11 Non-SEC Coaches That Recruit the South Best

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

11 Non-SEC Coaches That Recruit the South Best

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    Since we all know that certain SEC coaches have used effective recruiting in the South to build title runs, have you ever wondered what non-SEC programs are successful in hauling in talent in the SEC’s own backyard?

    Indeed, which non-SEC coaches are most effective in convincing top-tier Southern athletes to sign with their programs while Nick Saban, Mark Richt, Les Miles, Will Muschamp and Steve Spurrier are making similar offers?

    You’ve got to figure that going head-to-head with these guys in a local recruiting battle is every bit as daunting as squaring off with them on the gridiron.

    The following slideshow highlights 11 guys who have non-SEC addresses but still manage to haul an impressive number of Southern recruits.

    While some of these coaches have the advantage of being located in the SEC/ACC corridor, others distance from the South makes their recruiting wins even more impressive.

    Either way, these are the men who have managed to convince Southern kids to come to their non-SEC football programs, a feat which deserves a certain measure of admiration and awe.

    As a note, guys like Mack Brown and Bob Stoops are not on this list because by and large they (especially Brown) pull most of their recruits from the State of Texas, which isn’t truly a “southern” state in the sense of being a long-term SEC power base.

    Recruiting data in this presentation is sourced via the current and historical rankings on Rivals.com.

Lane Kiffin, USC

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    Alabama’s Nick Saban is the only guy who has been more successful in recruiting than USC’s Lane Kiffin has been since 2009.

    And though the ability to haul in top talent has occurred all over the country, Kiffin has earned some serious wins in the South.

    When you look at Kiffin’s body of work since 2011 you see a bunch of West Coast guys, but what he lacks in overall quantity of Southern wins he makes up for in quality.

    To illustrate, in the class of 2013 Kiffin and USC have already signed 5-star DB Leon McQuay III from Seffner, Fla., and then have commitments from 4-star DE Jason Hatcher from Louisville, Ky., and 5-star DB Jalen Ramsey from Nashville, Tenn.

    Looking further back, Kiffin scored 5-star (WR Nelson Agholor) and 4-star (DE Leonard Williams) rated recruits from Florida in 2012 and then pulled in a trio of Southern-based guys (Louisiana, Florida and Kentucky) in 2011.

    Again, Kiffin is definitely not at the top of the list in terms of the number of athletes from SEC country, but he is dangerous in the South in terms of top-rated recruits.


Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

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    With a home base in recruit-rich Florida, it’s no surprise that Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles are seriously in the mix in SEC country.

    As far as non-Florida wins for the class of 2013, Fisher nipped into Alabama for commitments from 3-star ATH Nate Andrews and 4-star DB Marquez White.

    Beyond that, the ‘Noles have commitments from 3-star OL Ryan Hoefeld from New Orleans, La., and 4-star LB E.J. Levenberry, Jr. from Woodbridge, Va.

    In 2012 Fisher scored big in Alabama with 4-star DE Chris Casher, 4-star DT Justin Shanks and 5-star QB Jameis Winston and then whipped through Georgia to pick up 4-star LB Ukeme Eligwe.

    Going back to 2011, Florida State similarly hauled in a trio of 3-star rated recruits from Georgia and then scored a 3-star from Alabama.

    The combination of a big-name program and location, location, location makes it no surprise that Jimbo Fisher is on our list.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

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    Meyer’s first two recruiting classes at Ohio State make a pretty clear case for how he may fare in the South in the years to come.

    Despite not taking the job until Nov. of 2011, Meyer managed to sign a pair of 3-star recruits from Florida and North Carolina in 2012 and then sweetened the pot with three and 4-star products from North Carolina.

    From these humble beginnings, Meyer and company have upped the ante considerably with the class of 2013 which includes a signed sealed and delivered 4-star DE Tyquan Lewis from North Carolina and a slew of other southerners with verbal commitments.

    The Buckeyes fax machine will buzz on Wednesday, with Florida’s 4-star DE Joey Bosa, South Carolina’s 4-star DT Michael Hill, Georgia’s 4-star LB Trey Johnson and Mississippi’s 4-star WR Corey Smith.

    That’s basically a buffet that includes the entire SEC power base.

