Everybody loves rankings.
OK, not everybody. But a lot of people really, really do. That’s why many of the recruiting services are able to find such high levels of success. They’re able to track which prospects and which teams are the most highly-rated across the country.
One of my favorite elements is the recruiter rankings, which measures how coaches are faring during the recruiting cycle. It — like player rankings — is an inexact science. Primary and secondary recruiters are given points based on the splashes they make out on the trail.
Position coaches, in particular, are often undervalued for their recruiting efforts. The head coaches and coordinators regularly receive a bulk of the credit when recruiting successes go right, just as they’re handed a majority of the blame when things break down.
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But the position coaches tend to be the ones making the initial contact with these recruits. Sure, there are examples — like Jarrett Stidham — when the head coach and coordinator take on the job from start-to-finish. Those are few and far between.
As we find ourselves in the semi-lull of the dead period, let take a look Auburn recruiting — specifically at Auburn’s top assistant coach recruiters, based on the 247Sports recruiter rankings.
No. 12 Tim Horton
Commits responsible for: Austin Troxell, Devan Barrett, Octavius Matthews, Alaric Williams and Chandler Wooten
Targets remaining: Nico Collins
My take: I’ve raved about Horton, the running backs developer. Now let me rave about Horton, the recruiter.
Horton isn’t always landing the biggest, baddest running back in the nation. He doesn’t have to because he has a knack for finding the best fit for the Auburn offense. Horton manages to turn those back into what Auburn needs to continue its 1,000-yard tradition. But Horton doesn’t stick solely to running back recruiting.
In this cycle, he initiated some contact with Troxell and Wooten, as well, though Herb Hand and Travis Williams took over on both eventually. Still, Horton is Auburn’s highest-ranked recruiter for his trio of running backs and his help at other positions. Collins is Horton’s big fish remaining, and that’s a long shot, to say the least.
But with Horton’s combination of recruiting and development ability, he won’t remain just a position coach for long.
No. 46 Rodney Garner
Commits responsible for: Tadarian Moultry, Malcolm Askew and KJ Britt
Targets remaining: Markaviest Bryant, Ryan Johnson and Alec Jackson
My take: Garner is known for his ability to attract top-end defensive linemen.
Based on Auburn’s vacancy at that position in 2017, it’s virtually a guarantee that Garner will continue to climb up the ranks in this class. He still has a plenty of work to do at his own position group. If he’s able to land two of Bryant, Johnson and Jackson, I’d consider this cycle quite a success for the Tigers.
But Garner doesn’t focus just on his own position group. He made opening contact with Moultry, Askew and Britt in the 2017 class. With Moultry especially, Garner played a big role in helping secure the top-ranked linebacker until Travis Williams came in and sealed the deal.
Again, Garner’s work isn’t done here, and he still finds himself in the top 50 in the country.
No. 67 Herb Hand
Commits responsible for: Austin Troxell, Nick Brahms, Calvin Ashley and Jordyn Peters
Targets remaining: Jordan Tucker, Adrian Ealy and Chase Lasater
My take: The first-year Auburn offensive line coach didn’t waste time assembling the offensive line class he wanted.
He set out on a mission to create the unofficial No. 1 offensive line class in the nation. The Tigers might not be quite there, but they’re certainly in the discussion with the likes of Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State. In fact, the offensive line is one of the two biggest strengths of this class.
Hand made big moves securing Brahms and Troxell. Of course, Ashley is the lone 5-star prospect in the entire class, so that was a major success. Holding onto him, which appears to be a safe bet at the moment, is critical.
Hand also played a part in the initial contact with Peters, a diamond-in-the-round safety.
The Auburn offensive line coach has a little bit of work left to do. With Alex Leatherwood likely a no-go, Hand will now turn his attention in other directions. Ealy is probably headed elsewhere, but it appears Tucker is likely to pick up an offer soon.
Auburn will have a good chance there, and Hand is the biggest reason why.
No. 99 Scott Fountain
Commits responsible for: Salvatore Cannella, Calvin Ashley, Anders Carlson and Bill Taylor
Targets remaining: Aubrey Solomon, Markaviest Bryant and Tray Bishop
My take: Fountain doesn’t get enough appreciation for his work on the recruiting trail, in my mind.
