As signing day is upon us, Seminole fans and Tomahawk Nation readers alike are eagerly anticipating what is expected to be another fantastic recruiting class. And while most fan bases will both revel and agonize on the signatures of prospects, there is always a tremendous amount of behind the scenes work and long hours that are put in prior to the whir of the fax machines as signees' Letters of Intent are sent in to football offices around the country.
Fans see the results. Fans see the final recruiting rankings. Fans see the selection of hats on a dais and the smiling but relieved coaches. But many fans also wonder: "How does a high powered BCS program get to that point?"
In an effort to try to help answer a few of the questions about the year long marathon that is recruiting, here is an attempt to wind back the clock and see the "how" of a BCS program recruiting staff efforts are organized. A simple but reflective look at some of the nuts and bolts organization that go into the BCS recruiting machines that nab the four and five star recruits who become a member of a program on National Signing Day follow: The Process, The Personnel & The Plan of BCS Recruiting.
Often you will hear recruiting pundits and experts refer to the "process" when it comes to a recruiting class in a particular year. What does that mean exactly? Fundamentally, its the step by step approach a staff takes from developing an idea of its current needs and wants all of the way to the re-assessment of all its efforts in recruiting post signing day to prepare for the next cycle.
It may be helpful to think of recruiting as a six step process:
Assessing (Determining how many and what kind of student-athletes as program that you need as well as what kind of student-athletes a program can realistically get) Prospecting (Finding potential prospects that may be a fit the program) Evaluating (Determining the quality of recruits that have been prospects) Advocating (The building of relationships with prospects and their decision-makers by the promotion of your institution, staff, program to recruits - What most people think of when they think of "recruiting") Signing (Committing a prospect, signing of binding paperwork and making sure they matriculate to your program for classes in the fall or spring) Reassessing (Re-visting as a staff what went well, what didn't and course corrections are necessary)
These six areas of recruiting are where a program basis how it organizes its overall efforts in approaching each recruiting cycle. From here programs can their message to fits what works for that staff, school and program. What works at Southern California may not work at Ohio State. What works at Ohio State may not work at Alabama. Programs have to "be themselves" throughout the process and have what organically fits them. If you're a school with small college town charm and power conference appeal like Auburn, you sell that. A school with a metropolitan location and tons of tradition like Southern Cal, you sell that. FSU has a unique blend of national brand, tradition, location to recruits in three states (Florida, Georgia and Alabama), a moderate sized city with two universities appeal and an energetic coaching staff as part of its pitch. Ultimately, the best staffs weave their personality and the program together to use this process to determine what they "are" as a program to present to prospects.
In additional to effectively managing those the six phases of the recruiting process, also program MUST effectively and manage it's personnel involved in recruiting as well.
Though size and responsibilities of a recruiting staff can fluctuate from program to program, most modern BCS schools have a clear division of labor. For example, at FSU there are secretaries, coaches, media relations, compliance people that are all involved in the recruiting process, each with a specific and defined function of how they fit into the overall recruiting process in Tallahassee. The semblance of people make up what is commonly known as the recruiting team.
For the sake of the topic here, consider focusing on three of the main "actors" that make up that recruiting team that are typically prominently mentioned on national signing day other than the Head Coach: Recruiting Co-ordinator, Recruiting Coach & Director of Football Operations/Player Personnel.
Recruiting Coordinator (RC) is usually the recruiting coach often most credited for repoint person for reeling in a class in a particular year. The role and responsibilities will vary from program to program but generally the RC is is responsible for the synchronization of all the moving parts. What does that entail? Primarily keeping abreast of the overall recruiting board and depth chart. Working with the rest of the coaches who recruit to get an overall picture of where the school stands with prospects and supplementing each coach in their individual areas with recruiting.
Some would argue that at some programs, the head coach can be so heavily involved with recruiting that though he doesn't have the title, he serves as a de facto RC because of how much he wants to be involved with the recruiting aspect of the job.
Recruiting Coaches are them members on staff who are permitted to contact and evaluate prospects on campus. Again while many staffs are different, there is more of trend for coaches to recruit and develop relationship in specific areas or specific schools. For example at FSU, Coach Elliot may be assigned to Texas because of previous relationships working in the San Antonio and Houston areas as previous coaching stops. Coach Craig may have a Southern Alabama as an area being from there. Stoops with western JCs from time spent at Arizona, etc. Often a member of the staff is hired because they can bring a certain area to the fold.