    What’s scary about Meyer and Ohio State moving forward from a recruiting standpoint is that he’ll likely continue to pillage the South while still drawing in the top talent in Ohio and nearby states.


Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

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    Given the fact that Notre Dame is a national product, it’s no surprise that Brian Kelly has been successful recruiting in SEC country, and like Urban Meyer, he seems to be gaining momentum at an alarming rate.

    Kelly pulled in six Southern recruits rating 3-stars or above in 2011, dipped ever so slightly to four Southerners in 2012 and then has managed to pump up the volume in 2013 to the tune of holding commitments from seven SEC-based guys.

    Highlights from this year’s haul include 4-star TE Mike Heuerman from Naples, Fla. (already signed), 4-star OL Hunter Bivin from Owensboro, Ky., 5-star RB Greg Bryant from Delray Beach, Fla., 4-star RB Tarean Folston from Cocoa, Fla., 4-star LB Doug Randolph from Richmond, Va., and 4-star DE Isaac Rochell from McDonough, Ga.

    Also like Meyer at Ohio State, if Kelly and the Irish keep winning ballgames look for SEC recruiting wins to continue to skyrocket.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson

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    Statistically speaking no non-SEC coach has done a better job at recruiting the South than has Dabo Swinney at Clemson.

    Sure, it helps that Clemson is a Southern-fried team smack dab in the middle of the SEC/ACC corridor, but Swinney’s recruiting wins need to be viewed through a perspective that includes his level of competition.

    Swinney is basically been the very best at convincing kids from Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and, yes, South Carolina to attend a non-SEC school.

    To illustrate, Swinney signed a whopping 28 Southern athletes in 2011; highlights from this class included 5-star LB Stephone Anthony from Wadesboro, N.C., 5-star RB Mike Bellamy from Punta Gorda, Fla., 5-star LB Tony Steward from St. Augustine Fla., and, of course, 5-star WR Sammy Watkins from Fort Meyers, Fla.

    The class of 2012 featured 19 Southerners including 4-star DB Travis Blanks from Tallahassee, Fla., ATH Zac Brooks from Jonesboro, Ark., and DT Carlos Watkins from Forest City, N.C.

    On tap for 2013 are 15 Southern kids anchored by commitments from 4-star RB Tyshon Dye from Elberton, Ga., 4-star ATH Jayron Kearse from Fort Meyers, Fla., and 4-star DE Shaq Lawson from Chatham, Va.

    When you look at data like this it’s easy to understand how Swinney has managed to be so successful over the last couple of seasons at Clemson.

    Furthermore, based on these stats it’s plausible to think that Clemson might be headed for its rightful place at the table of champions in the years to come.


Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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    There is no doubt that Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio is the most shocking name on this list.

    But, did you know that Dantonio and company have out-recruited Brady Hoke and Michigan in the South since 2011?

    Yes, Dantonio isn’t hauling SEC-based guys at the rate of Brian Kelly at Notre Dame or Urban Meyer at Ohio State, but he is doing a better job than everyone in the Big Ten with the exception of Penn State’s Bill O’Brien who’s resume is decidedly briefer.

    To illustrate, Dantonio signed a pair of 3-star recruits from Florida and Georgia in 2011, upped the ante in 2012 to two 3-stars from Florida along with a 3-star from Georgia and then has commitments from three 3-stars from Florida this year.

    The 2013 Spartan swing through the Sunshine State includes 3-star DT Noah Jones from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 3-star DT Devyn Salmon from Plant City, Fla., and 3-star DB Justin Williams from Port St. Lucie, Fla.

    All this needs to be quantified by saying that from an overall perspective Michigan has definitely out-gunned Michigan State in recruiting since 2011, but not in the South.

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

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    Though Virginia certainly isn’t the Deep South, it’s as Southern as you can be without an SEC team, which is the case at least for now or until the realignment monster rears its ugly head again.

    And this makes long-term Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer a natural for this list because he’s a guy who runs a very successful football program on the SEC fringe.

    Though Beamer and the Hokies pull most of their talent from Virginia they also receive faxes regularly from North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

    To illustrate, Beamer signed six non-Virginia Southerners with 2-stars or more in 2011, a number that rose to eight with a class of 2012 that included 4-star DB Donaldven Manning from Miami, Fla.

