Young recruiters giving the Big Ten a boost

Michigan assistant coach Jay Harbaugh is more than just Jim Harbaugh's son -- he's one of the top young assistant coach recruiters in the Big Ten. Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire

As it currently stands, the Big Ten has six teams ranked in the top 20 of the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings for 2018. The conference has been on the rise in recruiting over the past few seasons, and the proof is in the numbers.

The success is the result of a few different factors, but a key one is the infusion of youth in the coaching ranks. Some of the top recruiters in the conference are under 40 years old and have made their presence known on the recruiting trail.

Here is a look at some of the top Big Ten assistant coach recruiters under 40 who have helped get their teams in the top 20 of the 2018 class rankings:

Ohio State: Zach Smith
2018 class rank: No. 2

Smith, the Buckeyes' wide receivers coach, is one of the youngest coaches in the conference at 33. He has been with head coach Urban Meyer for quite some time and has helped produce some elite talent at receiver for the Buckeyes. Smith is boisterous and unabashed on his Twitter account, which seems fitting considering the position group he coaches. Recruits have taken notice of Smith, and his youth has helped him relate to the prospects he has targeted. Since 2014, Ohio State has landed seven ESPN 300 wide receivers, largely due to Smith’s efforts.

Penn State: Charles Huff, Josh Gattis and Ricky Rahne
2018 class rank: No. 4

The Nittany Lions have several coaches who fall into this category with running backs coach Huff, receivers coach Gattis and tight ends coach Rahne. Huff has established himself as an outstanding recruiter, helping to land several top running backs that include ESPN 300 prospects Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders and Ricky Slade. At 34 years old, Huff has done quite a bit in a short amount of time in his career. Gattis and Rahne have been right there with Huff, helping to recruit similarly big names, including quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Sean Clifford and receivers Juwan Johnson and Chris Godwin.

Nebraska: Donte Williams and Trent Bray
2018 class rank: No. 11

Cornerbacks coach Williams was a big hire for Nebraska head coach Mike Riley, considering Riley’s efforts to recruit the West Coast. Williams was previously at Arizona, and at age 34 is a tenacious recruiter with many valuable connections in California. Williams and linebackers coach Bray have provided a big boost to Nebraska’s recruiting efforts. Williams has had a hand in landing Eric Fuller and Brendan Radley-Hiles, among other top prospects for the Huskers.

Michigan: Chris Partridge and Jay Harbaugh
2018 class rank: No. 13

Michigan has an outstanding young support staff and a recruiting staff that very well could make this list. This is just focused on assistant coaches, though, so linebackers coach Partridge and running backs coach Harbaugh are the two who stand out for the Wolverines. Partridge started out as a high school coach in New Jersey and was one of the better recent hires from the high school ranks. He began at Michigan as the recruiting coordinator, is now the linebackers coach and has helped recruit a ton of talent to Ann Arbor. Most notably, Partridge helped recruit No. 1-ranked Rashan Gary and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Georgia. Harbaugh is the son of head coach Jim Harbaugh but has stood on his own feet when it comes to recruiting and relating to his targets. Previously as the tight ends coach, Jay Harbaugh had a hand in landing Sean McKeon, Nick Eubanks and Tyrone Wheatley Jr., among others.

Northwestern: Matt MacPherson and Adam Cushing
2018 class rank: No. 16

Northwestern has been gaining more and more momentum both on and off the field. After putting together a good season in 2016, head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his staff are capitalizing on that in the 2018 recruiting class. A big part of that success is running backs coach MacPherson and offensive line coach Cushing, who is 36. Despite their relative youth, both MacPherson and Cushing have been mainstays at Northwestern for quite awhile and have had a big impact on the Wildcats' recruiting efforts. The No. 16 class ranking is one of the highest Northwestern has had, and both of these coaches have had a hand in helping to shape the class.

Minnesota: Maurice Linguist and Matt Simon
2018 class rank: No. 17

P.J. Fleck would be at the top of this list if it included head coaches, as Fleck is the leader for the Golden Gophers in every aspect. But when it comes to young assistants, defensive backs coach Linguist is becoming a well-known name across the country. At age 33, Linguist has already had stints at Baylor, Buffalo, Iowa State, Mississippi State and now Minnesota. In his short time with the Gophers, he has been a big part of their recruiting success along with wide receivers coach Simon, who is only 31.