Tommy Thigpen, Tennessee Buzz: Thigpen earned the prestigious title of Rivals.com National Recruiter of the Year by playing a major role in 17 of Tennessee's 31 signees. He's become the most important member of Butch Jones' staff when it comes to recruiting, and was integral in helping Tennessee come from out of the picture to the eventual home for five-star wide receiver Josh Malone. Thigpen's ability to connect not only with recruits, but with their parents, is one of the things that makes him one of the best closers in the business. Even when it looked like the Vols class was full in January, it was Thigpen who helped steal defensive tackles Jashon Robertson and Michael Sawyers away from in-state rival Vanderbilt. Things are changing in Knoxville and Thigpen has been a huge part of the recruiting turnaround.
MORE RIVALS.COM TOP 25 RECRUITERS (listed alphabetically)
Mike Bloomgren, Stanford Buzz: Stanford's 2014 offensive line class is one of the best in the Pac-12 and Bloomgren is a big reason why. He flipped Rivals 250 offensive lineman Reilly Gibbons from Miami just days before Signing Day, flipped three-star Jesse Burkett from Vanderbilt a few weeks before Signing Day and hauled in Casey Tucker, arguably the top tackle in the West. Bloomgren was the regional recruiter for Rivals 250 linebacker Bobby Okereke and fullback Daniel Marx among others in the impressive Cardinal class.
Kendal Briles, Baylor Buzz: Kendal Briles continues to build a reputation at Baylor as one of the top up-and-coming recruiters in the country. Briles was the Bears' lead recruiter for their two top prospects in the class. He was able to secure Davion Hall's commitment early on in the process and help the Bears fight off the likes of Alabama and Texas A&M. Then he was also able to spearhead Baylor's efforts to land KD Cannon, who chose Baylor over offers from across the country. Those two were not his only victories on the recruiting front, though. He also led the way in Houston for receivers Ishmael Zamora and Chris Platt, tight end Jordan Feuerbacher, and defensive end Xavier Jones.
Kerry Cooks, Notre Dame Buzz: Cooks did plenty to help Notre Dame this cycle and grabbed some great talent in the process. His biggest accomplishment wasn't landing a specific recruit, though. It was bigger than that. Cooks helped get Notre Dame involved with top-level talent in Texas. The Irish co-defensive coordinator signed three Lone Star State players with offers from Texas' new coaching staff, something that program had only done two times over the course of the last 10 recruiting cycles. Four-star defensive back Nick Watkins, defensive end Grant Blankenship and linebacker Kolin Hill are talented prospects, but the fact that they are from Texas is more important to Notre Dame in the long term. The Irish sign highly ranked prospects every February, but Cooks did something unique by making waves in Texas. That feat is miles more impressive than bringing a handful of four-stars to South Bend.
Lawrence Dawsey, Florida State Buzz: Dawsey is responsible for getting Florida State commitments from the best trio of wide receivers in the 2014 class. Travis Rudolph, the No. 1 rated receiver the country, followed through on his verbal commitment to the Seminoles. Florida State followed that up on National Signing Day by landing five-star receiver Ermon Lane, who was previously committed to Florida before de-committing earlier this year. Dawsey finally capped the run of receivers off with a big commitment from Javon Harrison, a four-star receiver out of Lakeland (Fla). In addition to those talented receivers, Dawsey was also the main recruiter for Rivals250 guard Corey Martinez and one of the main recruiters for Demarcus Christmas out of Bradenton (Fla).
John Garrison, Nebraska Buzz: Nebraska landed four four-star commits in the 2014 class and Garrison, the Cornhuskers' offensive line coach, had a hand in all four. Garrison's primary territories include Illinois and Missouri, where three of Nebraska's four-star commits hail from. It was Garrison who identified and offered Highland, Ill., offensive guard Tanner Farmer at last summer's camp. Farmer continued to raise his stock throughout his senior year and ended as a Rivals100 member and Nebraska's highest-rated prospect. Garrison then went out and assisted Barney Cotton in landing Las Vegas four-star offensive tackle Nick Gates and was the primary recruiter for four-star Kansas City-area wide receiver Monte Harrison and three-star Kansas defensive lineman Peyton Newell.
Cale Gundy, Oklahoma Buzz: Who was responsible for landing Oklahoma's biggest recruit of the 2014 class? Cale Gundy, that's who, and for his efforts to secure five-star running back Joe Mixon out of California, he now finds himself among the Big 12's finest recruiters. It does not hurt that he also played a big part in securing the services of Rivals250 running back Samaje Perine, who lives just 20 minutes away from the University of Texas. The haul at running back is one of the best in the country and helped the Sooners rake in the top class in the Big 12.
