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Cooks, Hiestand named as Rivals Top 25 recruiters

Feb 11, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

Kerry Cooks

With letters-of-intent in and recruiting classes finalized, the evaluation process for 2014 is over. But not the evaluation of the evaluators.

As different websites decide to rank and measure the signing day hauls from across the country, put together a list of the Top 25 recruiters in the country. And as you might expect, Notre Dame was well represented.

Both Kerry Cooks and Harry Hiestand made Rivals’ list, with the Irish’s cornerbacks coach and offensive line coach having banner years. For Cooks, it was his work in Texas that got him noticed, bringing in three key recruits that all happened to have offers from Charlie Strong and the Longhorns.

“I think Kerry Cooks did a great job incidentally in the state of Texas,” Kelly said on signing day. “We got three players from Texas, all of them offered by the University of Texas.  I don’t know if that happens very often.  But we’re very fortunate, and it’s a great area for us.”

Here’s what Rivals said about Cooks:

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.

As for Hiestand, Notre Dame’s offensive line coach has become a veritable star on the recruiting trail. The past two seasons, the Irish have landed a haul that can’t be match by any program, and this year’s group was another banner class.

That offensive linemen connect with Hiestand isn’t a big surprise. He’s coached at the highest level, with a successful run in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. And he’s the type of gruff, old-school line coach that will forever be popular with the big boys up front.

He’s quickly eliminated any worries from skeptics who hoped Kelly would bring in a younger, more energetic line coach. Hiestand showed plenty of tenacity on the road as he reeled in Quenton Nelson, Alex Bars, Jimmy Byrne and Sam Mustipher this season, following up on a five-man haul last year.

Here’s Rivals on Hiestand:

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.

Cooks very nearly added a few other key recruits, almost pulling off signing day steals from Louisiana prospects Terrence Alexander and Courtney Garnett. Likewise, you begin to wonder if Hiestand could’ve extended the offensive line class with Braden Smith, who was still interested in the Irish late into the process.

Nice kudos for two coaches very deserving of the acknowledgement.

  1. dickasman - Feb 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Oh great watch out Ball State, Marshall, you might have new head coaches coming your way next year!

    • NotreDan - Feb 11, 2014 at 9:43 PM

      I think this is your first ever no thumbs down post dickie-doodle.


  2. mediocrebob - Feb 11, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Couple those two with Alford. Not a bad trio…

    • onward2victory - Feb 11, 2014 at 5:58 PM

      Right on, can’t argue with Hiestands last two offensive line classes. Still I think Alford might be the best of all the ND coaches. Recruits love the guy.

  3. ndgoldandblue - Feb 11, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    I gotta’ admit, I was wrong about Hiestand. At first, I wasn’t overly impressed with the guy. Even though the Irish finished 2012 undefeated, the O-line’s run and pass blocking was a bit touch and go throughout the season. Some games, the line protected Golson well, and they opened up nice holes for the running backs. Other games, the running game was nonexistent, and Golson got leveled on multiple occasions. Plus, it didn’t help that the Irish ran left a majority of the time. Last year saw a much-improved offensive line, however. Rees was rarely touched, and when Kelly actually stuck to the running game, it was mostly successful. And they could run either left or right with the same success. I’m starting to think that some of the blocking problems from 2012 had to do more with the personnel than the scheme. Watt and Martin had always been good, but the whole right side of the line was upgraded (I’m including the center in this–Cave had a weak 2012). Here’s to seeing even more success in 2014! *glasses clink

    • jimbasil - Feb 11, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Golic might have been a reason why Run-left was a feature and why Golson had to run for his life often. Hiestand did his best coaching with Golic and that OLine.

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 11, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    Read this article and you’ll know why its not a good idea to get too worked up over recruiting rankings. Of the 22 members of the recruiting class of 2010 (Kelly’s first that included Weis recruits) the article ranks them as either star player, consistent contributor or bust. 8 players (36% of the class) were ranked as a bust. One of those was Hendrix who, I believe, was a 5 star recruit if my memory is correct. If not, he was at least a 4 star recruit. Goes to show you, a lot can happen and we should look at a class on the way out of school to really be able to gauge their contributions and affix a final grade.

    • nd1rishfan - Feb 11, 2014 at 7:03 PM

      According to Rivals, he was a 4 star.;_ylt=Al9W3jaQDT6Sdhw2PgXURchDPZB4 had him as a 3 star.

      • nd1rishfan - Feb 11, 2014 at 7:12 PM, sorry. A mistype above.

  5. notredameirish1980 - Feb 11, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Speaking of recruits, thank goodness we lost the Jayru Campbell sweepstakes!

    • onward2victory - Feb 11, 2014 at 7:49 PM


    • papadec - Feb 11, 2014 at 8:49 PM

      Yeah – please elaborate – did he get into some kind of trouble?

      • mcirish27 - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:12 PM


        Let me google that for you.

    • NotreDan - Feb 11, 2014 at 9:44 PM

      Charged with 2 felony assault counts for body-slamming a cass tech high (detroit) security guard, caught on camera.

      Dumb kid. verbal to MSU though, so SWEET!

  6. 25kgold - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:52 AM

  7. heartofgoldandblue - Feb 12, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Anybody else see Cody Riggs is visiting South Bend today or tomorrow? Pretty good situation w a CB spot open and one scholarship still open as well. He’s had a lot of playing time the last 3 years on an SEC defense.

  8. irishdog80 - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    We have come a long way from the days of Tyrone Willingham recruiting a total of 3 offensive linemen and 4 not very good defensive linemen over a two year period…a recruiting mess that set us back for years. Do you think John Saunders and others will ever apologize for calling out ND about the firing of Willingham? The same school that hired him when very few African -American head coaches were being hired by anybody? And the same coach that then drove Washington into the ground? ND was also headed for the ignominy of an 0-12 record if Willingham had been given one more year to not recruit and Willingham was laughing all the way to the bank.

    I am glad this staff understands the value of having plenty of big bodies on campus. Signing Cage and Mokwuah late was huge.

  9. irishdog80 - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    Also can’t help but notice that this class has a lot of Catholic school guys and nice inroads to some rich recruiting grounds. It is clear they have a plan.

  10. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    Here’s an interesting exercise is public opinion…Take 8 of the most popular Draft “Big Boards” and mash their numbers together to come to a general agreement on where each player is. The results are interesting to say the least, with some obvious discoveries like Clowney at #1, but the most interesting to me was GAIII. On a conglomeration of 8 big boards, he’s ranked the 338th. So, he should get drafted in the 11th round :)

    Here’s the full list

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