ESPN

The United States of recruiting

Where do college football's best players come from? Like in an election, winning in the battleground counties can produce classes full of recruits that make the difference in winning it all.

BY LUKE KNOX AND JEREMY WILLIS

Total/top recruits by state
ESPN Top 100 recruits from the past 10 years are shown below. Of the past 10 No. 1 overall recruits, half of them left their home state.
Hover/tap for each state's total and the highest-ranked recruit
No. 1 overall recruits
Matt Barkley, USC 2009 (QB, Calif.)
Ronald Powell, FLA 2010 (ATH, Calif.)
Jadeveon Clowney, SCAR 2011 (DE, S.C.)
Mario Edwards, FSU 2012 (DE, Tex.)
Robert Nkemdiche, MISS 2013 (DE, Ga.)
Leonard Fournette, LSU 2014 (RB, La.)
Byron Cowart, AUB 2015 (DE, Fla.)
Rashan Gary, MICH 2016 (DT, N.J.)
Trey Smith, TENN 2017 (OT, Tenn.)
Justin Fields, UGA 2018 (QB, Ga.)
Top states
These 11 power states, most of which lie in ACC and SEC territories, produced 76.4 percent of all top recruits in the last 10 years.
Click on each state for county totals, hover/tap to view totals
Alabama No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Dre Kirkpatrick Etowah (Alabama)
10 DeMarcus Milliner Elmore (Alabama)
11 Enrique Florence, S Chambers (Auburn)
12 Jameis Winston, QB Jefferson (Florida State)
13 Reuben Foster, LB Lee (Alabama)
14 Bo Scarbrough, ATH Tuscaloosa (Alabama)
15 Kerryon Johnson, ATH Madison (Auburn)
16 Ben Davis, LB Pickens (Alabama)
17 LaBryan Ray, DT Madison (Alabama)
18 Justyn Ross, WR Russell (Uncommitted)
California No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Matt Barkley, QB Orange (USC)
10 Ronald Powell, ATH Riverside (Florida)
11 George Farmer, WR L.A. (USC)
12 Shaq Thompson, S Sacramento (Washington)
13 Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Placer (Notre Dame)
14 Adoree' Jackson, CB L.A. (USC)
15 Iman Marshall, CB L.A. (USC)
16 Malik Henry, QB L.A. (Florida State)
17 Jaelan Phillips, LB San Bernadino (UCLA)
18 Devon Williams, ATH L.A. (Uncommitted)
Florida No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Jacobbi McDaniel, DT Madison (Florida State)
10 Lamarcus Joyner, CB Broward (Florida State)
11 Karlos Williams, S Polk (Florida State)
12 Eddie Williams, ATH Bay (Alabama)
13 Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Hillsborough (Florida)
14 Sony Michel, RB Broward (Georgia)
15 Byron Cowart, DE Hillsborough (Auburn)
16 Nick Bosa, DE Broward (Ohio State)
17 Dylan Moses, ATH Manatee (Alabama)
18 Xavier Thomas, DE Manatee (Clemson)
Georgia No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Greg Reid, CB Lowndes (Florida State)
10 Storm Johnson, RB Walton (Miami)
11 Isaiah Crowell, RB Muscogee (Georgia)
12 Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB Lowndes (Georgia)
13 Robert Nkemdiche, DE Gwinnett (Ole Miss)
14 Raekwon McMillan, LB Liberty (Ohio State)
15 Trenton Thompson, DT Dougherty (Georgia)
16 Derrick Brown, DT Gwinnett (Auburn)
