This time of the year, you have recruiting going full steam ahead. But you’ve actually been recruiting for the whole year and also for the next class for 2012. I’ve always said that recruiting is like shaving – if you miss a day you don’t look very good. So it is a 365-day affair if you are going to recruit well.
If you look at the schools that win, they approach recruiting as very, very important and they spend a lot of time and energy to stay on top of things. They are always trying to find the best way to contact kids and evaluate kids, especially when those kids come to campus for visits.
At this point of the year, you have some kids that have not made that final decision. And even if a kid has committed, other schools are still calling and recruiting them. That is why I have always been in favor of an early signing period like basketball has in their sport. That way a kid that knows can go ahead and sign. Then you can spend your energy on other recruits instead of constantly having to babysit your commitments. You always have to babysit and make sure you don’t lose a kid that has already chosen your program and that is just as important as getting new recruits.
But I always felt if a kid gave a commitment and you then lost him, then he likely wasn’t going to come to your school anyway. I never got overly concerned or over reacted when a kid didn’t decide on our school and it goes back to the way I was recruited and also how I recruited as a coach. We are professional salesmen and head coaches can get a kid to say ‘yes’. But that may not be what the kid wants in the long run.
When I was in high school, Coach (Bear) Bryant never asked me to come to Alabama. He just talked about the school and their players. I did the same thing as a coach. I felt if you recruit that way then you would rarely lose any kids because it was truly their own decision.
Because of the internet and high-profile sites, there is a lot of mis-information out there and a lot of information that is planted by these sites. That causes coaches to constantly chase their tails in recruiting. You may read something a kid said but he was also mis-quoted. It may turn out to be false but you still have to chase it and put out the fires. Again, you end up babysitting kids that have committed.
You also now have other kids that will go down to the last week or last few days before National Signing Day. And sometimes those late additions will make a big difference on your football team. So the intensity and buildup to signing day because a 24-7 ordeal. With obviously the head coach and the assistant coaches, you want to be involved with all of your recruits, committed or not. You are stretched from one player to the next as a head coach. That is why it is so important to have coaches on your staff that are good recruiters. You evaluate each year what coaches bring in what players and of course that changes from year to year. You also note every year on a list what assistant coaches signed who so to give you a good evaluation of your assistant coaches and their recruiting abilities.
Now, switching gears a bit but staying with recruiting. I’ve always felt if you have a successful football program, you’re gonna lose assistant coaches because a lot of people will come after them. That is the reason Texas came after Manny Diaz because of how impressive our defense was this year. So coaches will always be in demand. A year ago Manny was at Middle Tennessee State and then comes here and now is at Texas in basically a year span.
But it’s not necessarily how good a coach is but also how good your players are, too. And we have a lot of good defensive players back for the next few years. And in recruiting, you have to be wise in how you handle losing coaches. If a kid picks a university then he is picking your program. If they are choosing your school because of an assistant coach then they are picking a school for the wrong reason. There is never a guarantee that an assistant coach ever stays for their entire careers.
So as a head coach, you tell these guys their choice was the university. Sure, coaches might change but your program is still here. The head coach is the one who sets the program. There are a ton of assistant coaches out there but not many head coaches. But it is the head coach that designs the program and puts the stamp on the program. So you assure those recruits that everything in the past on the field will continue and nothing will change.
During my years of coaching, it was more important to find good football players and we found a lot that not many other schools wanted. David Stewart from north Alabama is a good example. He was in the area of Alabama and Tennessee but they didn’t know how good of a football player he would be. Sometimes when coaches go to evaluate, saying looking at a wide receiver, they see his growth pattern that may not allow him to be a wide receiver. He may turn into or grow into a tight end or defensive end. We saw that with his size, David Stewart was not going to stay at defensive end or linebacker. But we knew he had all the tools to be an offensive lineman and a good one at that.
And then there were the obvious ones. We knew Eric Moulds would be a great player. Then we saw Dicenzo Miller and Keffer McGee, both from small towns, and knew they would be very talented performers. Dicenzo was not as highly recruited as Keffer but we knew he had all those certain attributes to be an outstanding player.
You could also go down a long list of guys we signed that turned out to be productive, guys that were not recruited highly by other programs. Those were guys like Wayne Madkin and Cornell Menafee.
To break it down, you really have four types of players or recruits. You have the player that is good but knows he is good. He has been spoiled for a long time and he may be a five-star player that has already reached his own level of maturity and development. Then you have good players that don’t know they are good, guys like Menafee, Stewart and more recently, like Chris White. Those guys you just give them time to develop and grow and you have great players.
Then you also have a player who is average but doesn’t know he is average, and lastly, you have guys that are average and they know they are average.
You can win with No.2 and No. 3 but you don’t win with No. 1 and No. 4 in those types of players. The No. 1 group are high maintenance and spoiled and not necessarily team players that will grow and improve. I always wanted coaches that could go find football players. Anybody can pick up a sheet of paper and see where the high-profile guys are. But I wanted our coaches to find football players.
As a head coach, I could care less how many stars a guy had beside his name. All of those stars are just for school to stick out their chest and say ‘we have the best recruiting class’. It means absolutely nothing in the big picture. Like Bob Davie used to say at Notre Dame, there are two seasons – the real season and the recruiting season. The recruiting season is sometimes more important to some but those that often follow recruiting are not the ones going to the games or involved with your program.