In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, college football recruiting has changed over the last couple of years. NIL and the transfer portal have caused high school recruiting to take a hit.
But even in the age of the transfer portal, recruiting is still the lifeblood of every college football program and how you build the core of your team. The question arises: which coaches have been the most successful recruiters over the past five recruiting cycles?
Recruit Rankings: Which Coaches Have Recently Recruited the Best?
If you walk into just about any football recruiting office in the country, you will probably see the phrase “Recruit or die!” posted up somewhere.
It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you have the best, biggest, strongest, and fastest players on your team, it helps you win games.
Ever wonder why the SEC always seems to win the National Championship and produces the most NFL talent? It’s because they have had three times the amount of five- and four-star recruits as the next closest conference over the past decade.
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Despite what some people might think, recruiting is not easy. It takes a lot of work and time from recruiting staff, graphics departments, and most of all, coaches, to lock these players down.
So, we decided to take a look at which coaches in the Power Five have been the best recruiters in the game over the past five recruiting cycles (2019-2023) according to 247’s Annual Recruiter Rankings.
Here are the Top 10 Recruiters in College Football.
10) Pete Golding, Defensive Coordinator, Ole Miss
Golding was the Defensive Coordinator from 2019-2022 before heading off to Oxford to be Lane Kiffin’s right-hand man this offseason. Not only was Golding responsible for calling the defensive plays, but he was also a key piece in constructing it.
Some of the players Golding is responsible for recruiting include Kool-Aid McKinstry, Drew Sanders, and Christian Harris. He has an average 247 Recruit Ranking of 94.7 over the past five classes and ranked in the top 150 of 247’s Annual Recruiter Rankings every year in that timeframe, ranking anywhere from No. 149 to No. 3.
Ole Miss luring Golding away from Alabama was an enormous get for the Rebels. Not only because Golding is a great coach and defensive mind, but also because he does an excellent job of recruiting elite defensive talent. It will be very exciting to see what Golding and Kiffin can build at Ole Miss.
9) Larry Johnson, Defensive Line/Associate Head Coach, Ohio State
Coach Johnson has been a staple at Ohio State for nearly a decade, building some of the most dominant defensive lines in the country during his time in Columbus. Buckeye fans can thank Johnson for bringing in some of the best D-linemen in recent memory, such as Nick Bosa and Chase Young.
In the past five classes, Johnson has been responsible for recruiting a new batch of elite big men, such as J.T. Tuimoloau, Zach Harrison, and Jack Sawyer. He’s landed in the top 20 of 247’s rankings three times and has an average recruit ranking of 92.9.
Johnson clearly has an eye for elite talent but is also excellent at developing his players to be successful at the next level. As long as he is in Columbus, expect the Buckeyes to be elite up front.
8) Chris Partridge, Linebackers Coach, Michigan
Partridge has been a bit of a journeyman the last couple of years. He was with Michigan from 2016-2019 as linebackers and safeties coach before heading down to Ole Miss to be the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the Rebels before heading back to Michigan for the 2023 season.
Partridge is consistently one of the best recruiters in the nation, landing in the top 50 of 247’s rankings four times in five years, reaching as high as sixth. Some of the names Partridge has brought in include Daxton Hill, David Ojabo, and DJ Turner II, and his average recruit ranking is 89.8.
Having landed at number one on 247’s ranking in 2017, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has to be ecstatic to have Partridge back building up that elite Michigan defense.
7) Fran Brown, Defensive Backs, Georgia
Brown is, perhaps, one of the more impressive members on this list considering his resume. He spent 2019 as co-defensive coordinator and DB’s coach at Temple before heading off to Rutgers to lead their DB room from 2020-2021. Just last season was his first season coaching DBs at Georgia.
The fact that Brown has been able to bring in the talent required to make this list while coaching at schools like Temple and Rutgers, who don’t have the resources, facilities, or status that the schools’ other coaches on this list are blessed with, is nothing short of incredible.
Brown has placed in the top 200 of 247’s rankings each of the last five seasons. He proved his mettle as a recruiter in year one with the Bulldogs, bringing in two five-star recruits in the 2023 class – Justin Williams and Joenel Aguero – and has an average recruit ranking of 88.5.
Brown is currently the No. 1 ranked recruiter for the 2024 class. It’s crazy to think that Georgia could get even better at recruiting, but if Brown’s track record is any indication, things could get even scarier in Athens.
6) Sherrone Moore, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line, Michigan
Moore has been a fast riser and is at the top of most people’s shortlist for future head coaches. He arrived in Ann Arbor as the tight ends coach in 2018 before making the transition to co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach in 2021.
He was promoted to sole offensive coordinator this offseason.
Moore has been responsible for bringing in some truly game-changing talent. Some of the players he’s brought in are J.J. McCarthy, Donovan Edwards, and Mazi Smith. In the past five classes, he has ranked in the top 50 of 247’s list three times and top 15 twice. His average Recruit Ranking is 91.4.