    For 2013 the Hokies have 3-star commitments from athletes hailing from Florida (OL Kyle Chung from Ponte Verde), Georgia (DB Brandon Facyson from Newnan) and North Carolina (LB Jamieon Moss from Elizabeth City and ATH Carlis Parker from Statesville).


Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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    Like Virginia, North Carolina is a non-SEC state living on the periphery of college football’s most dominant league.

    This gives big schools like North Carolina, which has had sporadic success in football, an opportunity to launch successful recruiting raids into SEC states.

    Larry Fedora has only been at the helm of Tar Heel football since Jan. 1, 2012, but in that short time he’s definitely proven that he’s willing to put both himself and UNC out there to attract Southern talent.

    Though it’s a stretch to say Fedora is the guy responsible for the class of 2012 it’s important to remember that he technically got named head coach in early December of 2011 and delayed his start at UNC to lead his former team, Southern Miss, in its bowl appearance.

    The reason to bring up the 2012 recruiting class at all is the stunning number of Southern recruits above and beyond the expected haul of athletes from North Carolina.

    Wins in 2012 included four 3-star signees from Georgia, seven 3-star guys from Florida, a 3-star hailing from Alabama and then 4-star WR Quinshad Davis from Gaffney, S.C.

    For 2013 Fedora has commitments from three 3-star athletes from Georgia (DE Mikey Bart from Buford, WR Johnathan Howard from Rochelle and ATH Donnie Miles from Suwanee) along with two 3-stars from Florida (OL Lucas Crowley from Ponte Verde and DE Marquis Haynes from Jacksonville).

David Shaw, Stanford

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    David Shaw has built on the successes of his predecessor Jim Harbaugh in ramping up recruiting at Stanford, an effort that includes a healthy dose of Southern athletes over each of the last two recruiting classes.

    In 2012, Shaw’s first solo run at recruiting, Stanford scored five highly touted athletes from the South including 4-star DB Alex Carter from Ashburn, Va., 4-star LB Noor Davis from Leesburg, Fla., 4-star OL Graham Shuler from Brentwood, Tenn., and 4-star DT Jordan Watkins from College Park, Ga.

    On tap for the class of 2013 are four Southern-fried recruits who have committed to Shaw and Stanford including 4-star QB Ryan Burns from Ashford, Va. and 4-star LB Peter Kalambayi from Matthews, N.C.

    Though Shaw isn’t ripping it up in the South to the tune of Notre Dame’s Bryan Kelly or Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, he’s definitely been effective in SEC country, which is quite something when you’re talking about a West Coast school with high academic standards.

Bill O’Brien, Penn State

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    Though Bill O’Brien did an admirable job of salvaging what he could of Penn State’s fraught recruiting class of 2012 (it rated No. 51 once the smoke cleared), he’s done even better in 2013.

    In terms of scoring in the South, O’Brien pulled in a paltry two SEC based athletes in 2012 and has amped this up to five commitments in 2013.

    Included in the class of 2013 are 3-star DE Parker Cothren from Hazel Green, Ala., 5-star QB Christian Hackenberg from Fork Union, Va., 3-star DB Neiko Robinson from Bratt, Fla., and 3-star ATH DaeSean Hamilton from Stafford, Va.

    Though these wins might not seem huge on a national level, when you stop to consider what the Penn State football program and O’Brien have faced over the last 18 months, they could be classified as extraordinary.

Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

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    Another guy who might not come to the top of your mind when you think of “successful Southern recruiter” is West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen.

    But, Holgorsen has done well in the South, a point that can be underlined by a class of 2012 that included a whopping 12 3-star signees from the state of Florida. 

    Throw in an additional 2-star from the Sunshine State and suddenly you see that Holgorsen’s search for speedy talent isn’t limited to any set of state borders.

    For 2013 Holgorsen and company have broadened their search and widened their nets by bringing the state of Mississippi into the mix.

    West Virginia has in hand signed letters of intent from 3-star WR Ronald Carswell from Fulton, Miss., along with 3-star DB Malik Greaves from Jacksonville, Fla., and then has commitments from three other Southern guys.

    If everybody signs on the dotted line, the class of 2013 will include a trio of guys from Florida and then a pair from Mississippi, meaning that Holgorsen is effectively cutting right into the heart of Dixie.