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February 6, 2012

Nation's top 25 recruiters

MORE: Durkin is Recruiter of the Year | Team rankings

In 2011, Rivals.com once again named its top 25 recruiters of the year. However, absent from the group were coaches from Florida, Miami, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan for varying reasons. That's not the case this year as all of the above powers are well represented with the Gators boasting Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year D.J. Durkin.

"Last year was an odd year for sure," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell. "We had some major programs that had down years and some others that had very good years without one coach standing head and shoulders above the rest of the staff. This year things were back to normal so to speak and there was a lot of parity in regards to the conferences when it came to naming the top recruiters."

Here's a closer look at the coaches who made the list.

RIVALS.COM TOP 25 RECRUITERS
RIVALS.COM RECRUITER OF THE YEAR
D.J. Durkin, Florida
Buzz: Florida's linebacker coach and special teams coordinator had one of the most impressive hauls in the nation bringing in five Rivals250 prospects, including a pair of national top 10 prospects from outside the state. Durkin dipped into North Carolina and landed the nation's No. 2 overall player in Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek five-star offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and the nation's No. 6 overall player in Shelby (N.C.) Crest five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard. Other prospects landed by Durkin include Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast four-star cornerback Brian Poole, Largo (Fla.) Pinellas Park four-star linebacker Jeremi Powell, Venice (Fla.) High four-star defensive tackle Dante Phillips, Boiling Springs (N.C.) Crest safety Rhaheim Ledbetter, and Clemmons (N.C.) West Forsyth three-star defensive end Alex McCalister.
MORE RIVALS.COM TOP 25 RECRUITERS
Lance Anderson, Stanford
Buzz: Stanford's offensive line class could be one of the best in college football history and Anderson played a large role in getting it done. Anderson was instrumental in getting five-star offensive tackle Andrus Peat and four-star offensive guard Brandon Fanaika plus he played a role in landing five-star Kyle Murphy and four-star Joshua Garnett. He also assisted with four-star linebacker Noor Davis and three-star safety Zach Hoffpauir, who flipped from Cal late in the process.
Jerry Azzinaro, Oregon
Buzz: Azzinaro was instrumental in landing some of the top-rated players in Oregon's class, including four-star defensive ends Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, junior college defensive tackle Stetzon Bair, four-star tight end Pharaoh Brown, sleeper Cody Carriger and many others. Oregon's class didn't have quite the flair it did last recruiting cycle when it got five-stars Colt Lyerla and De'Anthony Thomas late in the process, but this class is strong from top to bottom and Azzinaro is a big reason for that success.
David Beaty, Texas A&M
Buzz: The Aggies' wide receiver coach arrived from Kansas with not much time before signing day. However, he still made a huge impact for new head coach Kevin Sumlin. One of Beaty's first moves was to flip longtime Oklahoma Rivals100 cornerback commit DeVante Harris to A&M. The Under Armour All-American had given no signs of wavering from his Sooner pledge prior to that. Beaty then landed another former Oklahoma commit in defensive end Polo Manukainiu the week of signing day. His biggest coup, though, came on signing day itself when the nation's No. 34 overall prospect, wide receiver Thomas Johnson, and former Texas commit chose the Aggies. Beaty also turned A&M onto standout junior college receiver Derel Walker, who was previously committed to Kansas as well as defensive tackle Edmund Ray, a longtime Missouri commitment who surprised almost everybody by sending a letter-of-intent to A&M.
Dameyune Craig, Florida State
Buzz: Craig, who is Florida State's quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator, went for quality over quantity. He also raided one of the toughest states in the nation to pull top-tier prospects away from, Alabama, and landed three of its best. The Alabama haul includes Hueytown (Ala.) five-star quarterback Jameis Winston, Mobile (Ala.) Davidson four-star weakside defensive end Chris Casher, and Prattville (Ala.) four-star defensive tackle Justin Shanks - all Rivals250 prospects that were pursued by Alabama and Auburn. He also dipped into Georgia and landed four-star Rivals100 linebacker Ukeme Eligwe.
Bo Davis, Texas
