5-star coaches usually weren’t 5-star players


COLUMBUS — Recruiting is one of the most important parts of being a big-time college football coach in 2017.

Coaches spend a great deal of time pursuing the 4-star and 5-star athletes who will take the programs to the highest levels of college football or keep it there.

There is no doubt these coaches can recognize the 4-stars and 5-stars. But how did some of these coaches rank as athletes when they were playing?

Saturday night’s Ohio State-Oklahoma game illustrated that your coaching future is not necessarily predicted by your playing career. Both Urban Meyer and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley were walk-ons when they played college football.

Here’s a look at how the Big Ten’s 14 football coaches ranked as athletes:

1. Jim Harbaugh (Michigan). Harbaugh was a quarterback who played 14 years in the NFL, 12 of them as a starter, and threw for 26,288 yards and 129 touchdowns. He was a two-year starter at quarterback at Michigan and played at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School and Palo Alto High School.

2. Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern). Fitzgerald was a linebacker who was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at Northwestern. He was an All-American and is in the College Football Hall of Fame. He played at Orland Park (Ill.) Sandburg High School.

3. Jeff Brohm (Purdue). Brohm was drafted twice in the major league baseball draft (7th round by Expos, 4th round by Indians). He started two years at quarterback for Louisville and passed for more than 2,000 yards both years. He spent seven years as a back-up quarterback in the NFL.

4. P.J. Fleck ( Minnesota). Fleck was a wide receiver who caught 77 passes for 1,028 yards his senior season at Northern Illinois. He signed with San Franciso 49ers as an undrafted free agent and played one regular-season game before injuries ended his career. He had 95 catches his senior season at Kaneland High School in Maple Park, Ill.

5. Urban Meyer (Ohio State). Meyer was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 13th round of the major league draft out of Ashtabula St. John’s High School and played two years in the minor leagues. He walked on at the University of Cincinnati and lettered two years as a defensive back.

6. D.J. Durkin (Maryland). Durkin had 28 tackles for losses in 33 career starts at Bowling Green and led the team in sacks in 1998. He was an all-conference player in high school at Youngstown Boardman.

7. Kirk Ferentz (Iowa). Ferentz was an All-Yankee Conference linebacker at Connecticut. Before that he was a captain of his high school team in Upper St. Clair, Pa.

8. James Franklin (Penn State). Franklin started three years at quarterback for East Stroudsburg State College and passed for 6,942 yards and 51 touchdowns. He led Langhorne Neshaminy, Pa., High School to its first playoff appearance.

9. Mark Dantonio (Michigan State). Dantonio lettered for three years at South Carolina as a defensive back. In high school at Zanesville, he earned All-Ohio honors.

10. Mike Riley (Nebraska). Riley was a career back-up quarterback at Alabama after leading Corvallis (Ore.) High School to a state championship in 1970 as a left-handed option QB.

12. Paul Chryst (Wisconsin). Chryst was a back-up quarterback for the Badgers. He played quarterback at Platteville, Wisc. High School.

13. Tom Allen (Indiana). Allen was an all-conference player at Maranatha Baptist after being first-team all-state at New Castle, Ind. High School. He also placed fourth in the state in wrestling.

14. Chris Ash (Rutgers). Ash played defensive back at Drake University before an injury ended his career after his junior season. He was a defensive back and wide receiver in high school in Ottumwa, Iowa.

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