Scout 2016 Conference Recruiters of the Year
ACC: Brent Venables, Clemson
Venables has had success on the recruiting trail at Clemson the last few years, and at Oklahoma before that. This cycle, the Clemson defensive coordinator was the lead recruiter for eight Tiger signees, and he played a role in others. One of the biggest surprises on signing day was Scout 100 cornerback Trayvon Mullen signing with Clemson over LSU. Venables led the way there. He was also part of the reason Clemson landed Xavier Kelly, Tre Lamar, Rahshaun Smith, and Isaiah Simmons -- all four-star prospects.
American Athletic: Jess Loepp, SMU
It would be easy to just give the award to the man responsible for inking Ed Oliver at Houston, but Loepp put in a lot of serious hard work to help SMU climb to No. 2 in the conference recruiting rankings to earn the high honor. Two of his biggest targets, DT Ken McLaurin and WR Brandon Benson, are possibly the two best recruits on the Mustangs list. But he also played a role in helping the school to sign a bevy of its other top prospects like OL Braxton Webb, OL Kadarius Smith, OL Jacob Todora, ATH Christian Davis, CB Eric Sutton and DE/OT Ryan Becker.
Big Ten: Zack Smith, Ohio State
Smith landed two four-star receivers, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, the latter, a Florida kid who could have easily stayed down south. He also landed Wayne Davis, another four-star prospect, as well as offensive lineman Gavin Cupp, who came to Friday Night Lights despite a Michigan State commitment and ended up in the Buckeye class.
Big 12: Jeff Traylor, Texas
The hire of the former Texas High School Football coaching legend has paid huge dividends for Texas and head coach Charlie Strong. Texas closed with a flurry and no commitment was bigger than that of five-star safety Brandon Jones and it was Traylor’s deep ties into East Texas that played an integral role in helping to reel him in. Jones may have been the icing on what happened to end up being the Big 12’s top-rated class, but Traylor played an integral role in many of the ‘Horns targets like DE Andrew Fitzgerald, WR Davion Curtis, OG Zach Shackelford, TE Peyton Aucoin and LB Demarco Boyd and he was also the key to helping turning the tide back in UT’s favor with many in-state recruits. He has brought a new energy to Longhorns recruiting that just seemed to be missing prior to his arrival.
Conference USA: J.C. Price, Marshall
Price struck gold when he landed Scout 100 inside linebacker Jaquan Yulee, the No. 3 inside 'backer in the 2016 class. But it wasn't just Yulee, the highest rated signee in Conference USA, that Price was point man on. He also landed three-star safeties Sir Patrick Scott and C.J. Reavis. And defensive tackle Larry Aaron was also Price's doing.
Independents: Autry Denson, Notre Dame
The former record-setting running back for the Irish returned to his alma mater shortly after Signing Day last year and ended up being a key cog in their 2016 recruiting efforts. Denson pulled in the most volume in the class for the Irish, being the point man on the five Florida signees for the Irish, including both his running backs, Tony Jones and Deon McIntosh. Denson was also the primary recruiter on four-star cornerback Troy Pride out of South Carolina
Honorable Mention: Ilaisa Tuiaki (BYU)
MAC: P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
There were a lot of assistants moving around in the conference this year, but Fleck is a constant. Despite losing some staff, he and his coaches kept the class intact despite poachers coming after his commits. 4-star RB Matt Falcon had decisions to make after leaving the Michigan class and chose WMU. OT Spencer Kanz spurned several power-five offers for the Broncos.
Mountain West: Bobby Hauck, San Diego State
The former UNLV head coach was in his element recruiting for the Aztecs, who finished with one of the best classes in the Mountain West. The Aztecs landed Signing Day commitments from athlete Tayler Hawkins and linebacker Troy Cassidy, who both picked San Diego State over numerous Pac-12 offers and was key on three-stars Parie Dedeaux and Trenton Thompson while also bringing in the San Diego trio of Will Stricklin, Zach Thomas and Will Stricklin.
Pac-12: Scott White, UCLA
The Pac-12 race for recruiter of the year was the closest of all the conferences but the Bruin linebackers/special teams coach gets the nod after being the key recruiter in the Pac-12's top class. White landed the No. 2 linebacker class nationally and the No. 1 linebacker in the country in five-star Mique Juarez, who was a one-time USC commit and picked the Bruins on Signing Day over Alabama, Ole Miss and BYU. Plus White landed the top two inside linebackers in the West in Lokeni Toailoa and Krys Barnes as well as Scout 100 defensive end Breland Brandt. He also ran point on four-star athlete Darian Owens and three-star safety Leni Toailoa. On top of that, White also recruited the special teamers for the Bruins, bringing in four-star kicker J.J. Molson, Army All-American long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker, and three-star punter Austin Kent.
SEC: Bo Davis, Alabama
Alabama closed strong in 2016 and a big part of their success was defensive line coach Bo Davis. He played a role in over half a dozen Crimson Tide signees. He was the lead recruiter for five-star defensive tackle Kendell Jones of Texas as well as four-star defensive tackle Raekwon Davis of Mississippi. Alabama had a lot of success the final days leading up until signing day, and Davis was key there. Nigel Knott and Scott Lashley are four-star prospects out of Mississippi, so to take those away from Ole Miss and Mississippi State was not easy. Some of the guys he played a role is signing; Ben Davis (five-star LB), Quinnen Williams (four-star DL), and Jalen Hurts (four-star QB).
Sun Belt: Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern is under new head coach Tyson Summers, but the Eagles finished strong in 2016. Chad Lunsford was a big part of that. He played a role in 10 of the Eagles signees this cycle. Darion Anderson, a three-star wide receiver and Martial Washington, a three-star safety are two of his top signees. Lunsford has great connections in the state of Georgia and he is really becoming a force on the recruiting trail.