Cooks, Hiestand named as Rivals Top 25 recruiters

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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, Rivals.com 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.