Ranking 2011's Best College Football Recruiters (So Far)
Many of the top recruiting sites give out annual awards not just to the top classes, but also to the individual recruiters who separated themselves from their coworkers and peers as well.
In putting together an early top 10, I tried to mix in recruiters who have brought in a major haul of big-name prospects with those who have recruited well at smaller institutions that aren't getting the praise. Naturally, someone is going to feel left out, but that's what the comments section is for.
No. 10: Brad Scott, Clemson
He may not boast the numbers of the other recruiters on this list, but Clemson offensive line coach Brad Scott is credited with landing 5-star RB recruit Mike Bellamy, according to Clemson blog Shakin' the Southland.
Scott struck up a good relationship with Bellamy's mother, who graduated from the same high school as him. Convince a recruit's mother, and there's not a lot a kid can say.
Though I can't verify it, Scott may also have been the guy who put Bellamy in direct contact with C.J. Spiller, likely the relationship that convinced Bellamy to ultimately choose Clemson.
Scott is also credited with landing four-star tackle Shaq Anthony.
No. 9: Rod Smith, QB Coach, Michigan
Rod Smith has been one of Michigan's best recruiters since he took over as UM's quarterbacks coach after a similar stint at South Florida in 2007.
He is Michigan's direct connection to the Florida talent Rich Rodriguez's system relies on so heavily: Martavious Odoms in 2008, Jeremy Gallon in 2009, Marvin Robinson in 2010, and all-purpose back Demetrius Hart this year. He was also the one responsible for the recruitment of wunderkind Tate Forcier.
Hart is the final missing piece in the Michigan offense, a versatile threat who can rush, receive, and return kicks. Against Alabama and Auburn, two of the toughest schools to recruit against, Smith has helped Michigan to a 75-25 lead over the Crimson Tide.
Imagine having to compete against the returning national champions with an 8-16 record and NCAA sanctions, not to mention the fact that Michigan is a sizable distance from Florida. Smith has done what seems to me to be impossible. Michigan fans will be thanking him in a few short years.
No. 8: Billy Lynch, Indiana
Indiana's 21 commitments must look like a misprint to those who haven't been following its efforts at storming the recruiting trail this year.
Head coach Bill Lynch doesn't even know what to credit it towards, though Indiana's massively improved facilities and the Big Ten's elevated profile as a conference have to be helping.
His son, Billy Lynch, has notched a full seven of those 21 commitments himself. Lynch, who serves as the Hoosiers' wide receivers coach, is credited with landing in-state cornerback Nick Stoner, an under-the-radar recruit whom the Hoosiers deemed a must-get.
The other touted commitments to Billy's name: three-star guard Ralston Evans; three-star inside linebacker Kyle Kennedy; WR Jay McCants; three-star tight end Jake Reed, the No. 23 TE in the class; three-star RB D'Angelo Roberts; and dual-threat QB Tre Roberson.
No. 7: Reese Morgan, Iowa
Iowa showed what a cohesive and dynamic offensive line could do last year when it fell a game short of the Big Ten title despite playing a backup QB against Ohio State and fielding a hodge-podge of second-string running backs.
Credit offensive line coach Reese Morgan not only with developing that line, but also in laying the groundwork for more success in the future.
Morgan locked down a commitment from four-star in-state guard Austin Blythe, the No. 5 guard in the class. But it was his work in landing another four-star, No. 6 guard Jordan Walsh, that really stood out.
Walsh committed to Iowa just yesterday, surprising many who felt he was taking his time narrowing down his choices. While running backs coach Lester Erb is listed as Walsh's primary contact, articles outside of Rivals mention Walsh and Morgan striking up a positive relationship via an unofficial visit. (That's why I don't entirely trust Rivals' listings for primary recruiters.)
To top it off, five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio included Iowa in his final 11, and I wouldn't be shocked if it made the next cut. Morgan's ability to develop Iowa linemen into professionals is starting to pay major dividends on the trail.
No. 6: Chip West, Virginia
UVA cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Chip West has been the man behind Virginia's resurgent efforts on the trail.
Mike London is the face of Virginia and has certainly led the charge. But West has been the one doing the day-to-day work; he is an ultra-recruiter acting as London's right-hand man.
The Cavalier now have 20 commitments signed up to help rebuild.
West hasn't just accrued numbers. He's credited as the lead recruiter for four-star athlete Clifton Richardson, three-star defensive tackle David Dean, three-star QB David Watford, and three-star safety Kameron Mack, four of the more touted players in the class.
