We all know head coaches and scholarship players enjoy A-list celebrity status on SEC campuses. It’s a wonderful perk for competing in a high-profile, football-mad conference.
But for January and February, there is no campus figure bigger than an SEC program’s recruiting coordinator — the true rock stars before, during and after the period surrounding National Signing Day.
In the last month, I’ve consulted the recruiting-rankings work of 247Sports.com nearly every day as a means of research for future columns. But the pure football fan in me has become eminently fascinated by 247Sports’ “Recruiter Rankings” — a singular listing of the nation’s best closers with blue-chip recruits.
This raises the question: How did we survive without these quirky, highly specialized rankings in previous years?
A decade ago, Ed Orgeron parlayed a wildly successful reputation as a defensive line coach/recruiting maestro into the head-coaching job at Ole Miss. But the general public had no means of quantifying The Big O’s salesmanship acumen with powerhouses like Miami (Fla.) and Southern California; we simply honored other coaches’ words that Orgeron was the best recruiter in the business.
Fast forward to the present: With a simple click to 247Sports.com, or any other site which personalizes the recruiting process, we can learn that Southern California’s Tee Martin (the starting quarterback of Tennessee’s national championship squad from 1998), Alabama’s Bo Davis and Auburn’s Rodney Garner rank as the country’s most prolific recruiters for 2016.
CLASS OF 2016: SEC’s TOP 15 RECRUITERS (source: 247Sports)
1. Bo Davis, Alabama
2. Rodney Garner, Auburn
3. Dameyune Craig, Auburn
4. Bradley Dale Peveto, LSU
5. Matt Luke, Ole Miss
6. Kevin Sherrer, UGA
7. Ed Orgeron, LSU
8. Tosh Lupoi, Alabama
9. Herb Hand, Auburn
10. Barry Lunney Jr., Arkansas
11. James Coley, UGA
12. Maurice Harris, Ole Miss
13. John Schlarman, Kentucky
14. Chris Kiffin, Ole Miss
15. Travaris Robinson, South Carolina
Digging deeper, three schools (Auburn, Florida State, Michigan) amazingly boast two stars in the top 10 “Recruiter Rankings.” Throw in how Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables earned a No. 5 national ranking with his part-time gig, and it’s almost criminal that Venables has never been a head coach at any level.
Which brings us to this: An elite-level recruiting coordinator can essentially write his own ticket at the university level, but do these personnel marvels make for strong head coaches?
(Note: Alabama, led by the incomparable Nick Saban, has won four national championships since 2009; and within that span, the Crimson Tide have finished either 1st or 2nd eight times in 247Sports.com’s recruiting rankings.)
After all, if recruiting remains the lifeblood of a successful college program, shouldn’t a five-star recruiting coordinator subsequently get first or second dibs at the prime head-coaching vacancies?
It’s a perfectly plausible question to ponder — even with Orgeron’s 3-21 SEC record at Ole Miss from 2005-07.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.