The names in this class don’t pop necessarily. Carlson probably didn’t take much work on the coaches’ end. His brother was already on campus and loved it. The recruiting job for him was a relatively simple one. Taylor is a long snapper, so it’s not like it was a chase for him like it is for other top prospects.
But he helped with Ashley. Plus, Cannella was the crowned non-Stidham jewel of the junior college signing period. That was all Fountain.
The tight ends and special teams coach flew out to Arizona at the beginning of December. He extended an offer. Two weeks later, the 6-foot-5 tight end inked with the Tigers. That was all based on the relationship Fountain forged with Cannella in short order.
Fountain still has some big moves to be made on the trail. Re-securing Bishop would be a major land. He will also be a contributor in the attempts to land Bryant and Solomon, as they are from his geographical area of focus.
That’s four Auburn assistants to crack the top 100. Well deserved.
No. 267 Travis Williams
Commits responsible for: Tadarian Moultry, KJ Britt and Chandler Wooten
Targets remaining: Deangelo Gibbs, Ryan Johnson, Thomas Johnston, Nate McBride and Tyler Taylor
My take: Talk about an underrating.
Williams is new to the game, but he has made a killing in his brief time. Much of his No. 267 ranking is based on Williams being listed as a secondary recruiter for the three linebackers on board. But, let’s be honest, Williams’ role was far from secondary.
Moultry, Britt and Wooten have all drooled over what Williams provides for Auburn. In fact, that father-like friendship is the No. 1 reason why all three said they ended up at Auburn.
Those three are grown men compared to many of their 17-year-old and 18-year-old peers. They bring a level of maturity not often seen by high school seniors. Williams knows how to pick them.
And his work isn’t complete. The Tigers would like to add another linebacker in the 2017 class. Taylor is option No. 1, and he has an immense amount of respect for the former Auburn linebacker.
Expect Williams to shoot up the rankings, and expect this to be the last time you find him outside the top 250. That’s almost laughable considering linebacker is the strength of this Auburn class, and Williams is the reason why.
No. 301 Wesley McGriff
Commits responsible for: Malcolm Askew, Jordyn Peters, Carlito Gonzalez and Traivon Leonard
Targets remaining: N/A
My take: McGriff isn’t going to be on the staff for much longer. But in his year on board, he managed to secure and add a quartet of defensive backs.
He’s caught a semi-bad rap on his way out because recruiting was presumably his strong suit. Yet, as of now, Auburn’s defensive backs class consists of one 4-star prospect and three 3-star prospects. That’s not always a tell-all. In fact, it’s sometimes a sign of a coaches’ ability to find the right fit.
But in Peters’ case and Leonard’s case, McGriff helped grab the commitment of two guys ranked outside the top 1,000. That isn’t going to wow people when it comes to recruiter rankings.
McGriff’s biggest job will go unfinished.
Devon Hunter, ranked in the top 50 overall, is one of the top uncommitted safeties remaining. He has Auburn firmly in contention to land his services, and McGriff is the primary reason for that. With McGriff’s departure, Auburn’s chances aren’t as high, but it’s still a distinct possibility.
Auburn still has some work to do in January to get there. If the Tigers do, McGriff deserves an assist.
Unranked Kodi Burns
Commits responsible for: Noah Igbninoghene
Targets remaining: Henry Ruggs, Tamorrion Terry and Nico Collins
My take: It’s not easy being one of the youngest assistant coaches in college football in your first season on a Power 5 staff.
Burns has learned the hard way the dog-eat-dog world that takes place on the recruiting trail. He also came on board at an inconvenient time. Last cycle, Auburn took three highly ranked wide receivers, which scared off some members of the 2017 class.
It also came at a time when Auburn showed moments of passing-game ineffectiveness, which also made recruiting a struggle. Still, Burns made quick work with in-state product Igbinoghene who adds a versatile quickness to an offense almost identical to what he ran in high school.
Burns will be judged primarily based on how things finish down the stretch. Ruggs would be a major get. Terry would be a success, as well. Collins isn’t as likely.
But if Auburn somehow finds a way to make it Igbingohene, Ruggs and Terry, then Burns will be ranked. And the Tigers will have a respectable wide receiver class in 2017.