Getting four-star in-state linebacker Travis Hughes to reconsider leaving Virginia is his next big task.
No. 5: Tommy Thigpen, Auburn
I had every intention of giving the Auburn accolades to offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn for pulling in QB Kiehl Frazier. But I went with the numbers and the fact that fresh faces on defense are what Auburn needs most in this class.
That meant crowning safeties coach Tommy Thigpen as Auburn's best recruiter (so far). He is given credit for the commitment of four-star cornerback Jonathan Rose, the No. 3 prospect at CB in the class. Rose, who hails from Leeds, AL, chose the Tigers over Alabama, Florida State, and Georgia.
Thigpen is also credited with landing LB Justin Garrett, DT Angelo Blackson, DB Devin Gaulden, and cornerback Anthony Swain, the latter of whom may well end up as another four-star recruit.
As with Alabama, Auburn recruits extremely well as a team. Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper were recognized as top-25 recruiters last year, and Malzahn's ability to sell the offense to recruits was borne out in a big way by Frazier's commitment. Until those guys catch up with a few more bodies, Thigpen currently leads the way in my opinion.
No. 4: Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama
Pick a coach, any coach, at Alabama, and he has at least one blue-chip to his credit. Sal Sunseri was the man behind Trey DePriest, Kirby Smart has Isaiah Crowell and Jay Rome thinking Bama, Jim McElwain landed Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix...
I chose secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt for the number of commitments (five) and the high target-to-commit ratio (5/7).
The quality is there too. Four-star end DJ Pettway, four-star linebacker Shannon Brown, four-star receivers Danny Woodson and Marvin Shinn, and three-star tight end Malcolm Faciane are all chalked as Pruitt's work.
It's without a doubt the strongest and most stable recruiting staff in the country right now. Sunseri was in his first year in Tuscaloosa and still managed to pull DePriest out of Ohio.
No. 3: Ed Orgeron, USC
The man whom many consider the greatest recruiter of our time faces his toughest challenge to date—recruiting for a program facing some of the heaviest sanctions ever lobbied against a major BCS institution.
Orgeron, as is his nature, has risen to the challenge. Five of the Trojans' 11 commitments are credited to him, all four-stars.
Defensive end Jalen Grimble and tackle Antwaun Woods are natural fits for Orgeron, whose specialty is as a defensive line coach. But he's also listed as the principal recruiter for wide receiver Victor Blackwell and QB Max Wittek, as well as for in-state linebacker Tre Madden.
It's safe to say Orgeron is involved in every recruitment in one way or another. I would credit the fact that USC didn't lose a single commitment post-sanctions to his efforts, though I can't say for certain.
He's not just a recruiting coordinator at USC; the guy lives and breathes recruiting, when he isn't busy screaming his head off.
No. 2: Duane Akina, Texas
Assistant head coach and secondary coach Duane Akina has parlayed safety Earl Thomas' high NFL draft selection into a huge recruiting boon for the Texas Longhorns.
He's credited with landing three of Texas' five big-time commitments in the defensive backfield, including the biggest grab of all, cornerback Josh Turner of Oklahoma, as well as Mykkele Thompson and safety Sheroid Evans. Rivals also lists DT Quincy Russell among his commitments.
Turner deserves special mention because, of Texas' commitments, his were likely the most difficult to come by. Turner not only is from Oklahoma, but he also didn't have the Longhorns on his radar to begin his recruitment. UT had to beat out Oklahoma, Nebraska, and LSU in a tight race.
For most recruits that end up committing to Texas, the offer is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and the verbal is imminent. Akina actually had to work for his money, and work he did.
No. 1: Frank Wilson, LSU
While Auburn and Alabama have spread their recruiting efforts over several coaches, LSU is looking more and more like a one-man show.
The star of that show is recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson, a native of New Orleans who came to LSU after a stint coaching running backs at Tennessee.
Wilson has landed eight of LSU's 17 commitments, all of them from the Louisiana area. Chief among them are five-star tackle La'El Collins, fringe five-star RB Kenny Hilliard and DT Anthony Johnson, and four-star receiver Jarvis Landry.
Granted, most of his commitments would likely have looked at or heavily considered LSU regardless, but Wilson had the panache to knock them down. His contacts in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge are legendary—he was the director of New Orleans public schools before taking the running backs job at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron.
He's more than carried his weight this cycle. If he can land four-star in-state tackle Greg Robinson over Auburn and/or four-star defensive end Jermauria Rasco, he'll be close to perfect on the year.
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