Buzz: The Longhorn defensive tackle coach helped land the nation's No. 2 class at his position, including five-star Malcom Brown and four-star Paul Boyette Jr., but his contributions were not limited to the defensive line. Davis was instrumental in pulling off one of the biggest signing day shockers when long-time LSU linebacker commit and U.S. Army All-American Torshiro Davis decided to leave the state of Louisiana and sign with Texas. Davis had recruited Torshiro Davis when he was still at Alabama and never gave up on him despite his commitment to the Tigers. Davis also convinced Mack Brown to go the junior college route for the first time in recent memory and the Longhorns landed two top prospects in Donald Hawkins and Brandon Moore. Brown raved about Davis on signing day as the Longhorns wrapped up the nation's No. 2 overall class.
Mike Denbrock, Notre Dame
Buzz: Notre Dame needed to target the West Coast in this class to have success and despite the National Signing Day loss of Deontay Greenberry, the Irish still scored some top talent from the region in Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif.), Ronnie Stanley (Las Vegas, Nev.) and KeiVarae Russell (Everett, Wash.). Shepard could be a four-year starter for the Irish, Stanley a long-term solution at offensive tackle and Russell a slot receiver or running back. The West Coast has always been critical to Notre Dame's recruiting success and Denbrock pounded the pavement there, keeping the Irish in the mix for elite talent until the very end, which wasn't the case with other regions.
Lester Erb, Iowa
Buzz: Iowa signed a solid class of 24 prospects that ranked as the No. 41 overall group in the country, but the class would have looked a lot different were it not for the efforts of Erb. The Hawkeye's running backs and special teams coach was responsible for landing all four of Iowa's four-star prospects in the 2012 class - running back Greg Garmon, defensive end Faith Ekakitie, defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and offensive lineman Ryan Ward. Three of those prospects hail from the Chicago area and there may not be a coach in the country who is recruiting the Windy City better than Erb right now. He also picked up versatile three-star athlete Maurice Fleming Jr. from that region, and landed punter Connor Kornbrath from West Virginia, who is one of the nation's top punting prospects and has a chance to start as a true freshman.
Luke Fickell, Ohio State
Buzz: With no coaching responsibilities preparing for the bowl game, head coach Urban Meyer was able to devote the vast majority of his efforts to recruiting, and thus was responsible for the majority of the Buckeyes' late run that vaulted them into the top five of the final team recruiting rankings. However, before Meyer was brought in on Nov. 28, Fickell not only was the interim head coach, but also responsible for holding onto a recruiting class in the wake of Jim Tressel's departure. The Fickell-led staff lost just one prospect committed before Tressel resigned and added seven commitments in six months. He led the charge in landing five-star Adolphus Washington from the get-go as well as four-star Josh Perry and he also flipped Se'Von Pittman from Michigan State. Fickell was dealt a tough hand and played it well.
Todd Grantham, Georgia
Buzz: The Georgia defensive coordinator played a significant role in the Bulldogs' signings of four top players. He was the primary recruiter with five-star athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons of Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes, who will play outside linebacker in Athens. Grantham also led the recruitment of Rivals100 defensive end Jordan Jenkins of Harris County (Ga.). Additionally, Grantham played key roles in Georgia getting four-star defensive end Josh Dawson of Tucker (Ga.) and cornerback Sheldon Dawson of Memphis (Tenn.) Ridgeway. Josh Dawson flipped on signing day from Vanderbilt after an in-home visit spearheaded by Grantham a few days earlier.
Jeff Hafley, Rutgers
Buzz: Prior to the arrival of Hafley, the relationship between Rutgers and perennial national power Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep was lukewarm at best. Hafley brought two Don Bosco recruits to Rutgers shortly after being hired last year, and he followed that up this year by getting commitments from five-star Darius Hamilton and four-star Leonte Carroo, both top five prospects in the state. He was also credited with commitments from Davon Jacobs, Julian Pinnix-Odrick and Steve Longa. But perhaps most impressive was his efforts to keep the Scarlet Knights' recruiting class together upon the defection of Greg Schiano to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers six days before Signing Day. Hafley clearly led Rutgers to a top 25 recruiting class and to the top spot in the Big East.
Odell Haggins, Florida State