It should be noted, that while most BCS programs give areas to recruit, there is also overlap with the position coach during the evaluation process. Teams typically have a rubric that is filled out with desired heights and weights and other attributes positions.
- Here's an example of one of FSU's direct BCS competitors: Player Evaluation Rubric
From that Criteria rubric, Recruiting Coaches, Position Coaches & Recruiting Coordinator work together to evaluate prospects, with typically the head coach or recruiting coordinator making the final decision on whether or not a kid should be offered.
Side Note: As evident in recent defensive play at FSU and as mentioned numerous time on TN the current coaching staff rubric and requirement for DL players is significantly different from the previous coaching staff at FSU. And as every TN'er knows - Yes, size does matter.
- Here's an example of a Evaluation Sheet that a RC and Recruiting Coach or Position coach may use to work together from one of our ACC brethren. Sample Evaluation Sheet
- And just for grins, here's what the Canes used under the prevision regime when evaluating prospect DVDs: Miami Prospect Evaluation Sheet
Director of Football Operations (DFOs) and Player Personnel’s responsibilities can be as wide and varied as the name suggests. DFOs are usually masters of the huge recruiting databases that a school compiles and with the help of secretaries and Graduate Assistants (GAs) manage the inflow and exodus of information to Recruiting Coordinator.
As they are the crossers of "t"s and dotter of "i"s when it comes to minutia as it is concerned with recruiting, a DFOs hands are on everything dealing with information; ranging from the initial questionnaire or video a program may receive to the final certification and "OK" by a compliance office that a prospect is officially is official certified and considered to be a member of the class.
How is the number one Defensive End getting to airport to campus? The DFO knows. How much email has the third corner back on the recruiting board received? The DFO knows. Can’t log in to the Database to check the status of kids completion of a questionnaire? The DFO knows. In essence, he’s the ultimate traffic cop in terms of logistics (especially when recruits are on campus).
Given all the personnel at modern BCS school's disposal to recruit, there a multitude of way a Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator can deploy the "Recruiting Team." And just as there are wide, wide variances of coordinating and offense or a defense there are in how you use your personnel with recruiting.
What is consistent however with all high powered programs with staffs known for recruiting is beyond having an established and consistent process and beyond have the personnel with a work ethic and keen eye on talent is having an organized plan of attack --- And it's that organized plan of attack, in which many of the the details for success derive.
So what does this recruiting plan look like? Typically its like any project planning. Broken down month-to-month and even further week-to-week of what each member of all members of the program involved in recruiting are doing for this years class. Sort of a to do list applied with a deadline on a calendar.
Want to be a fly on the wall in at one of the top recruiting meeting? You're in luck.
Note: While discussing in detail a program's specific organization and plan would be interesting for TN's readers, a divulging of any athletic program's intimate details, could be detrimental. The example(s) that are given are from direct BCS recruiting competitors of Florida State (with some information redacted) and are NOT Florida State's Recruiting Plan & Calendar under Jimbo Fisher (for obvious reasons).
Here is access to Recruiting Plan for a top BCS school from a recent year (I takes some time to sift through, but if you're really interested in recruiting it's a good read) - Just click the links in order.
You can see the calendar of BCS Recruiting Plan keeps the staff moving, on task and allows everyone involved to have an understanding of what every one else is doing. You can also see there's a lot for theses coaches to do when you factor in practice, getting ready for games and taking care of the current kids on campus.
As they say, the devil is in the details. And the plan is a detailed blueprint on how a staff approaches the upcoming recruiting cycle.
As we prepare watch the new members of the Seminole family the next couple of days as announcements are made take an opportunity to really appreciate how much time and exhausting work gets put in to the recruiting of these student-athletes that we'll see take the field in the fall. From Graduate Assistants to the Head Man that we all see on the sidelines on Saturdays, there are a lot of people involved with getting things from point A to point B. And even with have a proven process, great personnel on the road promoting and an organized plan - It still comes down to a teenager and will he or won't he.