What should define recruiting success for the 12 new head coaches in college football's major conferences during their first contracts? The answer varies for each school.
For each, I tried to establish a reachable recruiting goal, relative to a school's conference foes. To do this, I considered resources, location, tradition, recent history and the coaches' reputation as a recruiter. When some of these coaches are fired in the coming years, I'll try to remember to look back and measure their recruiting against these goals, to determine whether it was their efforts on the recruiting trail or what they did with the talent once it arrived on campus (or both) that led to their pink slips.
Keep in mind that recruiting in the SEC is absolutely ridiculous. Many of the bottom-tier SEC classes would be among the best in other conferences. That creates unrealistic expectations from fans, which leads to more pressure on coaches.
Butch Jones, Tennessee
Tennessee has the facilities and the fan support to match the other three major programs in the division. What it doesn't have, however, is the available in-state talent.
Priority No. 1 is to out-recruit Vanderbilt by a wide margin, as the Commodores, while not beating Tennessee in recruiting, have been closing the talent gap relative to the previous decade.
I think it is reasonable to ask Jones to recruit on the level of South Carolina within a year or two. Catching Georgia or Florida, both of which have considerably more in-state talent from which to draw, is a tougher ask.
The Tennessee brand must be rebuilt in the eyes of recruits, who were in preschool the last time the Vols won the SEC crown (1998), and so far, it seems that Jones has the ability to do just that. Tennessee also really needs to find a quarterback to run Jones' spread system. If it does, it could win more games than expected early on, which will only help recruiting momentum (see also: Ole Miss' unexpected run to a bowl game and the resulting recruiting class).
For more on Tennessee football recruiting, head over to Rocky Top Talk.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Along with Mississippi State, Arkansas is consistently one of the two worst recruiting programs in the SEC West. Worst is a relative term, of course, as no teams in the SEC are bad at recruiting compared to the rest of college football.
But Arkansas expects to be in contention for SEC titles, and that's a tougher ask than ever with the addition of Texas A&M and the emergence of Ole Miss on the recruiting trail. Texas A&M is particularly troublesome, because the Aggies have taken away the come-play-in-the-SEC recruiting pitch previously used on recruits from Texas, as those recruits can now stay closer to home and play for A&M.
Arkansas needs to stick with its plan of running the football, like its new staff did for years at Wisconsin. The running back is already there in Alex Collins, and the Hogs shouldn't have any trouble attracting offensive linemen, due to Bielema's reputation for getting them drafted while at Wisconsin.
But from where will the defensive players come? There isn't much talent in Arkansas, and the SEC programs in surrounding states defend their turf extremely well.
For more on Arkansas football recruiting, head over to Arkansas Expats.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
The buzz word for Malzahn is fit. In What Auburn needs in its next football coach, I said that it needed to hire Malzahn and Ellis Johnson, and it wisely did both. Auburn needs to make sure the players it covets fit its system, and by doing so, it can reduce the number of head-to-head battles it has with the Goliath that is the Crimson Tide.
Auburn should not expect to pull in better recruiting classes than Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M, but it should expect to recruit better than Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State. If Auburn gets out-recruited by Ole Miss, as it did in the class of 2013, it would then have roster talent in the lower half of the SEC West, and Malzahn will not last long as Auburn expects to compete for the SEC.
And like with many spread systems, QB play is extremely crucial. Malzahn needs to identify and sign the future signal caller for his offense.
For more on Auburn football recruiting, head over to College and Magnolia
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Kentucky's recruiting has been pretty comparable to those of East rivals Vanderbilt and Missouri in the years before Stoops arrived at Kentucky. It's on-field results, however, as a result of coaching and player development, have not.
Realistically, Kentucky cannot be expected to out-recruit any of the four major football programs in the East Division, beating Vanderbilt and Missouri on the recruiting trail remains the goal. Stoops must also battle Charlie Strong at Louisville, which is picking up recruiting momentum thanks to much improved play and a move from the Big East to the ACC. Louisville is arguably the No. 1 football program in the state right now, and Stoops must recruit well enough to stop that designation from being cemented in the minds of future recruits and fans.
Stoops is already off to an excellent start, as he made the most of his two months in Lexington before National Signing Day and hauled in one of Kentucky's best classes in quite some time.
One important area to watch with Stoops will be Ohio. The Stoops name is legendary in the state, particularly around Youngstown, where the family coached and grew up. While Kentucky won't be beating out Ohio State for players any time soon, it can make the SEC recruiting pitch to many of the talented players in the state.
For more on Kentucky football recruiting, head over to A Sea of Blue.
Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Realistic expectations is the term for Anderson.
Ohio State and Michigan, in some order, are going to have the top two classes in the B1G until further notice. Those two are lapping the field. But I don't think it is out of the question to ask Wisconsin to consistently have a class rated fourth or better in the league.
Fit is also important, as the Badgers transition from Bielema's system to Andersen's. He will need to identify which high schools in the area can provide players capable of playing in the systems he plans to run. Wisconsin doesn't have a lot of in-state high school talent, but it's important to keep the talented players who fit the system from leaving the state.
For more on Wisconsin football recruiting, visit Buckys 5th Quarter.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue
For Purdue, it's all about consistently staying out of the Big Ten cellar. New additions to the conference, Rutgers and Maryland, both consistently recruit better than Purdue, and make this job tougher than ever before. And that's to say nothing of Indiana's resurgence on the recruiting trail, and Northwestern finally turning on-field success into a higher level of recruit.
I'll define recruiting success for Purdue as consistently recruiting better than at least two Big Ten teams and note that Hazell is off to a great start, signing 28 recruits in the 2013 class after hitting the ground running since his December 5 hire. He'll need to tap the relationships built while in the MAC to uncover players missed by other Big Ten programs.