Odell Haggins, Florida State Buzz: Haggins went into Virginia and landed Rivals100 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, who was a heavy lean to Virginia Tech early into the season. In addition, Haggins was also able to pull in Rivals250 four-star prospect Demarcus Christmas, who is considered one of the best defensive tackles in the state of Florida. Haggins was also the main recruiter for four-star athlete Javon Harrison, who he flipped from Virginia Tech on National Signing Day. Haggins was also one of the main recruiters for four-star defensive end Rick Leonard.
Harry Hiestand, Notre Dame Buzz: Hiestand helped sign four offensive linemen from four different states. All of them were four-star prospects or better and three of them played in top-level All-American games. Five-star tackle Quenton Nelson is the gem of the Irish's 2014 class and the No. 29 prospect in America. Four-stars Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher and Jimmy Byrne are impact players as well. Hiestand accounted for top-end talent and depth, making Notre Dame's offensive line class one of the country's two best.
Mike Locksley, Maryland Buzz: Locksley is known as one of the country's top recruiters of the Washington D.C. area. He is responsible for getting the Terps commitments from one five-star, two four-stars, two three-stars and a two-star. Locksley's best recruit this year was Damian Prince. He should pay immediate dividends on the field and help recruiting efforts in the Maryland area. Locksley was also the main recruiter for defensive end Jesse Aniebonam, Derwin Gray, Larry Mazyck, William Ulmer and Antwaine Carter.
Tee Martin, USC Buzz: One of the only holdovers from the previous regime, Martin is an excellent recruiter and showed it late when USC fared phenomenally well on National Signing Day. Martin was pivotal in landing five-star athlete Adoree' Jackson and five-star safety John Smith on Wednesday. Four-star offensive guard Damien Mama also chose the Trojans and Martin was key in his recruitment. The USC assistant coach who has tremendous connections across the country also worked hard on landing Olajuwon Tucker, Rahshead Johnson, Chris Brown and others.
Bryan McClendon, Georgia Buzz: There was a lot of turnover on the Georgia staff in the month leading up to Signing Day, but McClendon staying helped the Dawgs finish with one of the top classes in the SEC. Rivals100 defensive end Lorenzo Carter picked Georgia despite not having a position coach, which shows just how good of a rapport he build with McClendon. Also, McClendon was integral in pulling five-star running back Sony Michel out of South Florida and landing the nation's No. 35 overall player, running back Nick Chubb. Throw in Rivals250 prospects like Kendall Baker and Isaiah Wynn and it's clear why McClendon had one of the best years in the SEC.
Billy Napier, Alabama Buzz: Napier took the recruiting reins and position for Mike Groh, who was named the Rivals.com National Recruiter of the Year in 2013. Napier picked up right where Groh left off. He was in charge of a few vital areas this year, especially north Louisiana, where he snagged commitments from the nation's top offensive lineman in Cameron Robinson and Rivals100 safety Laurence Jones -- two prospects LSU wanted to keep home. He also added commitments from four-star wide receiver Cameron Sims and three-star defensive tackle O.J. Smith. Napier finally secured a commitment from Rivals100 defensive tackle Josh Frazier, who is also the No. 1 player in Arkansas. Frazier's mom credited Napier for winning her blessing for her son to attend Alabama.
Terry Price, Texas A&M Buzz: Bringing back the Wrecking Crew to Texas A&M has been a priority over the last few years and that effort starts up front with the defensive line. Without a doubt, the Aggies were able to get some difference-makers with Terry Price leading the way. He was instrumental in securing the services of the nation's No. 2 prospect, Myles Garrett. He tapped into Arizona for Rivals100 defensive end Qualen Cunningham. He swayed defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson from Texas at the end and he was able to secure the services of DeShawn Washington early in the process. The group is one of the best in the country and will go a long way in strengthening the Aggie defense.
Corey Raymond, LSU Buzz: Raymond's reach was far and wide for the 2014 recruiting class. He hit home with Rivals250 defensive lineman Davon Godchaux and he was the key to success in the hotbeds of Florida and Texas. Raymond was able to get the job done with two of the nation's top safety prospects in Edward Paris and Jamal Adams, and then he tapped into Florida for Rivals250 standout John Battle. His hardest job may have been securing the services of Rivals100 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine out of the Miami-area. The Tigers were able to beat out the hometown Miami Hurricanes and get him to Baton Rouge on Signing Day.
Travaris Robinson, Florida Buzz: Florida made headlines with its ability to land big names down the stretch despite a lackluster season and nobody deserves more credit for the late push than Robinson. He helped land five-star Jalen Tabor even after the defensive back committed to Arizona during the Under Armour All-America Game and then finished things off on Signing Day with the flip of Rivals100 quarterback Treon Harris from rival Florida State. He also kept the commitment of Rivals250 defensive back J.C. Jackson despite some signs that he might flip from the Gators, and landed four-star Quincy Wilson early and held him until the end. Other impressive signees recruited by Robinson include defensive back Duke Dawson, four-star defensive tackle Khairi Clark and offensive weapon Brandon Powell.
