Rivals.com top 25 recruiters of 2018
Led by Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year Dell McGee, the list of the top 25 college football assistant coach recruiters of the 2018 class spans the country and includes staff members from each of the Power Five conferences.
After McGee, we list the coaches alphabetically.
RIVALS.COM 2018 RECRUITER OF THE YEAR: DELL MCGEE, GEORGIA
The Georgia Bulldogs are on top of the college football recruiting world after signing eight five-star prospects, which ties 2004 USC for the most in one class. McGee, Rivals.com’s Recruiter of the Year in 2018, played a major role in signing five of those five-stars, including running backs Zamir White and James Cook. The former Georgia high school coach understands recruiting from both sides of the process, and was outstanding at developing relationships not just with player, but with their coaches and parents as well.
TIM BREWSTER, TEXAS A&M
College Station is a new scene, but Brewster is still pumping out the same, old dominance on the recruiting trail. Following head coach Jimbo Fisher from Tallahassee to Texas A&M, Brewster’s recruiting stride never lapsed. Of the programs that went through post-season coaching changes, only Florida State and Oregon signed higher ranked classes… and Brewster had a role in constructing the Seminoles' class, too. With the Longhorns signing a top five class and schools like Oklahoma that recruit Texas well posing a threat, the future of Lone Star State recruiting will be intense.
FRAN BROWN, BAYLOR
Baylor signed 21 prospects in the December Signing Period. Fran Brown was responsible for 12 of them. They signed one more on Wednesday – three-star offensive guard JohnCarlo Valentin – and Brown was responsible for him too. It is not that Brown is the only recruiter on the Bears’ staff, but he is the most effective, at least in this 2018 cycle. Matt Rhule’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coach was also responsible for four-stars Byron Hanspard, Joshua Landry and Tyquan Thornton and helped Baylor sign the Big 12’s fourth best class despite finishing with a 1-11 record in 2017.
KODI BURNS, AUBURN
The Auburn coaches divvied up recruiting duties pretty evenly in the 2018 class, but if there was one standout on the staff Burns could get the nod. The co-offensive coordinator also leads the Tigers' receiving corps and he added four new bodies to the room with this class, including a trio of Rivals250 prosepcts in Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz and Matthew Hill. A fourth wide receiver pick-up, Shedrick Jackson, sits just outside of four-star territory. Burns had to out-recruit the likes of Mississippi State, Georgia Tech and Missouri for his signature.
RON DUGANS, MIAMI
While fellow Big Three members Florida and Florida State experienced coaching changes in the middle of the 2018 recruiting cycle, Miami used its stability to sign the No. 6 ranked class in the country. Wide receivers coach Ron Dugans was a key component of that effort, re-stocking his position with five-star Mark Pope, four-stars Brian Hightower and Marquez Ezzard and three-star Daquris Wiggins. All four prospects were ranked among the top 65 wide receivers in a deep year at the position.
MARCUS FREEMAN, CINCINNATI
Recruiting four-star prospects to Group of Five programs is always difficult, but Cincinnati was able to sign three in their 2018 class and Freeman was responsible for each. Defensive ends Leonard Taylor and Malik Vann along with running back Tavion Thomas are local products for the Bearcats, but the Queen City is recruited heavily by the top programs across the country and Freeman battled schools from every Power Five program to land this trio. He was also responsible for landing several three-star prospects and helping the Bearcats sign the AAC's top class in 2018.
RYAN HELD, NEBRASKA
Scott Frost’s staff had a tough task ahead of them after Nebraska named its new head coach in late November. Several defections left the class in the basement of the Big Ten rankings and the inaugural early signing period loomed. In stepped Ryan Held, a Nebraska alum who was one of Frost’s first hires, and he immediately started racking up the frequent flyer miles. Nebraska was able to sign 13 prospects in that early signing period and ended up with 24 overall to improbably post the Big Ten’s third best class. Held officially was the lead on six of those signees, including four-star running back Greg Bell, but he gets a big assist on much of the rest of the class.
LARRY JOHNSON, OHIO STATE
For the second-straight year, the Ohio State Buckeyes made a valiant run at the top overall recruiting class only to finish second. From a point total standpoint, the 2018 group was even better than the 2017 class, and one of the reasons was a deep group of defensive linemen. The credit for those additions goes to Larry Johnson, who has been among the Big Ten’s best recruiters for more than two decades. Although he did not land a five-star in this cycle, he landed four prospects in the tier just below at a 6.0 Rivals Rating and they were Taron Vincent, Tyreke Smith, Antwuan Jackson and Tyler Friday along with Rivals100 defensive tackle Tommy Togiai.
