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Rivals Recruiter of the Year: Texas A&M's Elijah Robinson

Elijah Robinson, Texas A&M's assistant head coach and defensive line coach, has been named the 2022 Rivals Recruiter of the Year.

Navigating the recruiting process is more challenging than ever, with complications due to the pandemic, uneven NIL rules across states, the never-ending coaching carousel, and constant threat of transfers. All of this makes life as a recruit hard but it has upended the recruiting process for coaches as well.

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MORE NSD: Texas A&M wins 2022 recruiting title | The Gorney Awards

ONE-ON-ONE COACH INTERVIEWS: Oklahoma's Brent Venables | Rutgers' Greg Schiano | Clemson's Dabo Swinney | Vanderbilt's Clark Lea | Illinois' Bret Bielema | West Virginia's Neal Brown | Virginia's Tony Elliott | Indiana's Tom Allen | Utah's Kyle Whittingham | South Carolina's Shane Beamer | Arizona's Jedd Fisch | Stanford's David Shaw | Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman | Florida State's Mike Norvell | Michigan State's Mel Tucker | Missouri's Eli Drinkwitz

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College coaches need to be able to connect and ensure the people around the players feel comfortable with the coach and the school he represents. This is where Robinson thrives and one of the main reasons he had so much success recruiting top prospects in the 2022 class.

Whether it was information on education programs at Texas A&M, NIL opportunities, depth chart concerns, or questions about health and safety, Robinson or Terry Price (the Texas A&M defensive ends coach and Robinson's running mate on the recruiting trail) had the answers ready and easily accessible.

This entire setup enabled Robinson to dial in on top-ranked recruits and he clearly took advantage of his opportunities. Five-star Walter Nolen, the No. 1 defensive tackle in the nation and No. 2 overall prospect, could have gone to any school he wanted. Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all had his attention, but the groundwork laid by Robinson ahead of Nolen’s first trip to College Station helped the Aggies jump to the forefront once he experienced what Texas A&M had to offer.

Similar situations played out with the other highly ranked players Robinson recruited. Floridians Shemar Stewart, a five-star defensive end, and No. 54 overall prospect Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy along with No. 56 overall prospect Anthony Lucas, an Arizona native, and No. 80 overall prospect Enai White out of Philadelphia all had experiences with Robinson and Price that closely mirrored each other.

Jadon Scarlett, an in-state four-star defensive lineman, was the first of Robinson's recruits to commit to Texas A&M but the rest - Nolen, Stewart, Brownlow-Dindy, Lucas and White - were more than 1,000 miles away from College Station. Robinson's success recruiting these players from nearly opposite corners of the country further underscores the importance of finding ways to build relationships through mediums other than face-to-face interaction or shared experiences.

While Robinson and a handful of other coaches around the country have embraced the new world of college football recruiting, most haven't. Until they do, coaches like Robinson could dominate the top of the recruiter rankings.

SEC honorable mention: Pete Golding, Alabama , Jahmile Addae (Georgia), Freddie Roach (Alabama), Terry Price (Texas A&M), Charles Kelly (Alabama), TJ Rushing (Texas A&M), Vince Marrow (Kentucky), Dan Lanning (Georgia), Frank Wilson (LSU), Glenn Schumann (Georgia), Kenny Guiton (Arkansas), Tony Hughes (Mississippi State), Bush Hamden (Missouri), Rodney Garner (Tennessee)

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ACC Recruiter of the Year: Dre Bly, North Carolina cornerbacks coach  

Bly has been making waves on the recruiting trail since he returned to Chapel Hill, and this year he stepped his game up a notch. The Tar Heels legend and current cornerbacks coach led the way in landing five-star offensive tackle Zach Rice, Rivals100 running back George Pettaway, Rivals250 cornerback Tayon Holloway and assisted in the recruitment of defensive back Marcus Allen. Bly, who grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia, leaned on his connections in that area to help North Carolina pull in an impressive haul from their northern neighbor.

ACC honorable mention: Mike Reed (Clemson), Alex Atkins (Florida State), Tyler Grisham (Clemson), Marcus Woodson (Florida State), Pete Thomas (Louisville), Aazaar Abdul-Rahim (Boston College), Kevin Smith (Miami), JC Price (Virginia Tech)

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Big Ten Recruiter of the Year: Al Washington, former Ohio State linebackers coach  

Al Washington
Al Washington (USA Today)

Washington may not be on the staff at Ohio State anymore, but he turned in an impressive performance on the recruiting trail for the Buckeyes. Five-star CJ Hicks was one of the earliest commits in this class, and Washington was his lead recruiter. He made sure the in-state star felt the love from Ohio State.