Buzz: Haggins was a big closer on National Signing Day as the Seminoles' defensive line coach landed the commitments and signatures of Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy five-star defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac four-star cornerback Ronald Darby. He also helped to switch Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast four-star outside linebacker Reggie Northrup away from Miami to the Seminoles on National Signing Day. DeFuniak Springs (Fla.) Walton three-star defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey was one that Haggins had no drama in landing, as he wrapped up his commitment extremely early in the process.
Adrian Klemm, UCLA
Buzz: Klemm developed a reputation at SMU as an ace recruiter especially at getting Southern California talent and now that he's at UCLA things have already changed in the recruiting landscape. Klemm was instrumental in the Bruins getting signatures from Ishmael Adams, Alexandru Ceachir, Colby Cyburt, Simon Goines, Carl Hulick, Kenny Orjioke, Aaron Porter, Jordan Payton and others. UCLA was one of the biggest surprises down the stretch in the country and Klemm was a huge part of it.
Derek Lewis, Florida
Buzz: Lewis was overshadowed a bit by the haul of Durkin, but he was responsible or heavily involved in the signing of six players in Florida's class, all of them four- or five-star prospects. He flipped Dante Fowler Jr. away from Florida State on Signing Day, put together the nation's top tight end class by landing Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson and held onto Brian Poole despite a late charge by Notre Dame. Running back Matt Jones and Jeremi Powell are also under his charge.
Tosh Lupoi, Washington
Buzz: Lupoi arrived late in the recruiting process from Cal so he cannot get credit for all the stars in Washington's class but the Huskies closed well late and Lupoi's fingerprints are all over some of the standouts who flipped. Five-star Shaq Thompson took a late unofficial visit to Washington and then signed with the Huskies. Four-star defensive end Pio Vatuvei came over from USC and three-star defensive back Cleveland Wallace flipped from Oregon State on signing day. Lupoi's departure from Cal to Washington caused such a firestorm because he is clearly one of the nation's best recruiters, and if he stuck at Cal the Bears would have pushed for a top 5 class nationally.
Greg Mattison, Michigan
Buzz: It did not take Mattison long to shake off the recruiting rust after spending three years in the NFL. The former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator stepped in and immediately made an impact in the final month of the 2011 recruiting class, then came out and started the 2012 class on fire, landing commitments from eight prospects (one five-star, five four-stars and two three-stars) before the end of July. The crown jewel in that group was five-star offensive tackle Kyle Kalis, whom Mattison was able to flip from Big Ten rival Ohio State, then hold onto after Urban Meyer came to Columbus and tried to re-recruit Kalis back the Buckeyes. With the addition of Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville three-star defensive tackle Willie Henry in the final week of the process, Mattison was the lead or secondary recruiter in nine of the Wolverine's 25 signees in the 2012 class.
George McDonald, Miami
Buzz: McDonald entered the recruiting year with a modest reputation as a recruiter, but put himself on the map in a big way by making a massive contribution to Miami's top 10 recruiting class of 33 signees. McDonald took a lead role in landing Miami's two five-star recruits, defensive back Tracy Howard from Miramar, Fla., and running back Randy Johnson from Miami (Fla.) Norland. In between the Hurricanes receivers coach made sure the Canes shored up his huge position of need. He was the primary recruiter of four-star receiver prospects Malcolm Lewis of Miramar, Fla., and Robert Lockhart of Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy and of three-star receiver D'Mauri Jones of Leesburg, Fla. McDonald also assisted on three-star receiver prospect Herb Waters of Miami (Fla.) Homestead and three-star Georgia receiver Jontavious Carter. He also added four-star prospect Ereck Flowers of Miami (Fla.) Norland and in the defensive backfield by recruiting cornerback Larry Hope from Miami (Fla.) American.
Jay Norvell, Oklahoma
Buzz: The Sooner co-offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach helped Oklahoma land one of the best classes at the position in the history of the Rivals.com ranking. Norvell kept five-star wide receiver Trey Metoyer in the fold after he headed the prep school route for a semester. Most impressive, however, was the fact he was able to gain a commitment from Rivals100 receiver Durron Neal, beating nearby Missouri and longtime favorite Alabama. He also landed U.S. Army All-American Derrick Woods from California, who many said would never leave the West Coast, as well as Under Armour All-American Sterling Shepard. He then pulled a big signing day coup when four-star junior college receiver Courtney Gardner switched from his longtime Arkansas pledge to sign with Oklahoma.
