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Power Ranking SEC Football Head Coaches by Recruiting Skills

Sebastian LenaAnalyst IDecember 18, 2013

Power Ranking SEC Football Head Coaches by Recruiting Skills

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    Nobody brings in top talent like Saban (right).
    Nobody brings in top talent like Saban (right).John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    No conference has dominated the college football recruiting trail quite like the SEC.

    Year after year, the conference floods the top of the recruiting class rankings. It’s a large reason why the SEC has boasted seven consecutive BCS national champions.

    But who are the best recruiting head coaches inside the conference?

    Join B/R as we take a closer look and power rank all 14 SEC head coaches in terms of recruiting.

    All recruiting class rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

14. Bret Bielema (Arkansas)

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    More is expected out of Bielema.
    More is expected out of Bielema.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 1

    W-L: 3-9

    2014 Commitments: 17 (two 4-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    After never winning fewer than seven games in seven seasons with Wisconsin, Bret Bielema certainly received a wake-up call with the Razorbacks. 

    The team started 3-0, but finished 3-9 and 0-8 in SEC play. It was Arkansas’ worst conference mark since entering the SEC and its first winless conference record since 1942.

    It became clear that Bielema will really need to step up his recruiting game if he wants to turn this around.

    Unfortunately, that’s not his strong suit.

    During his tenure with the Badgers, Bielema’s recruiting classes were constantly in the bottom half of the Big Ten. It doesn't look like that will change anytime soon, as his 2014 class is currently ranked No. 34.

    Bielema will soon find out that the SEC isn’t as forgiving as the Big Ten.

13. Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)

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    Mullen needs to step it up recruiting-wise.
    Mullen needs to step it up recruiting-wise.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 5

    W-L: 35-28

    2014 Commitments: 17 (three 4-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    Following his first two years with the Bulldogs, confidence was high in Dan Mullen.

    The 41-year-old led the team to a 9-4 record in just his second year (2010)—Mississippi State’s first nine-win season since 1999—and had expectations for the program on the rise.

    But in the three years since, Mullen has led the Bulldogs to seven, eight and six wins, respectively. His recruiting classes have never cracked the top 20, via 247Sports, and his 2014 class is currently No. 39.

    It certainly doesn't help that Mullen’s recruiting reputation will forever be stained by the whole Cam Newton ordeal.

    All in all, Mullen seems to be heading in the wrong direction in terms of recruiting.

    And in a college football world that has become trigger-happy with letting go of coaches, one can only imagine Mullen’s clock is quickly running out.

12. Gary Pinkel (Missouri)

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    Will Pinkel sink or swim in the SEC?
    Will Pinkel sink or swim in the SEC?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 13

    W-L: 101-63

    2014 Commitments: 26 (three 4-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    Despite putting together four seasons with 10 or more wins, Gary Pinkel has never really had great recruiting success.

    In fact, since 2011, his recruiting classes have ranked No. 51, 35 and 38, respectively. Pinkel’s current 2014 class is sitting at No. 30.

    Even when the Tigers win, the 61-year-old has failed to bring in the big guns. The team won 10 games the year before that No. 51-ranked class. 

    Playing in the SEC should certainly help. But then again, if Pinkel’s lack of success on the recruiting trail continues, five-win seasons such as 2012 will quickly become the norm.

    Who knows how many more of those seasons Pinkel’s career at Missouri can withstand?

11. Mark Stoops (Kentucky)

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    Stoops will try to make an impact in Lexington sooner rather than later.
    Stoops will try to make an impact in Lexington sooner rather than later.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 1

    W-L: 2-10

    2014 Commitments: 24 (five 4-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    Although the record may not show it, Mark Stoops has made a good splash with the Wildcats thus far.

    Already his 2014 class is coming along very nicely. Stoops has landed several 4-star recruits, led by running back Stanley Williams and quarterback Drew Barker.

    With 5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam still in play, there’s plenty of time for Stoops to boost his class’ No. 25 ranking.

    Given his experience with Arizona and Florida State as defensive coordinator, look for Stoops to help Kentucky play a style of defense that is on par with the rest of the SEC.

10. James Franklin (Vanderbilt)

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    Franklin is making waves with Vanderbilt.
    Franklin is making waves with Vanderbilt.Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    Years at the Helm: 3

    W-L: 23-15

    2014 Commitments: 20 (three 4-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    James Franklin has begun his career with the Commodores in sensational fashion.