It will be exciting to see how Michigan’s offense performs this year with Moore running the show and how much this jump will improve their recruiting. Michigan better enjoy it while it lasts because Moore is likely to be running his own program sooner rather than later.
5) Elijah Robinson, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Tackles, Texas A&M
Coach Robinson was one of the first hires Jimbo Fisher made after arriving in Aggieland. Only 37 years old, Robinson is definitely a rising star, not only for his ability to bring in big-time recruits but also because of his skill in developing players and getting them to the next level.
Robinson has ranked in the top 50 of 247’s list four times and took the No. 1 spot in 2022 after spearheading the Aggies’ record-breaking 2022 recruiting class. Some of the recruits Robinson has brought in include DeMarvin Leal, Isaiah Spiller, and Walter Nolen. He has an average recruit ranking of 92.8.
Things haven’t exactly gone the way Aggie fans would have hoped since hiring Jimbo, but Robinson has definitely been a bright spot. He consistently brings in top-tier talent and develops them into elite players. Don’t be surprised if he gets a chance to be a coordinator, or even a head coach, soon.
4) Glenn Schumann, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers, Georgia
Schumann has been with the Bulldogs since 2015, coaching the inside linebackers. In 2019, he was promoted to co-defensive coordinator and partnered with Dan Lanning and now Will Muschamp to create some of the most dominant defenses in college football history.
Georgia’s defensive success should tell you all you need to know about how good of a coach and recruiter Schumann is. Just some of the players he’s responsible for bringing to Athens are Nolan Smith, Nakobe Dean, and No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. He has landed in the top 50 of 247’s rankings four times in the past five cycles, reaching as high as No. 5. His average recruit ranking is 93.6.
For someone who is only 33 years old, Schumann has had incredible success. A true rising star who, like Lanning before him, will likely land a big-time head coaching job soon.
3) Donte Williams, Cornerbacks Coach, USC
Williams began coaching at the DI level in 2010 at Nevada. He quickly established himself as an elite recruiter and moved up the ranks rapidly.
He coached at Oregon from 2018-2019 before heading to LA and USC in 2020. He’s been a very successful coach for the Trojans, even filling in as interim head coach in 2021 after Clay Helton was fired, and has been responsible for bringing in a ton of great talent throughout his career.
Some of the players he’s responsible for reeling in are Justin Flowe, Korey Freeman, and 2023 stud receiver Zachariah Branch. He’s found himself in the top 15 of 247’s rankings four times and has an average recruit ranking of 93.1.
Williams consistently finds himself at the top of the recruiter rankings and now, with the added draw of Lincoln Riley, should continue to consistently add elite talent to USC.
2) Brian Hartline, Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers, Ohio State
This name shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed college football over the last few seasons. Hartline was promoted to wide receivers coach at Ohio State in 2018 and was just promoted to offensive coordinator this offseason.
Since becoming a full-time coach, Hartline has done nothing but recruit and develop future NFL superstars. Some of the players Hartline has been responsible for bringing to Columbus include Emeka Egbuka, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and C.J. Stroud, just to name a few.
He has ranked in the top 15 of 247 four times, took the top spot in 2020, and has an average recruit ranking of 94.5.
Having played in the NFL for seven seasons definitely helps when trying to lure these athletes to your program, but Hartline has proven that he is one of the best coaches in the country at developing players and getting them to the next level. It will be exciting to see what he can do as OC this season and how long he will be at Ohio State before he gets a chance to run his own team.
1) Charles Kelly, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado
Coach Kelly has been a dominant recruiter for nearly 30 years. He’s coached at 10 different schools in his career, bringing success with him wherever he goes. In 2018, he coached at Tennessee before deciding to go home and coach safeties for Nick Saban at Alabama from 2019-2022. He left to go be Coach Deion Sanders’ defensive coordinator at Colorado this offseason.
Kelly has a long list of household names that he’s recruited over the years. Some of the more recent ones include Will Anderson, Brian Branch, and 2023 five-star Caleb Downs. He ranked in the top 150 of 247’s list each of the past five recruiting cycles, ranked top 15 four times, and took the No. 1 spot last year in the 2023 cycle.
His average recruit ranking is 93.8.
Recent success as well as sustained success is what gets Coach Kelly the top spot here. He and Coach Prime together at Colorado could turn things around quickly in Boulder. Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: Coach Kelly was undoubtedly the top college football recruiter over the past five recruiting cycles.
What Does This Tell Us?
Eight of the 10 coaches on this list are from four schools: Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. Those four schools have been, arguably, the most successful teams over the past five years.
The best teams typically have the best talent, and those four schools have multiple coaches on staff who work incredibly hard and take pride in getting the best possible players they can. And clearly, it shows because the success on the field matches the success in recruiting.
All ten of these coaches are incredible recruiters, and they recruit like their lives depend on it because, well, it does. As the saying goes, you either recruit or you die!