17 DeAngelo Gibbs, ATH Gwinnett (Georgia)
18 Justin Fields, QB Cobb (Georgia)
Louisiana No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Reuben Randle, WR Morehouse (LSU)
10 Trovon Reed, ATH Lafource (Auburn)
11 Anthony Johnson, DT Orleans (LSU)
12 Landon Collins, S Ascension (Alabama)
13 Tim Williams, DE E. Baton Rouge (Alabama)
14 Leonard Fournette, RB Orleans (LSU)
15 Tyron Johnson, WR Orleans (LSU)
16 Rashard Lawrene, DT Ouachita (LSU)
17 Tyler Shelvin, DT Acadia (LSU)
18 Terrace Marshall Jr., WR Bossier (LSU)
North Carolina No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Xavier Nixon, OT Cumberland (Florida)
10 Keenan Allen, ATH Guilford (Cal)
11 Stephone Anthony, LB Anson (Clemson)
12 Keith Marshall, RB Wake (Georgia)
13 Greg Gilmore, DT Cumberland (LSU)
14 Lorenzo Featherston, DE Guilford (Florida State)
15 Shy Tuttle, DT Davidson (Tennessee)
16 Dexter Lawrence, DT Wake (Clemson)
17 Justin Foster, LB Cleveland (Clemson)
18 K.J. Henry, DE Forsyth (Clemson)
Ohio No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 C.J. Barnett, CB Montgomery (Ohio State)
10 Jordan Hicks, LB Tuscarawas (Texas)
11 Steve Miller, DE Stark (Ohio State)
12 Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE Montgomery (Northwestern)
13 Gareon Conley, CB Stark (Ohio State)
14 Marshon Lattimore, ATH Cuyahoga (Ohio State)
15 Justin Hilliard, LB Hamilton (Ohio State)
16 Demario McCall, RB Lorain (Ohio State)
17 Sean Clifford, QB Hamilton (Penn State)
18 Jackson Carman, OT Butler (Clemson)
South Carolina No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Stephon Gilmore, S York (South Carolina)
10 Marcus Lattimore, RB Spartanburg (South Carolina)
11 Jadeveon Clowney, DE York (South Carolina)
12 Shaq Roland, WR Lexington (South Carolina)
13 Ben Boulware, LB Anderson (Clemson)
14 Christian Miller, LB Richland (Alabama)
15 Noah Green, OT Spartanburg (Clemson)
16 Tavien Feaster, RB Spartanburg (Clemson)
17 Shi Smith, WR Union (South Carolina)
18 Derion Kendrick, ATH York (Clemson)
Tennessee No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Marlon Brown, WR Shelby (Georgia)
10 Keiwone Malone, WR Shelby (Alabama)
11 Antonio Richardson, OT Davidson (Tennessee)
12 Jay Guillermo, C Blount (Clemson)
13 Jalen Ramsey, CB Williamson (Florida State)
14 Josh Malone, WR Sumner (Tennessee)
15 Drew Richmond, OT Shelby (Tennessee)
16 Daniel Bituli, LB Davidson (Tennessee)
17 Trey Smith, OT Madison (Tennessee)
18 Cade Mays, OT Knox (Georgia)
Texas No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Russell Shepard, ATH Harris (LSU)
10 Jackson Jeffcoat, DE Collin (Texas)
11 Malcolm Brown, RB Guadalupe (Texas)
12 Mario Edwards, DE Denton (Florida State)
13 Darius James, C Bell (Texas)
14 Myles Garrett, DE Tarrant (Texas A&M)
15 Daylon Mack, DT Gregg (Texas A&M)
16 Gregory Little, OT Collin (Ole Miss)
17 Marvin Wilson, DT Harris (Florida State)
18 B.J. Foster, S Brazoria (Texas)
Virginia No. 1 recruits

Yr Name, Pos County (Commit)