Ed Orgeron, USC
Buzz: Orgeron is one of the nation's best recruiters and there's no question he was instrumental in USC's class this recruiting cycle. Four-star safety Gerald Bowman, four-star defensive end Morgan Breslin, three-star fullback Jahleel Pinner, five-star offensive guard Jordan Simmons, four-star offensive tackle Max Tuerk and others were recruited by Orgeron throughout the process. Orgeron is USC's ace recruiter so pretty much everyone who signed with the Trojans had been involved with him in one way or another.
Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama
Buzz: Alabama's secondary coach landed seven prospects with an average star ranking of four stars. Leading the class is Panama City (Fla.) Arnold five-star athlete Eddie Williams, who Alabama locked up early on in the process, and Daphne (Ala.) five-star running back T.J. Yeldon, who Alabama switched from in-state rival Auburn down the stretch. Pruitt also dipped into Florida for four-star wide receiver Chris Black from Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast, who Alabama beat out Florida State for. Other in-state prospects he landed include Rivals250 linebackers Ryan Anderson of Daphne (Ala.) and Tyler Hayes of Thomasville (Ala.). He also was lead recruit on Prattville (Ala.) three-star offensive guard Caleb Gulledge and Mobile (Ala.) Davidson three-star defensive tackle Alphonse Taylor. Taylor switched his commitment from Florida State to Alabama.
Jeff Scott, Clemson
Buzz: Scott, one of the top recruiters in the ACC last year, has an impressive haul in the class of 2012 as well. He was the lead recruiter for two four-star prospects, Travis Blanks from Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian and Kevin Dodd from Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy and he assisted on the commitment of Charlotte (N.C.) O'Berry wide receiver Germone Hopper. Scott also brought in three-stars Patrick Destefano and Jay Jay McCullough. Clemson once again finished with one of the top classes in the ACC and Scott played a big role.
Kirby Smart, Alabama
Buzz: The Alabama defensive coordinator came up big in the Peach State, helping the Tide sign four solid players from Georgia. One of them, four-star defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson of Henry County (Ga.), announced for Alabama on signing day. Smart landed him by fighting off both Georgia and Georgia Tech for Tomlinson's signature. Smart also grabbed two Rivals250 players in inside linebacker Dillon Lee of Buford (Ga.) High and Kenyan Drake, a speedy running back from Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove. Additionally, he inked defensive tackle Dakota Ball of Lindale (Ga.) High.
Trooper Taylor, Auburn
Buzz: Taylor was involved with many of the Tigers' top signees. In Georgia, he was the primary recruiter on several four-star players, including Rivals100 receiver JaQuay Williams of Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek. Georgia made a late charge for Williams. Cornerback Joshua Holsey of Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside, receiver Ricardo Louis of Miami Beach (Fla.) and tight end Ricky Parks of Hogansville (Ga.) Callaway each are members of the Rivals250. Taylor also played a role in the recruitment of players such as offensive linemen Jordan Diamond and Avery Young, and running back Jovon Robinson. All are four-star prospects.
Mike Vrabel, Ohio State
Buzz: Urban Meyer gets much of the credit for the great run towards the top of Ohio State for the class of 2012, but he couldn't have done it without Vrabel. Ohio State landed 10 of its 25 commitments after Meyer was hired and Vrabel played a key role with many of them. He led the charge with five-star Noah Spence, flipped Tommy Schutt from Penn State, lured David Perkins to Columbus and closed out on the Massachusetts duo of Camren Williams and Armani Reeves. The ex-Ohio State star is one of the best recruiters in the business.
Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina
Buzz: The South Carolina defensive coordinator/secondary coach came up big in neighboring Georgia, landing nine players, including three four-star prospects. The headliner of the Gamecocks' Peach State haul is Rivals100 tailback Mike Davis of Stone Mountain Stephenson. The one-time Florida commit rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in 2011 and has a good chance to compete early in Columbia. Safety Chaz Elder of College Park Banker also was a significant pickup. Ditto for four-star offensive guard Joe Harris of Lithonia. The group of three-star prospects is a good one, too. Defensive back Rico McWilliams of Hampton Lovejoy is a gritty player. Another defensive back, Chris Moody, was committed to Vanderbilt before Ward got him to flip in the 11th hour.



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