Big Ten needs for Rutgers to at least be competitive in football and signs point to that happening, on the field, and with recruiting.
Frost warning: The Big Ten also needs Nebraska to be respectable in football, but so far, Scott Frost has failed to deliver, unless you consider 5-7 respectable.
That’s his best record after three seasons coaching at his alma mater.
Frost has made some bold predictions that have excited one of college football’s most devoted fan bases, and he’s a native son who led the Cornhuskers to a share of the 1997 national title as the starting quarterback.
So it’s reasonable to think that his honeymoon would last longer than a head coach that doesn’t have a Cornhusker legacy.
But every program has its breaking point, even Nebraska, which has finished fifth out of seven teams in the Big Ten West Division in each of Frost’s three seasons as head coach.
That isn’t even mediocre.
To put that in perspective, Hayden Fry led Iowa to the Rose Bowl in this third season as head coach in 1981, while Kirk Ferentz led the Hawkeyes to a 7-5 record in his third season as head coach in 2001.
Fry took over an Iowa program in 1979 that had suffered through 19 consecutive non-winning seasons, while Ferentz took over a program that finished 3-8 in 1998, and then lost 18 of its first 20 games under his watch.
Ferentz’s job would have certainly been on the line if the losses had continue to pile up. But Iowa showed a spark late in 2000 season before having a breakthrough season in 2001.
Frost is yet to have a breakthrough season. And if it doesn’t happen in his fourth season as head coach, then when will it happen?
Should Nebraska have a fourth consecutive losing season under Frost, his seat would have to be warm, or maybe even hot.
Because it’s rare these days for a head coach at a Power Five school to have more than four seasons to rebuild a program.
Nebraska has one of the most storied traditions in college football, and was a dynasty at one time. But those days are long gone.
Michigan’s frustration: Speaking of coaches on the hot seat, Jim Harbaugh is entering his seventh season as the head coach of his alma mater, Michigan, but still is winless against Ohio State, has just one win against Michigan State and no division titles.
The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State, long considered maybe the best in college football, has turned more one-sided than recent trades by the Chicago Cubs.
Harbaugh has led Michigan to three 10-win seasons, and to a 9-4 record in 2019.
So he’s been better than Frost, but Harbaugh was hired to make Michigan elite again, and that certainly hasn’t happened.
His current roster is filled with former star recruits, but that’s been the case since Harbaugh took over at Michigan, and yet, the gap that separates Ohio State and Michigan continues to widen.
Harbaugh also has struggled to produce quality quarterbacks at Michigan, and that was considered one of his coaching strengths as a former star quarterback at Michigan, and in the NFL.
Athlon Sports predicts that Michigan will finish 7-5 overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten this season, and that Ohio State will finish 13-0 and 9-0.
Should that happen, Harbaugh might will have worn out his welcome at Michigan.