Washington was also the front man in the recruitment of five-star Alex "Sonny" Styles. There were plenty of factors that helped Ohio State in its pursuit of Styles, but it's hard to say if he would have chosen the Buckeyes if it weren't for Washington. Rivals250 linebacker Gabe Powers was also a very early commit for Ohio State, but it was Washington that made such a strong impression on him at the beginning of the process and that made it an easy decision for the in-state prospect.

Washington also assisted in the recruitment of Rivals250 prospects Tegra Tshabola and Kojo Antwi. Each of the recruits, except for Tshabola, signed with Ohio State in the Early Signing Period.

Big Ten honorable mention: Larry Johnson (Ohio State), Brian Hartline (Ohio State), Jay Niemann (Iowa), Terry Smith (Penn State), Steve Clinkscale (Michigan), Ron Bellamy (Michigan), Ja'Juan Seider (Penn State), Zohn Burden (Maryland), Mark Hagan (Purdue), Mickey Joseph (Nebraska), Fran Brown (Rutgers), Elijah Brooks (Maryland), Courtney Hawkins (Michigan State)

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Big 12 Recruiter of the Year: Kyle Flood, Texas offensive coordinator and offensive line coach  

Kyle Flood
Kyle Flood (AP Images)

The haul Flood was responsible for bringing in for Texas this year puts him among the nation's best recruiters. No. 1 offensive lineman Devon Campbell was not going to rush his recruitment, and Flood stuck it out and his persistence and consistency was all worth it once the in-state five-star signed his letter of intent.

In addition to Campbell, Flood was the lead recruiter for all seven of the offensive linemen that signed with Texas in this cycle. A total of five of them were Rivals250 prospects and three of them ranked inside the Rivals100. Neto Umeozulu, Kelvin Banks and Campbell were Rivals100 prospects, while Malik Agbo and Cole Hutson were in the Rivals250. The additions of four-star Cameron Williams and three-star Connor Robertson were also due to Flood's efforts. The signings of Banks and Williams are also notable because both were former Oregon commits.

Big 12 honorable mention: Terry Joseph (Texas), Eric Mateos (Baylor), Nathan Scheelhaase (Iowa State), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), John Wozniak (Oklahoma State), Travis Trickett (West Virginia)

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Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year: Donte Williams, USC defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator  

Donte Williams
Donte Williams (AP Images)

Williams deserves a ton of credit for the work he did recruiting while he was the interim head coach and what he accomplished once Lincoln Riley retained him. He was an obvious choice for conference recruiter of the year after taking a closer look at the numbers. Williams was the lead recruiter for five-star Domani Jackson, one of only three five-stars that signed with a Pac-12 team, and more Rivals100 prospects than any other coach in the conference.

Williams was also the lead recruiter for three Rivals250 prospects, something only one other Pac-12 assistant coach accomplished. In addition to Jackson, Williams was responsible for the Trojans signing Zion Branch, a Rivals100 safety who was strongly considering Ohio State, and Rivals250 cornerback Fabian Ross. Williams also assisted in the recruitment of Devan Thompkins.

Pac-12 honorable mention: Lance Anderson (Stanford), Colton Swan (Utah), Jimmie Dougherty (Arizona), Johnny Nansen (Arizona), Ken Wilson (Oregon), Kevin Cummings (Arizona), Brian Michalowski (Colorado)

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Non-Power Five/Independents: Jeff Quinn, former Notre Dame offensive line coach

This was a really close call between Quinn and Marcus Freeman but head coaches aren't candidates for these awards. Freeman became Notre Dame's head coach a couple weeks before the Early Signing Period so Quinn gets the nod here.

The former member of the Fighting Irish coaching staff was the lead recruiter on an impressive haul of linemen that featured four Rivals250 prospects. One of those four, Billy Schrauth, was a Rivals100 member as well. Aamil Wagner, Joey Tanona and Ty Chan are the other three. Quinn was also responsible for the recruitment of three-star offensive lineman Ashton Craig.

Honorable mention: Greg Scruggs (Cincinnati), Travis Williams (UCF), Anthony Jones (Memphis), DJ Tialavea (Utah State), Doug Belk (Houston), Jeff Conway (Tulane), Kyle Hoke (San Diego State), Mike Elston (Notre Dame), Perry Eliano (Cincinnati), Ron Crook (Cincinnati), Slade Nagle (Tulane), Telly Lockette (Marshall), Tony Sorrentino (Northern Illinois), Kyle Pope (Memphis), Joe Price (UTSA), Jordan Gigli (Northern Illinois)