For more on Purdue football recruiting, head over to Hammer and Rails.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Texas Tech is not as easy to recruit to as it once was. The profile of the conference has changed some. Baylor's on-field success has led to a higher level of recruiting in Waco, Oklahoma State is much better now than it was during Tech's heyday under Mike Leach, and TCU's entrance to the Big XII has also made this a tougher job.
And out of conference, Texas A&M's recruiting has taken off since joining the SEC, which matters because A&M and Tech compete for many of the same players. But that doesn't mean that Tech cannot compete against these schools and come out ahead in some battles. But there is considerable work to be done in turning around the disaster that was the tenure of departed coach Tommy Tubberville.
New coach Kingsbury will look to duplicate the success had as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech. Tech fans should expect the personable Kingsbury and his staff to bring in classes that consistently rank in the upper half of the Big XII. Finding the quarterback of the future, preferably the next Johnny Manziel, would be ideal.
(Thanks to SB Nation Texas recruiting analyst Wescott Eberts for his input.)
Sonny Dykes, Cal
There's no hiding the fact that the recruiting buzz around Cal has dropped off some in recent years, likely as a result of the loss of Tosh Lupoi and other key coaches. But Cal is still a strong player in recruiting, finishing with top-six Pac-12 classes in the last two cycles.
Most of the improvement at Cal will have to come in coaching and player development, as there is not a whole lot of room for the Bears to move up in the Pac-12 recruiting rankings. If Cal can consistently finish with a top-six Pac-12 class, or better, Bears fans should be pretty happy.
Identifying and signing more receivers to run Dykes' spread offense will be key, and Cal should be the destination for speedy receivers in the Bay Area, as Stanford carries very few on its roster, preferring to run more multiple-tight end sets.
For more on Cal football recruiting, head over to California Golden Blogs.
For Mike MacIntyre, it's all about a return to respectability. Colorado could be the worst recruiting team in the Pac-12 and still show a lot of improvement on the field simply because it hired someone who knows how to run a college football program -- something it failed to do a few years ago in Jon Embree. But a closer look shows that Colorado has not been the worst recruiting team in the Pac-12 over the last few years, though it is second to last.
While most of the improvements should come on the field, there is room for some on the recruiting trail. MacIntyre can do a better job than Embree of making sure the recruits fit Colorado's culture and scheme, and if he can consistently bring in classes that rank among the Pac-12's 10 best (perhaps better than Washington State and Oregon State), Colorado fans should be really happy, as this is a huge rebuilding job.
For more on Colorado football recruiting, head over to the Ralphie Report.
Dave Doeren, N.C. State
The Wolfpack did not recruit very well under Tom O'Brien… according to the recruiting rankings, that is. However O'Brien and his staff did a good job of finding players who fit the system, and N.C. State, while never a division champion, did compete for the crown consistently. The Atlantic Division is tough, and the Wolfpack cannot be expected to out-recruit Florida State or Clemson, but there is no reason why N.C. State cannot out-recruit three of the other four teams in the division (Louisville, Syracuse, Wake Forest and Boston College) during his five-year deal.
N.C. State must do a better job securing in-state talent, and that's a major reason why Doeren was brought in. Doeren will have to go about changing the roster from the former pro-style offense to one more suited to run his spread system.
For more on N.C. State football recruiting, head over to Backing The Pack.
Steve Addazio, Boston College
Boston College's recruiting was on a steady decline under Frank Spaziani, and Addazio has a decent reputation as a recruiter. That's a good start.
Boston College shouldn't be expected to beat Florida State, Clemson, N.C. State or Louisville for much talent, due to a number of factors including in-state resources, but BC absolutely should be able to top Syracuse and Wake Forest. And if it does that, going to a bowl game more often than not is doable.
Two important areas for Boston College will be running back and defensive end. Addazio has shown that he will ride one running back if the player is good enough, and that should attract a good prospect or two for Addazio's run-heavy offense. Pass rush is an obvious need, and playing time can be a major selling point here.
For more on Boston College football recruiting, head over to BC Interruption.
Scott Shafer, Syracuse
Shafer is in an interesting position. Syracuse is coming off a nice multi-year run, but lost a ton to the NFL, including, obviously, coach Doug Marrone.
A rebuilding year is not exactly the time to be entering a much tougher conference, but that's exactly what he is faced with at Syracuse. Realistically, Syracuse should not expect to rank ahead of Florida State, Clemson, N.C. State or Louisville. It should probably strive to be a better recruiting team than at least one of Boston College and Wake Forest, and if it can be better than both on the recruiting trail, that would be a big success.
For more on Syracuse football recruiting, head over to Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.
Willie Taggart, USF
USF has the highest ceiling of the teams not in the major conferences. The hire of Taggart has been universally lauded by those who understand the recruiting landscape in Tampa and the surrounding area. Taggart wants to run a smash-mouth offense and a fast, aggressive defense. And his knowledge of and reputation in the area should help him find and pull the necessary pieces. The question is whether he can find enough.
Florida is not known for producing offensive linemen or tight ends. Worse yet, at a school like USF, which depends on players faling through the cracks and not picking up offers by Florida, Florida State or Miami, it will be tough, because all three big schools run pro-style systems, meaning it's unlikely that all three will miss on high-caliber players who could also fit USF's system.
One thing Florida does produce, however, is speed. And lots of it. I'll be interested to see how Taggart adapts his style to the resources available to him. Might he run more spread-option, like former mentor Jim Harbaugh did with Colin Kaepernick and the the San Francisco 49ers? Taggart's goal - and USF should accept nothing less - is to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Big East in recruiting. There isn't a program in the Big East that should be able to hang with the Bulls on the recruiting trail.
For more on USF football recruiting, head over to Voodoo Five.