Jeff Scott, Clemson Buzz: The Tigers needed to reload at receiver with the departures of Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. So it was their good fortune that their best recruiter oversees recruitment of that position. Scott wasn't their area recruiter, but he played a leading role in securing four-stars Artavis Scott, Trevion Thompson and Demarre Kitt. Scott did reel in another pass-catcher in tight end Milan Richard, and his efforts also served significantly in Clemson holding onto five-star quarterback Deshaun Watson during his two-year commitment. There are no moral victories in recruiting, but it's also worth noting Scott positioned Clemson as contenders till the end for a pair of five-stars as well in Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State) and Josh Malone (Tennessee).
Kirby Smart, Alabama Buzz: Smart has always been good at building relationships and the 2014 cycle is no exception. When Alabama fans were cheering the signing of five-star linebacker Rashaan Evans on National Signing Day, it was Smart who was the man responsible. Closing the class with Evans and signing Rivals100 linebackers Christian Miller and Shaun Dion Hamilton as well five-star defensive back Marlon Humphrey gives Smart another year as one of the country's top recruiters.
Zach Smith, Ohio State Buzz: Ohio State is always going to get their fair share of the top talent in the state of Ohio, but what separates great Ohio State classes from average classes is being able to go outside their region and take top talent from local schools and other big name programs. Head coach Urban Meyer put Smith on some of the Buckeyes' toughest out-of-state recruiting battles in this 2014 class, and the second-year wide receivers coach was responsible for several of those out-of-state four-star wins. Virginia defensive end Jalyn Holmes had schools from across the country knocking down his door, but it was the work of Smith that landed his commitment in June. Four-star New Jersey athlete Noah Brown joined Smith's "get-list" in September after Smith got him on campus early for an official visit that convinced him he needed to see no more. Maybe Smith's most difficult, and thus most impressive, recruiting win was getting Rivals250 wide receiver Johnnie Dixon out of South Florida. There are coaches in the Big Ten that pulled in more commits, but none won as many impressive battles as Smith.
Mark Staten, Michigan State Buzz: There were several factors to Michigan State landing one of their best recruiting classes of all time. The Big Ten championship. The Rose Bowl win. A stifling defense. Another important factor was the effort of Staten, the Spartans; offensive line coach. He started off with an easy win by grabbing four-star legacy Brian Allen, but then he upped the ante. Pretty soon four-star running back Madre London was on board. Then he pulled off a big coup by grabbing Pennsylvania's top prospect, Montae Nicholson, and held off Penn State down the stretch to get him signed. Throw in a pair of three-star offensive linemen in Chase Gianacakos and Nick Padla and this class would not look as impressive as it does without Staten's efforts.
Ed Warinner, Ohio State Buzz: Ohio State reeled in the nation's No. 3 class and one of their strongest position groups was the offensive line. As the offensive line coach, Warinner had at least a hand in all of those battles, and he also helped pull in several East Coast prospects. One of the most watched battles down the stretch was for Rivals100 offensive tackle Jamarco Jones. Former assistant Mike Vrabel had been the lead on Jones, but when he departed for the NFL, it was up to Warinner to hold off a hard-charging Michigan State and get Jones' letter of intent sent to Columbus. He also assisted on Rivals100 offensive guard Demetrius Knox and four-star offensive tackle Kyle Trout, while flipping three-star offensive tackle Brady Taylor from Virginia Tech. Warinner was also the lead recruiter on Rivals100 wide receiver Curtis Samuel and assisted on four-star Noah Brown and three-star Darius Slade.
Chip West, Virginia Buzz: In the aftermath of a 2-10 season, Virginia somehow managed to have one of the ACC's best classes and much of that was built on the work that West did in the Virginia Beach area the past few years. West was the lead recruiter for five-stars Quin Blanding, Andrew Brown, one of the nation's top wide receivers in Jamil Kamara and three-star quarterback Corwin Cutler. In addition, when Virginia lost two very good recruiters, West stepped in and helped the Cavaliers hold on to the committed players in other regions. Virginia recruited these players without a winning tradition or the momentum from success on the field and though the class was small due to limited scholarships, that makes the class all the more impressive.
Frank Wilson, LSU Buzz: It is no surprise to see Frank Wilson among the nation's top recruiters. He has proven to be one of the best over the course of his college coaching career. In 2014, he was challenged with securing the services of several of the nation's top prospects and he came through with the two biggest the state of Louisiana had to offer. Five-star running back Leonard Fournette was probably the top priority of the staff and Wilson was charged with securing his services. He was able to fight off every school in the country and get him to Baton Rouge. He also played a big role in the recruitment of five-star wide receiver Malachi Dupre, and Rivals250 standouts Darrel Williams and William Clapp. It was a big year on the recruiting front for LSU and Wilson was without a doubt a big reason why.