The old school of college football recruiting has graduated. Make way for the new wave of aggressive, persistent recruiters who are changing the face of the profession.
The old school included Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer, Michigan’s Lloyd Carr, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, Texas’ Mack Brown, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, USC’s Pete Carroll and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel. Carroll was and remains the best in the business. Tressel was and remains the most underrated.
But they are giving way to a new breed of recruiter who is more aggressive and more aware of what recruiting can do for a program. Old-timers all too often were lulled and tricked into thinking their success was all about coaching. They read their own press clippings, believing they would win with coaching. But now if you win big, you have to win big with recruiting, by being persistent for 365 days a year.
The new wave is led by Carroll, Tressel, Brown, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Florida’s Urban Meyer, Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin, Illinois’ Ron Zook, Minnesota’s Tim Brewster, Purdue’s Danny Hope, Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Texas Tech’s Mike Leach and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.
They understand that recruiting is the life’s blood of college programs. If you are going to be a winner, you have to be a great recruiter. As a head coach, you must hire good assistant coaches who are great recruiters.
Mack Brown transformed himself. He went from the old school to the new school and became more responsible than anyone for the early commitment frenzy. He already has 21 in the class of 2010. He has perfected the early commitment process.
In the new school, recruiting has become the No. 1 priority next to developing players. They go hand in hand, ahead of public relations, keeping the alumni happy and cajoling with the media. Sure, there are more NCAA restrictions now, which means a coach has to be more aggressive when he has time to recruit.
A smart coach will hire nine great recruiters who also can coach. Tennessee will have a great year because Kiffin has hired a staff of great recruiters. It no longer is acceptable or wise for athletic directors to hire retreads, coaches with great public relations skills, or accept recommendations from search committees who nominate coaches who aren’t qualified to build a winning program.
What should you look for in a great recruiter? Success, not BS. The difference between great recruiters and also-rans is they go the extra mile. Who gets the great players? Sure, it is easier for a Super Sixteen school to get a great player. But if you don’t get a great player and you’re at a Super Sixteen school, if you don’t sign at least two great prospects a year at Ohio State or Florida or Notre Dame, you should look for a job in the NFL, where you don’t have to recruit.
Speaking of recruiting, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez found the quarterback he has been looking for to run his spread offense. He got a commitment from 6-4, 205-pound Devin Gardner of Inkster, Mich., one of the top 50 players in the nation. He is to Michigan what Pat White was to West Virginia…good arm, great running skills, a catalyst for Michigan’s spread offense. Nothing will stop him from becoming a star.
Michigan also obtained a commitment from 6-0, 225-pound running back Stephon Hopkins of North Dallas, Texas, one of the best ball-carriers in Texas and the South. He had six offers but committed to Michigan during last Saturday’s spring game in Ann Arbor. He is the between-the-tackles pounder that Rodriguez prefers to complement his spread offense.