    The Langhorne, Penn., native has the team one win away from recording back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in school history. Not to mention, his 23 combined wins in his first three seasons ranks near the top in Vanderbilt history.

    Not surprisingly, Franklin has helped the team’s recruiting, bringing in the No. 31-ranked class in 2013 and currently ranked No. 24 in 2014.

    One of the up-and-coming recruiters in the country, look for Franklin to continue his upward climb and help make the Commodores a viable threat in the SEC.

9. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)

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    Spurrier's recruiting ability seems to be slipping.
    Spurrier's recruiting ability seems to be slipping.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 9

    W-L: 76-39

    2014 Commitments: 16 (five 4-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    After failing to record a single 10-win season during his first six years with the Gamecocks, Steve Spurrier has now put together three in a row.

    However, his recruiting game hasn’t been as great as it was during his Florida days. In fact, since checking in at No. 7 in 2007, Spurrier’s classes have only ranked lower and lower every year.

    Currently, Spurrier’s 2014 class is ranked No. 26.

    While bringing in five 4-star recruits is certainly a good sign, he hasn’t been able to reel in any 5-stars as of yet. Those are the recruits that will take 10-win seasons and transform them into SEC championships.

    Whether it’s old age or not, the 68-year-old hasn’t been able to recruit like he used to.

8. Will Muschamp (Florida)

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    Muschamp (left) will need to start getting the Gators back on the winning track.
    Muschamp (left) will need to start getting the Gators back on the winning track.Michael Chang/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 3

    W-L: 22-16

    2014 Commitments: 18 (seven 4-stars, two 5-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    It’s been a rocky start in Gainesville for Will Muschamp.

    The Gators finished 4-8 in 2013, losing each of their final seven games. This marks the first season the team won’t be playing in a bowl since 1990 and its first losing season since 1979.

    However, while the losses pile up, Muschamp has still been able to have relative success on the recruiting trail.

    His first two classes in 2012 and 2013 finished No. 6 and 3, respectively. Muschamp landed a combined five 5-stars and 25 4-stars in those two classes.

    Currently, his 2014 class ranks No. 13, led by 5-star prospects wide receiver Ermon Lane and running back Dalvin Cook.

    The solid recruiting is most likely what has kept Muschamp at his job. But if he can’t turn those recruiting wins into wins on the schedule, he’ll be packing his bags pretty soon.

7. Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)

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    Freeze has been impressive on the recruiting trail for the Rebels.
    Freeze has been impressive on the recruiting trail for the Rebels.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 2

    W-L: 14-11

    2014 Commitments: 24 (four 4-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    In just two seasons, Hugh Freeze has had an impressive turnaround with the Rebels.

    After the school won six games combined in 2010 and 2011, Freeze has led Ole Miss to back-to-back seven-win seasons. He has successfully taken the team from SEC laughingstock to a legit threat quicker than anybody imagined.

    That all led to an impressive victory over then-No. 6 LSU this season.

    But even more impressively, Freeze has made a stamp on the recruiting trail for the Rebels. 

    It all culminated with Freeze landing two of the top three recruits in the country, including No. 1 Robert Nkemdiche and No. 3 Laremy Tunsil. Ole Miss finished with the No. 4 overall class, landing a total of five 5-star recruits.

    Thus far, Freeze’s 2014 class is sitting at No. 12 in the country. 

    It’s been impressive how quickly Freeze seems to be making positive improvements.

6. Butch Jones (Tennessee)

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    Jones has set himself up with one heck of a 2014 class.
    Jones has set himself up with one heck of a 2014 class.Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 1

    W-L: 5-7

    2014 Commitments: 34 (17 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    The Skinny

    Although the Vols may be struggling to get wins on the field in 2013, head coach Butch Jones has been getting plenty of W’s off the field.

    That’s because the first-year coach has been putting together one heck of a recruiting class, one that is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation behind a whopping 34 commitments already.

    Thus far, Jones’ biggest splashes have been bringing in the Berry twins, Evan and Elliott—brothers of former Tennessee standout Eric Berry—along with the No. 2-ranked wide receiver in the nation, Preston Williams.

    Not to mention, Jones has already delivered the program a signature win in 2013, topping then-No. 11 South Carolina, 23-21, on Oct. 19.

