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 its 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.
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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. He was also the primary recruiter for four-star Kansas City-area wide receiver Monte Harrison and three-star Kansas defensive lineman Peyton Newell.
Jeff Hecklinski, Michigan Buzz: Hecklinski has done a lot of the dirty work on Brady Hoke's recruiting staff during his time in Ann Arbor, and in 2014 he was undoubtedly the Wolverines' most valuable recruiter. The headliner of the group Michigan's wide receiver coach brought in is Rivals100 offensive lineman Mason Cole, whom Hecklinski went into Florida for and had to steal away from the in-state schools and several SEC programs. Chicagoland four-star tight end Ian Bunting was another big grab for Hecklinski, and he also gave assists on four-stars Drake Harris and Freddy Canteen and three-stars Brandon Watson and Maurice Ways. Additional recruiting wins credited to Hecklinski include three-star quarterback Wilton Speight and two-star defensive tackle Brady Pallante, where he assisted defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
William Inge, Indiana Buzz: A year ago, Inge was not a part of this Indiana staff, but he was a big reason why the Hoosiers were able to continue their momentum after their program-best 2013 class. Inge took over as linebackers coach last March and immediately hit the recruiting trail. He went out to Iowa Western C.C. and landed offensive tackle DeAndre Herron, who had signed with Louisville out of high school. Then he reeled in his first linebacker commit in the fall with three-star Dameon Willis. His most impressive wins, however, came in the last month of the process when he fought off the likes of Louisville, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wisconsin to land linebacker Tegray Scales and went down and changed Florida linebacker Greg Gooch's mind in the final days to steal him away from Iowa State.
Matt MacPherson, Northwestern Buzz: Northwestern highlights the fact that they are Chicago's Big Ten team, but that has not always translated over to recruiting wins in the Chicagoland area. MacPherson, the Wildcats' long-time running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, was a major factor in Northwestern having one of their best recruiting efforts in the Chicagoland area in 2014. Just a small class, MacPherson was primary or secondary on six of the Wildcats' 15 signees. The biggest gets, though, were Chicagoland four-stars Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson. MacPherson was the primary recruiter, and future position coach, for Jackson, while he was assisted by offensive coordinator Mick McCall with Thorson. Additional gets credited to MacPherson include three-star running back Auston Anderson, two-star wide receiver Nate Hall, two-star safety Jared McGee and two-star defensive end Xavier Washington.
Brad Salem, Michigan State Buzz: Whether or not the Spartans are able to get five-star defensive end Malik McDowell signed, 2014 will go down as another big recruiting effort for Salem. The Spartans' running backs coach handles their southeast Michigan recruiting and that is where they did a lot of damage. Besides McDowell, Salem also landed commitments (and subsequent letters of intent) from three-stars David Beedle, Matt Sokol, Matt Morrissey and Jalen Watts-Jackson. His biggest pull of the 2014 class -- outside of the unsigned McDowell -- was four-star defensive tackle Craig Evans. Salem was Evans' primary recruiter and kept the Rivals250 prospect interested in Michigan State even after he made repeated commitments to Wisconsin. When the Badgers and Evans parted ways, Salem had Michigan State in position to swoop in and sign him.
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.
Ben Strickland, Wisconsin Buzz: Wisconsin had a strong group of in-state 2014 commits when Bret Bielema bailed to take the Arkansas job. It was then up to Strickland, a holdover from Bielema's staff, to keep those prospects committed after Gary Andersen took over as the Badgers' head coach last winter. Of the four in-state prospects that had originally committed to Bielema, Strickland eventually got three of them signed -- offensive linemen Jaden Gault and George Panos and defensive lineman Conor Sheehy. Additionally, he was the lead on three-star defensive end Billy Hirschfeld, who committed to Wisconsin last spring, and also reeled in Beau Benzschawel, and Jacob Maxwell.
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.
Chris White, Iowa Buzz: White spent four years in the NFL before he joined Kirk Ferentz's staff last February as running backs and special teams coordinator. It is obvious based on his efforts over the last year, though, that White has not forgotten how to recruit. White helped re-establish Iowa's presence out East, landing three-stars Marcel Joly, Omar Truitt and Miles Taylor from the Washington D.C. area and three-star linebacker Jameer Outsey and two-star defensive end Terrence Harris out of New Jersey. White also addressed the Hawkeyes' special teams, adding JUCO punter Dillon Kidd out of California and placekicker Mick Ellis out of Texas.