09 Morgan Moses, OT N/A (Virginia)
10 Justin Hunter, WR N/A (Tennessee)
11 Curtis Grant, LB N/A (Ohio State)
12 Joel Caleb, ATH Chesterfield (Va. Tech)
13 Christian Hackenburg, QB Fluvanna (Penn State)
14 Andrew Brown, DT N/A (Virginia)
15 Josh Sweat, DE N/A (Florida State)
16 Levonta Taylor, CB N/A (Florida State)
17 Khalan Laborn, RB N/A (Florida State)
18 Ricky Slade, RB Prince William (Penn St.)
Most recruits from top 11 states
Alabama 77
Florida State 58
Georgia 54
USC 53
Texas 50
Florida 50
LSU 49
Ohio State 43
Auburn 36
Clemson 32
Los Angeles County, CA48
Population: 10.17 million
Top high schools
1. Junipero Serra (Gardena) 7
2. Poly (Long Beach) 6
3. St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 4
4. Lakewood (Lakewood) 3
5. Crespi Carmelite (Encino) 2
Top recruiters
USC 24, UCLA 8, Cal 2, Florida State 2, Oregon 2
Notable names
ATH De'Anthony Thomas (2011), Oregon
WR Marqise Lee (2011), USC
CB Adoree' Jackson (2014), USC
CB Iman Marshall (2015), USC
QB Josh Rosen (2015), UCLA
Why it's a hot spot Los Angeles County is the nation's second-largest school district. It has more than 100 public and private high schools. It's the best producer of talent because it has the largest population to work with. It also boasts several schools -- notably Junipero Serra and Long Beach Poly -- that have long been pipelines of Power 5 talent.
Prized recruit: USC WR Juju Smith-Schuster. USC has long been the dominant force in L.A. recruiting. From Long Beach Poly, Smith-Schuster was No. 24 in the 2014 ESPN 300. He was a key factor in the Trojans' recent resurgence and is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Poly, one of Southern California's premier high school programs produced six top-100 players in the last 10 years.
Broward County, FL38
Population: 1.89 million
Top high schools
1. Saint Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale) 10
2. American Heritage (Plantation) 9
3. Plantation (Plantation) 3
4. Boyd Anderson (Lauderdale Lakes) 2
5. Flanagan (Pembroke Pines) 2
Top recruiters
Miami 7, Florida State 5, Ohio State 5, Alabama 4, Auburn 3
Notable names
CB Lamarcus Joyner (2009), Florida State
LB Ryan Shazier (2011), Ohio State
DE Joey Bosa (2013), Ohio State
RB Sony Michel (2014), Georgia
CB Tavarus McFadden (2015), Florida State
Why it's a hot spot: South Florida is the most heavily recruited area in the country. Among Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties, it's Broward that has produced the most top-100 players among those three. The South Florida region is a target of teams throughout the SEC and ACC and other national programs reaching into the area.
Prized recruit: Alabama WR Calvin Ridley. In the last 10 years, the region has produced 10 players who have been on teams that played for national titles. Ridley, from Coconut Creek, is the best example of that. He has played a part on Alabama teams that have been in the last three CFP title games and was the Tide's leading receiver in all three seasons.
Harris County, TX26
Population: 4.54 million
Top high schools
1. North Shore (Houston) 4
2. Westfield (Houston) 4
3. Episcopal (Houston) 3
4. Lamar (Houston) 3
5. Cy-Fair (Cypress) 2
Top recruiters
Texas 10, LSU 5, Texas A&M 3, Houston 1, Florida State 1
Notable names
ATH Russell Shepard (2009), LSU
DT Desmond Jackson (2011), Texas
WR Tyrie Cleveland (2016), Florida
DT Marvin Wilson (2017), Florida State
OT Walker Little (2017), Stanford
Why it's a hot spot: The county covers Houston and is the most populous in Texas. Houston has long been a battleground for recruiters, and the area has only grown in that regard with Alabama, LSU and Florida State joining the Texas powerhouses that recruit the area.
Prized recruit: Houston DT Ed Oliver. The Cougars sophomore made history as the first five-star prospect in ESPN's rankings to choose a Group of 5 school. He is one of five players from the region ranked in the top five overall in the ESPN 300. In two seasons, Oliver hasn't disappointed winning the Outland Trophy and twice earning All-American honors.
