February 3, 2009

Top stories in the Midwest

MORE: Counting Down to Signing Day | Announcement Watch | Expert Commit Predictions

The Midwest was home again to some of the biggest news items of the year. College football fans saw an abundance of talent in Michigan, a down year in Ohio, the Spartans surprise some people with a solid class and the recruiting roller-coaster ride with the prospects at East St. Louis High.

Rivals.com breaks down the top five stories in the Midwest for the class of 2009.

1) Ohio down, Michigan up

This season there wasn't a single five-star player in Ohio, and the top spot in the state shifted from player to player before defensive back Justin Turner eventually claimed the top spot. Turner was one of only three players from Ohio to make the Rivals100, a shocking number considering how respected Ohio football is nationally. Michigan only had two players in the top 100, which is about normal. But where the state moves ahead is in the depth of talent right outside the top 100. There were five players in the Rivals250 from Michigan and the state featured 11 players ranked on the four-star level.

2) Spartans the story in state

While the Wolverines were able to grab the top player in Michigan - two-way lineman William Campbell of Detroit Cass Tech - the big story in state was the way Michigan State dominated. The Spartans scored three of the top four players in the state, including quarterback of the future Andrew Maxwell. They also scored six of the top 10 players and 11 of the top 25. Michigan did have some good local success, but its efforts were better rewarded with its ability to recruit nationally. But in a year where it was extremely deep in its own backyard, there's no question many Michigan fans would have liked to see more local stars playing for the maize and blue instead of the green and white.

3) Focus on the Flyers

It's less than 24 hours away from National Signing Day and it's still unclear what's going to happen with the two standout receivers at East St. Louis - Terry Hawthorne and Kraig Appleton. Hawthorne, the nation's No. 6 receiver, reaffirmed his pledge to Illinois after a Jan. 23 official visit, but the rumors of him still looking at Oklahoma haven't stopped. "He is committed to Illinois, but Oklahoma has made a strong run at him," said his coach, Darren Sunkett. Then there is Appleton, who is also a soft commit to Illinois. Many people believe there's a strong chance Appleton will end up at Wisconsin, and his coach said there definitely is a strong possibility. "It's either Illinois or Wisconsin for Kraig," Sunkett said. "Nobody really knows what's going to happen with him."

4) Shakeup in the MAC

There is always turnover in the MAC as coaches move up the coaching ladder, but this season has to go down as one of the craziest. For the record here are the moves: Toledo hired Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman, Eastern Michigan hired Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English, Bowling Green hired former Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, Miami University tabbed Notre Dame offensive coordinator Michael Haywood and Ball State promoted its offensive coordinator Stan Parrish. All of this caused a major ripple in the recruiting efforts of those programs, and hundreds of prospects in the Midwest were affected.

5) Wolverines go national

While Michigan State was the story in Michigan, the Wolverines went outside the state to secure an elite class. The Wolverines did most of their damage in Ohio and then nationally in places like Florida, California, New Jersey, Arizona and Illinois. There is no question that more athletic players are on their way to Ann Arbor. Along with talented skill players like quarterback Tate Forcier and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, the line group on both sides of the ball features athletes who can really move well.





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