Power Ranking the Best Recruiters in College Football

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 23, 2014

Power Ranking the Best Recruiters in College Football

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    To have success on the field in college football, the first step comes on the recruiting trail.

    Programs spend inordinate amounts of time and money to bring in the best players, and it is often head coaches who garner the most recognition for strong classes.

    While that is rightfully so, each coach must build a staff around him that is filled with like minds who can do the job on the field and in the living rooms of recruits.

    Here are 10 of the best men behind the men—10 of the most successful recruiting assistants in college football.

    Coaches are judged here primarily on their 2014 class and secondarily on their past classes. The final factor is which school the coach recruits for—because pulling blue-chip prospects at a losing program is more impressive than doing it at one with a case full of national championship trophies.

    Note: All recruit rankings based on the 247Sports composite ratings, unless otherwise noted. All recruiter rankings also based on 247Sports composite ratings.

10. Kendal Briles, Baylor

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    Art Briles (pictured) has received a big boost from his son Kendal's efforts on the recruiting trail.
    Art Briles (pictured) has received a big boost from his son Kendal's efforts on the recruiting trail.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Title: Passing game coordinator, offensive recruiting coordinator

    Key 2014 Commits: 5-star WR KD Cannon, 4-star S/WR Davion Hall

    Recruiting at Baylor wasn't easy when head coach Art Briles first arrived in Waco, Texas.

    The Bears had to do things the old-fashioned way and identify talented players who weren't recruited by the bigger schools.

    Then they finally pulled in Robert Griffin III (a 4-star recruit), and the rest is history. It was Art Briles, not his son Kendal, who attracted RGIII, but the torch has since been passed.

    Kendal Briles is quickly becoming one of the top young recruiters in the game. He is responsible for 5-star receiver KD Cannon and 4-star receiver Davion Hall heading to Waco.

9. Billy Napier, Alabama

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    Billy Naiper, now at Alabama, is one of college football's best young recruiters.
    Billy Naiper, now at Alabama, is one of college football's best young recruiters.Associated Press

    Title: Wide receivers coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 5-star OT Cameron Robinson, 4-star WR Cameron Sims

    In his first year back at Alabama, Billy Napier has fit right in. He spent the last season at Colorado State and was on staff with the Crimson Tide the year before. Prior to that, he was with Clemson.

    He was instrumental in the Tigers' recruiting efforts, spending three seasons as the recruiting coordinator. From 2006-2008, he led a CU recruiting effort that attracted numerous future stars, namely running back C.J. Spiller and defensive end Da'Quan Bowers—both 5-stars.

    This season, he is the No. 4 recruiter, according to 247Sports, after bringing in the No. 3 overall recruit Cameron Robinson and several others.

    As his role expands with the Tide, more commitments will come.

8. Luke Fickell, Ohio State

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Title: Defensive coordinator, linebackers coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 5-star ILB Raekwon McMillan, 4-star OLB Dante Booker

    Luke Fickell's Ohio State defense had a rough year on the field, but help is on the way thanks to his recruiting efforts.

    His work this year includes primary and secondary work on one 5-star and four 4-star recruits. 

    He also helped to bring 4-star defensive end Joey Bosa to Columbus, who excelled as a freshman in 2013.

    2012 was a big year for Fickell, as he signed two 5-stars, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.

    He plays a bit of a different role now that Urban Meyer has settled into Columbus, but he is still a huge part of OSU's recruiting efforts.

    The Buckeyes currently boast the No. 2 class in the nation.

7. Tommy Thigpen, Tennessee

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    Title: Linebackers coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 4-star WR Josh Malone, 4-star RB Jalen Hurd

    In just one year at Tennessee, former Auburn assistant Tommy Thigpen has been almost invaluable on the recruiting trail.

    He was the primary or secondary recruiter on an astounding 19 commitments for UT, including its top two recruits, receiver Josh Malone and running back Jalen Hurd.

    Several of his targets (including Hurd and Malone) have enrolled early, which is almost a win inside of a win.

    Previously, Thigpen brought 4-star linebacker Cassanova McKinzy to Auburn. He led the Tigers in tackles this past season.

    Thigpen also has a good start on 2015 with 4-star receiver Preston Williams and 4-star linebacker Cecil Cherry set for Knoxville.

6. Kirby Smart, Alabama

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Title: Defensive coordinator, linebackers coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 4-star OLB Christian Miller, 4-star OLB/S Ronnie Clark

    It hasn't be the best year on the trail for longtime Alabama assistant Kirby Smart.