Gwinnett County, GA24
Population: 895,823
Top high schools
1. Norcross (Norcross) 4
2. Buford (Buford) 3
3. Grayson (Loganville) 3
4. Greater Atlanta Christian (Norcross) 3
5. North Gwinnett (Suwanee) 3
Top recruiters
Georgia 4, Alabama 4, Auburn 2, Clemson 2, South Carolina 2
Notable names
LB Adrian Hubbard (2010), Alabama
DT Robert Nkemdiche (2013), Ole Miss
RB Alvin Kamara (2013), Alabama
OT Mitch Hyatt (2015), Clemson
CB Jaymest Williams (2017), South Carolina
Why it's a hot spot: North of Atlanta, Gwinnett is the second-smallest county to produce this level of talent. It doesn't have the sheer numbers of other counties but consistently produces. It has had seven top-25 players in the last 10 years.
Prized recruit: Georgia LB Lorenzo Carter. The county is teeming with SEC and ACC recruits, but Carter is important. Georgia hasn't always garnered its home-state's best but got Carter in the Class of 2014. This season, Carter was a defensive star in Georgia's SEC title-winning season.
Dallas County, TX23
Population: 2.55 million
Top high schools
1. Skyline (Dallas) 6
2. DeSoto (DeSoto) 4
3. Cedar Hill (Cedar Hill) 2
4. Bishop Dunne (Dallas) 1
5. Coppell (Coppell) 1
Top recruiters
Texas 11, Ohio State 2, Oklahoma 2, Texas A&M 2, Boise State 1
Notable names
WR Mike Davis (2010), Texas
LB Corey Nelson (2010), Oklahoma
ATH Dontre Wilson (2013), Ohio State
DE Solomon Thomas (2014), Stanford
LB Malik Jefferson (2015), Texas
Why it's a hot spot: With Dallas at its center and covering more than 900 square miles, the county is core to recruiting for the Big 12 and the Texas programs. The numbers have tailed off since 2013, but its central location for Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others make it the Big 12's most important area.
Prized recruit: Ohio State DB Jeffrey Okudah. Dallas County has been dominated by Oklahoma and Texas in the last 10 years. That being said, Okudah's recruitment by Ohio State signals an interesting pattern for those recruiting the state. Ohio State has made inroads to Dallas County and North Texas, also landing J.T. Barrett from Wichita Falls. Okudah, a five-star in the 2017 class, is just the latest from pipelines Urban Meyer has opened.
Miami-Dade County, FL23
Population: 2.69 million
Top high schools
1. Central (Miami) 6
2. Northwestern (Miami) 4
3. Booker T. Washington (Miami) 2
4. Gulliver Prep (Miami) 2
5. Christopher Columbus (Miami) 1
Top recruiters
Miami 6, Florida State 5, Auburn 2, Louisville 2, USC 2
Notable names
WR Amari Cooper (2012), Alabama
LB Matthew Thomas (2012), Florida State
CB Artie Burns (2013), Miami
DE Chad Thomas (2014), Miami
RB James Cook (2018), Georgia
Why it's a hot spot: This is where the "State of Miami" legend began. It has produced countless stars, especially for the hometown Hurricanes, but Florida State and Florida as well. The pure numbers have gone down, but Miami-Dade will always be a hotly contested region.
Prized recruit: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook. He is a picture of recruiting in the region. His high school, Central, produced the most talent in the region. Cook, mentored by Hurricanes fan Luther Campbell was once committed to the Gators before flipping to the Seminoles. After leaving the 305 he broke nearly every FSU rushing record.
Manatee County, FL21
Population: 363,369
Top high schools
1. IMG Academy (Bradenton) 17
2. Southeast (Bradenton) 2
3. Manatee (Bradenton) 1
4. Palmetto (Palmetto) 1
Top recruiters
Alabama 2, Clemson 2, Florida 2, Ohio State 2, LSU 2
Notable names
TE Isaac Nauta (2016), Georgia
QB Shea Patterson (2016), Ole Miss
LB Dylan Moses (2017), Alabama
OL Cesar Ruiz (2017), Michigan
QB Kellen Mond (2017), Texas A&M
Why it's a hot spot: It's simple. Since IMG Academy fielded its first football team in 2013, the number of recruits in the area has exploded. The school attracts players from all over the country. It's the smallest county represented among the top counties, and were it not for IMG, which produced four top-100 players in the 2018 class alone, Manatee would not make the list.