    Given that six of his seven losses came against teams ranked in the Top 25, Jones’ seven losses shouldn’t dissuade anyone.

    This guy will eventually help the Vols restore respect to one of college football’s most storied programs.

5. Gus Malzahn (Auburn)

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    Malzahn (right) is only headed up.
    Malzahn (right) is only headed up.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 1

    W-L: 12-1

    2014 Commitments: 19 (11 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    The Skinny

    Talk about making an impact in your first season.

    A year after the Tigers went 3-9 under Gene Chizik, head coach Gus Malzahn has led the team to an impressive 12-1 mark and a berth into the BCS title game. That includes victories over then-No. 1 Alabama and then-No. 5 Missouri in the SEC title game.

    That kind of success can only mean positive things for future recruits.

    Thus far, Malzahn’s 2014 class ranks No. 7 and only seems to be growing with each passing week.

    Given that it's only his first year at Auburn, it’s hard to really get a feel for what Malzahn can do on the recruiting trail. But the early signs have been more than positive.

4. Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)

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    Sumlin has had an impressive recruiting career with the Aggies thus far.
    Sumlin has had an impressive recruiting career with the Aggies thus far.Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    Years at the Helm: 2

    W-L: 19-6

    2014 Commitments: 19 (12 4-stars, two 5-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    Head coach Kevin Sumlin has to be commended with how he has helped the Aggies matriculate into SEC play.

    In his first year at the helm—and Texas A&M’s inaugural SEC season—Sumlin led the team to an impressive 11-2 record. That included a shocking defeat of then-No. 1 Alabama.

    Sumlin has played a huge part in the growth and success of quarterback Johnny Manziel over these past two seasons. 

    His first recruiting class came in at No. 8 in 2013, with his 2014 class currently ranked No. 4.

    It will be interesting to see if Sumlin can keep up this success in the coming years.

3. Mark Richt (Georgia)

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    Richt has done an impressive job with recruiting over the years in Athens.
    Richt has done an impressive job with recruiting over the years in Athens.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 13

    W-L: 126-44

    2014 Commitments: 16 (11 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    The Skinny

    As the longest tenured head coach in the SEC, Mark Richt has kept the Bulldogs relevant through consistent success on the recruiting trail.

    In 13 seasons, the 53-year-old has failed to win at least eight games just once. He’s led Georgia to eight 10-win seasons, six divisional titles and two SEC championships. 

    This is a man who knows how to recruit with the best of them.

    Over 12 recruiting classes, Richt has registered 10 that ranked inside of the top 15 and five that ranked in the top five. Furthermore, his 2014 class is currently ranked No. 10.

    As long as the Bulldogs have Richt, the team’s future is in good hands.

2. Les Miles (LSU)

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    Miles (left) has had a successful tenure with the Tigers.
    Miles (left) has had a successful tenure with the Tigers.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 9

    W-L: 94-24

    2014 Commitments: 16 (11 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    The Skinny

    If Nick Saban brought success to the Tigers football program, Les Miles has taken it to another level.

    Year in and year out, Miles has delivered winning seasons for LSU. He’s led the school to eight wins or more in every season, including six 10-win seasons, two SEC championships and one BCS title.

    A lot of that success has been due to Miles’ ability to bring in the recruits.

    Thus far, all eight of his recruiting classes have ranked in the top 10. Furthermore, his 2014 class is currently ranked No. 10.

    It’s hard not to win when you have that kind of talent coming in every season.

1. Nick Saban (Alabama)

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    Saban has been the best in the business in terms of recruiting.
    Saban has been the best in the business in terms of recruiting.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Years at the Helm: 7

    W-L: 74-14

    2014 Commitments: 23 (13 4-stars, four 5-stars)

     

    The Skinny

    Nick Saban has successfully restored the winning tradition of one of the most storied programs in all of college football.

    In seven seasons in Tuscaloosa, the 62-year-old has led the Crimson Tide to six 10-win seasons, three division titles, two SEC championships and three BCS titles.

    Great recruiting has been a key to all of that success.

    Thus far, Saban’s six recruiting classes have all ranked in the top five. Five have ranked in the top three, with three being considered No. 1 overall.

    Currently, his 2014 class is also expected to be tops in the nation.

    With that kind of success, it’s no surprise as to why Alabama just can’t seem to lose these days.

     

    For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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