TODD LYGHT, NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame quietly had a very good National Signing Day, adding five prospects and finishing just outside the top 10 recruiting classes nationally. One of the big pick-ups that day, and maybe the most surprising grab, was four-star cornerback Noah Boykin, who chose the Fighting Irish over a Florida team that was expected to get his signature. Notre Dame defensive backs coach Todd Lyght orchestrated that recruitment, and he also brought in the classes’ top-ranked prospect in Houston Griffith. Other big gets for Lyght in the 2018 recruiting cycle with four-star Derrik Allen and three-star Joseph Wilkins.
IKAIKA MALLOE, WASHINGTON
The 2018 class was the third Ikaika Malloe has been apart of since coming back to his alma mater as Chris Petersen’s defensive line coach, and the former Husky walk-on turned starter is finding his stride as a recruiter. Washington signed a top 15 class in 2018 thanks in large part to Malloe’s contributions, which included four-stars Draco Bynum and Sam Taimani. Malloe also played a big role in Rivals250 defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa’s flip from USC the week of National Signing Day, and had a big role in getting Rivals100 linebacker Brandon Kaho to sign with the Huskies.
TEE MARTIN, USC
Year after year Tee Martin’s name appears among the top recruiters in the nation, and landing the No. 3 player in the class is going to go a long way toward earning a spot again this year. Add on giving an important assist on the No. 4 player in the class, and that spot is pretty much locked up. Martin was the lead recruiter for five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, and since five-star quarterback J.T. Daniels is St. Brown’s teammate at Mater Dei High Martin was involved there as well. Mater Dei also sends four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu to USC, and Martin teamed with fellow assistant Johnny Nansen in that recruitment while also getting Rivals100 athlete Devon Williams to choose the Trojans late.
ANDY MCCOLLUM, GEORGIA TECH
In baseball they measure WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. In recruiting, Andy McCollum would have one of the highest CARs, or Class Above Replacement, in 2018 because this Georgia Tech class would look much different were McCollum not involved. The Yellowjackets' class finished outside the top 50 nationally, but McCollum, the Inside Linebackers coach and Recruiting Coordinator, did most of the heavy lifting and was responsible for six of their top seven ranked commits, including all three four-stars: James Graham, Justice Dingle and Jaylon King.
JOHNNY NANSEN, USC
The Trojans put together a Signing Day surge that found them in the top three nationally at day’s end, despite having just 18 total signees. Although they had low scholarship numbers to work with, USC went all in at the linebacker position and were rewarded with five additions, including five-star Palaie Gaoteote and four-stars Raymond Scott, Kana’i Mauga, Eli’Jah Winston and Solomon Tuliaupupu. Nansen doubles as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator and was responsible for that haul at his position, while also bringing in four-star athlete Talanoa Hufanga.
CRAIG NAIVAR, TEXAS
A veteran of the Texas recruiting wars, Craig Naivar helped lay the foundation for the Longhorns' fourth-ranked recruiting class last spring when he landed commitments from Rivals250 Lone Star State prospects DeMarvion Overshown and B.J. Foster. Naivar was also co-lead in the recruitment of eventual five-star Caden Sterns along with fellow defensive backs coach Jason Washington, and he was responsible for adding Cameron Dicker, one of the highest-ranked kickers in this 2018 class.
JOE PANNUNZIO, ALABAMA
Two years in the NFL did not dampen Joe Pannunzio’s recruiting acumen any. The Alabama tight ends coach and special teams coordinator returned to the Crimson Tide a year ago after working in the Philadelphia Eagles personnel department, and while he missed out on a Super Bowl ring, he got himself a National Championship ring in January. He also got a half dozen big-time prospects for Alabama including five-star cornerback Patrick Surtain, whom he took from SEC West rivals LSU. His four-star gets included Rivals250 prospects Josh Jobe, Xavier Williams and Jordan Davis.
JACOB PEELER, OLE MISS
This list recognizes those coaches who brought in top talent, but also those who overcame tough obstacles to sign good players. Few staffs had a greater obstacle to overcome than Ole Miss between July, when Hugh Freeze resigned, and November when the interim tag was taken off head coach Matt Luke. The Rebels still sign a Top 25 class, however, and one of the reasons was Jacob Peeler’s haul at wide receiver. He was able to keep the pledge of four-star DeMarcus Gregory intact throughout that interim period, then landed another four-star receiver in Elijah Moore for the early signing period and a third four-star in Miles Battle for the late signing period.