Prized recruit: Clemson DE signee Xavier Thomas. The five-star defensive end from South Carolina played his final season at IMG. Thomas left the Tigers' backyard for Bradenton and opened him up to recruiting pitches from the elite recruiters who are regulars at IMG. Thomas never wavered on his commitment and will be another five-star talent on Clemson's defense.
Hillsborough County, FL20
Population: 1.35 million
Top high schools
1. Armwood (Seffner) 4
2. Catholic (Tampa) 3
3. Plant (Tampa) 3
4. Alonso (Tampa) 2
5. Berkeley Prep (Tampa) 2
Top recruiters
Florida State 3, Florida 3, Auburn 2, Clemson 2, Miami 2
Notable names
QB Aaron Murray (2009), Georgia
ATH James Wilder Jr. (2011), Florida State
WR Nelson Agholor (2012), USC
DE Byron Cowart (2015), Auburn
WR Deon Cain (2015), Clemson
Why it's a hot spot: The I-4 corridor, running from Daytona Beach through Orlando and ending in Tampa is crucial to many programs in the southeast. Hillsborough County, which incorporates Tampa, has a wide array of recruiters with a presence there. Florida and Florida State have taken the most out of the area, but schools as far away as USC recruit Hillsborough.
Prized recruit: Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III. The former five-star recruit is Hillsborough through and through. He played at Wharton High School in Tampa and became the center of a heated recruiting battle before going to Florida and returning to be a first-round pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Duval County, FL15
Population: 913,010
Top high schools
1. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) 5
2. First Coast (Jacksonville) 3
3. Sandalwood (Jacksonville) 3
4. Bartram Trail (Jacksonville) 1
5. The Bolles School (Jacksonville) 1
Top recruiters
Florida 3, Florida State 2, Alabama 1, Auburn 1, Georgia 1
Notable names
DT Louis Nix (2010), Notre Dame
DE DeMarcus Walker (2013), Florida State
OT David Sharpe (2014), Florida
CB Kevin Toliver II (2015), LSU
QB Joey Gatewood (2018), Auburn
Why it's a hot spot: Like other counties in Florida, Duval attracts recruiters from all over. Jacksonville is the largest city in the county and is close to the North Florida schools as well as Georgia, South Carolina and Clemson.
Prized recruit: Auburn LB Jeff Holland. Auburn pulled Holland away from the Florida schools to make him a centerpiece of the Tigers' resurgent defense in 2017. Holland was an all-SEC player and one of several high-profile, heavily recruited defensive linemen from Duval County.
Tarrant County, TX15
Population: 1.98 million
Top high schools
1. Martin (Arlington) 3
2. All Saints Episcopal (For Worth) 1
3. Arlington (Arlington)1
4. Dunbar (Fort Worth) 1
5. Haltom (Haltom City) 1
Top recruiters
Texas 2, Texas A&M 2, LSU 2, Baylor 1, Nebraska 1
Notable names
OT Luke Joeckel (2010), Texas A&M
DE Devonte Fields (2012), TCU
OL Maea Teuhema (2015), LSU
LB Baron Browning (2017), Ohio State
WR Tylan Wallace (2017), Oklahoma State
Why it's a hot spot: With the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex divided over several counties it breaks up the area's population. Tarrant, which encompasses Arlington and Fort Worth, is another North Texas area vital to the Big 12. It's also important to Nebraska, which has recruited the area since its time in the Big 12.
Prized recruit: Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. Of all the counties represented, Tarrant is the only one to produce a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick. Garrett was the top-ranked player in Texas in the Class of 2014. He was a huge recruiting victory for Texas A&M and accounted for 31 sacks for the Aggies before being drafted by the Browns.