Nick Saban is nation's best recruiter 

January, 31, 2011
01/31/11
10:00
AM ET

After taking a one-week hiatus so that I could endure NASCAR's preseason media tour, I'm excited to be back writing about college football with this week's Three Downs and Punt. As if you needed any more proof that National Signing Day has become one of the biggest days on the sports calendar, during four days of bouncing from race shop to race shop I was asked by no fewer than one driver, two team executives and three crew chiefs how I thought their favorite school's recruiting class was shaping up.

Before we get started, a quick word of remembrance for former ACC football and basketball referee Bob Sandell, who died Friday night after a long battle with cancer.

Legend has it that Sandell, a Charlottesville, Va., resident, was in the stands for an early-1980s game between Maryland and Virginia when word came down that the officiating crew couldn't get to the arena because of a winter storm. Virginia administrators approached Sandell and said they needed him to step in and ref the game. ACC rules prohibit residents of college towns from working their hometown team's games, but Maryland had agreed to let the universally respected Sandell step in.

A little embarrassed, he explained that it still wasn't a good idea because he'd already had a couple of pregame beers. Terrapins head coach Lefty Driesell replied, "So what? Bob Sandell on two beers is still better than most referees totally sober."

To the plays!

First Down -- Top five recruiting head coaches

My last blog was led by my list of the top five recruiting coordinators in all of college football. Within seconds of its posting I received a salvo of angry e-mails wondering how I could have NOT included a representative from the SEC.

My reply was simple -- patience, my friends.

That was a list of recruiting coordinators. This week it's all about the head coaches who tear it up on the recruiting trail. And in the SEC, in case you hadn't noticed, the boss men are the true rock stars when it comes to wooing blue-chippers. For a look at this year's recruiting class, be sure to check out the ESPNU 150.

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