    Regarded as perhaps the premier assistant coach in college football, he missed out on several top targets this season, including 5-star linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Tre' Williams.

    However, that still doesn't detract from his overall body of work, which included a second-place finish in 247Sports' 2013 recruiter rankings.

    His resume includes several 5-stars, including linebacker Reuben Foster, tight end O.J. Howard, corner Dee Milliner and 2015 defensive end Mekhi Brown.

    And he still might add another—cornerback Marlon Humphreybefore the 2014 class is done.

5. Bryan McClendon, Georgia

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    Title: Running backs coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 5-star RB Sony Michel, 5-star RB Nick Chubb, 4-star OG Isaiah Wynn

    Currently sitting atop 247Sports' recruiter rankings for 2014 is Georgia's Bryan McClendon. He was the primary recruiter for a bulk of UGA's class, including its two top prospects: 5-star running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.

    However, those were just two ordinary days at the office for McClendon.

    The UGA running backs coach also pulled in both 5-star Keith Marshall and 4-star Todd Gurley in 2012, as well as No. 1 running back Isaiah Crowell the year before.

    If you need a runner, just go to McClendon. And don't be surprised if (or when) he pulls in 2015's No. 1 all-purpose back, 5-star Taj Griffin.

4. Dameyune Craig, Auburn

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Title: Co-offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 5-star ILB Tre' Williams, 4-star WR D'haquille Williams, 4-star CB Kalvaraz Bessent

    Dameyune Craig has been the driving force behind Auburn's top-10 class, pulling in several blue-chippers including No. 1 junior college prospect D'haquille Williams, 5-star linebacker Tre' Williams and several others.

    Before heading to Auburn, he was on staff at Florida State.

    For the Seminoles, he recruited one Jameis Winston, a 5-star out of Hueytown, Ala., who panned out pretty well.

    Craig beat out noted recruiter Jeremy Pruitt at Alabama to do so. 

3. Chip West, Virginia

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    Title: Recruiting coordinator, cornerbacks coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 5-star S Quin Blanding, 5-star DT Andrew Brown, 4-star WR Jamil Kamara

    If you've wondered how Virginia was able to keep elite in-state recruits Quin Blanding, Andrew Brown and Jamil Kamara close to home, look no further.

    Chip West is the man in charge of recruiting at UVA and was the primary recruiter for the three high school All-Americans.

    West's huge haul has him rated No. 3 in this year's 247Sports recruiter rankings, but he isn't just a one-hit wonder.

    His conquests include 2012 4-star defensive end Eli Harold and a pair of 2013 4-stars: running back Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell and cornerback Tim Harris.

2. Frank Wilson, LSU

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Title: Recruiting coordinator, running backs coach

    Key 2014 Commits: 5-star RB Leonard Fournette, 4-star QB Brandon Harris4-star OG Garrett Brumfield

    LSU's Frank Wilson won the race for 2013's No. 1 overall recruit Leonard Fournette, which would be testament enough for his abilities as a recruiter.

    It would be if he hadn't done so much more. Wilson already has the No. 1 overall recruit for next season, 5-star cornerback Kevin Toliver II, committed as well.

    He led or assisted on the recruitment of seven 4-stars in 2013 and has been making an impact at LSU for some time. He also pulled in Jarvis Landry, Anthony Johnson, Trai Turner and several other future stars in Baton Rouge.

    Fournette and Toliver may be his biggest gets, but they aren't his first and won't be his last.

1. Jeremy Pruitt, Georgia

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    Title: Defensive coordinator

    Key 2014 Commits (For Florida State): 4-star ILB Kain Daub, 4-star S Trey Marshall, 4-star OLB Jacob Pugh

    Georgia head coach Mark Richt knows what he's doing. With his program coming so close to its primary goals for years now, he knows that it needs an edge.

    Enter Jeremy Pruitt, the nation's best recruiter.

    He was the No. 1 individual recruiter in the nation in 2012 at Alabama and in 2013 for Florida State. He was tearing up the trail as usual for FSU before departing to become the defensive coordinator at UGA.

    He has brought in several elite recruits, including T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry at 'Bama and Matthew Thomas and Jalen Ramsey for the 'Noles.

    He showed right off the blocks that he'll be bringing that same recruiting prowess to Georgia. Within two days of his hiring in Athens, he drew a verbal commitment from 4-star corner Rico McGraw for the 2015 class.