SAM PITTMAN, GEORGIA
Although his fellow staffer Dell McGee earns National Recruiter of the Year, Sam Pittman’s efforts were crucial as well to Georgia signing the nation’s No. 1 class in 2018. The Bulldogs' offensive line coach stayed focused on his position, but that consisted of two five-stars in Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays, two more Rivals250 prospects in Trey Hill and Warren Ericson, and a three-star in Owen Condon that he had to go into Oklahoma City for and out-battle schools like the hometown Oklahoma State Cowboys.
RICKY RAHNE, PENN STATE
Penn State signed their highest-ranked class in the Rivals.com era in 2018, finishing top five nationally and second only to Ohio State in the Big Ten conference. The Nittany Lions use a full staff approach to recruit every player, but obviously certain assistants tend to have a greater role in bringing specific prospects into the fold. Ricky Rahne was recently promoted to offensive coordinator and played a major role keeping the class together after Joe Moorhead left to take over Mississippi State’s program. Among Rahne’s biggest gets in 2018 were five-star Justin Shorter and four-stars Pat Freiermuth, Zack Kuntz, Rickly Slade and Jayson Oweh.
GREG SCHIANO, OHIO STATE
Considering the off-season he had, Greg Schiano ending up on this list could be deemed improbable. He was expected to take jobs as Tennessee’s head coach and New England’s defensive coordinator, but instead announced on National Signing Day he will stay with Ohio State. That was also the day he landed two big recruiting blows, getting the No. 1 offensive tackle in Nick Petit-Frere out of Tampa, Fla., and four-star linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste out of New Jersey. He also went into Oklahoma’s back yard and nabbed Rivals100 safety Josh Proctor.
JEFF SCOTT, CLEMSON
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott is no stranger to this list, having made the list in both 2016 and 2017. Signing the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect will go a long way toward getting your name here three years in a row, and that’s exactly what Ross did with quarterback Trevor Lawrence. However, arguably even more impressive was stealing five-star Alabama-based wide receiver Justyn Ross out from under Nick Saban’s nose. Scott gets credit for a third five-star in this class with wide receiver Derion Kendrick.
CALVIN THIBODEAUX, OKLAHOMA
The Big 12 recruiting wars are heating up, with Tom Herman making a statement that Texas is back with its 2018 class and young coaches like Matt Rhule (Baylor) and Matt Campbell (Iowa State) are stepping up their schools’ recruiting profiles. The Oklahoma Sooners are not going quietly into the night, though. They came back with a second straight top 10 class and defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux’s haul at his position was key. Rivals100 tackle Michael Thompson was the big Signing Day grab, but he had previously picked up four-stars Ron Tatum, Ronnie Perkins and Jalen Redmond to go with three-star Jordan Kelley.
MEL TUCKER, GEORGIA
When you sign eight five-stars among one of the best recruiting classes in history, you can go three-deep with assistant coaches who rank among the nation’s best recruiters in one class. Tucker has been Kirby Smart’s defensive coordinator from the beginning of his Georgia tenure, and bolstered the Bulldogs' talent on that side of the football with big gets like five-stars Adam Anderson and Tyson Campbell. He also played a role in convincing long-time Michigan commit Otis Reese to flip to his home-state school on National Signing Day.
JASON WASHINGTON, TEXAS
It did not take long for Tom Herman to reestablish Texas as a powerhouse on the recruiting trail, and while the head man gets a lot of credit for that, recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington is just as important. The group of defensive backs headed to Austin is definitely a highlight of this Longhorns class and Washington was the lead on most, including four-star prospects Jalen Green, Anthony Cook, D'Shawn Jamison and he was co-lead on five-star Caden Sterns. Washington also brought in four-star wide receiver Joshua Moore late and was lead on three-star defensive end Mike Williams out of Louisiana.
ERIC WOLFORD, SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks just snuck into the top 20 with a 2018 class that boasts nine four-stars among 22 total recruits. Three of those four-stars are on the offensive line and credited to position coach Eric Wolford, who is in his first year back with the Gamecocks after stints as a head coach at Youngstown State and an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers. Besides four-stars Dylan Wonnum, Jovaughn Gwyn and Maxwell Iyama, Wolford also secured three-stars Hank Manos, Wyatt Campbell and Jesus Gibbs.
RAYMOND WOODIE, FLORIDA STATE
Linebackers coach Raymond Woodie was already well-versed in Sunshine State recruiting when he came with Willie Taggart to Florida State from Oregon in December. A former high school coach in the state, Woodie hit the ground running for the Seminoles, getting four-star Isaiah Bolden to sign in the early period, and then adding in-state four-stars Dennis Briggs, Warren Thompson and Malcolm Lamar in February. Woodie showed he could recruit outside state borders as well, flipping Rivals100 linebacker Xavier Peters from Kentucky and wooing four-star tight end Camren McDonald out of California.