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[Karan Higdon on his visit | Bryan Fuller]
Someone was asking about the recruiting process, so I thought I would offer up the little bit I know, since we are all waiting on recruits, and it is a slow week on the board…because despite the tagline on the Mgo header, the staff seem to inexplicably observing a major holiday.
I will preface this by saying: I was never recruited. I went to a high school with a lot of big time recruits, I know guys that played at a few schools including M during the Carr/RR years, and I have a close friend who is an up and coming coach in Virginia. I have been on a few visits and I have heard about a lot more…most of the ACC, Big 10, SEC, and Big 12.
First, visits during games are not ideal. There isn't enough time for coaches to spend with recruits because of game day. Keep in mind, most games are at noon or 3:30, so the kid will be lucky to talk to the coach more than 5 or 10 minutes pre-game. Teams are up early in the morning to eat, have walk-throughs and head to the stadium. Coaches are finalizing game plans and generally stick with the team during the entire pre-game process. During the 2012 UM/OSU game, we were allowed to go to the coaches locker room with Urban for about 5 minutes, while the other recruits were eating. (Our group also included the #1 player in the country, so that is unusual.) During the meal, the position coaches mingle with parents and recruits. At UTL II, (if you remember was a monster recruiting weekend) we had a nice meal, they showed a slideshow and we had a few quick words from coaches. I spoke with Chris Perry, who attended my high school, but he was ushered out because of compliance.
The recruits are assigned a coordinator, who leads everyone on to the field pre-game. On the way there, a lot of kids (and adults..smh) were asking for autographs, which was immediately attended to because this was right after the Johnny Manziel fiasco. (Sorry, the Johnny Manziel AUTOGRAPH fiasco, not any of the other fiascos he’s been associated with.) The recruits get to stand on the sidelines as everyone warms up. Most will remember a fantastic picture I took of Da’Shawn with the Maize and Blue crowd in the background.
At OSU, I wore a highlighter yellow “HAIL” shirt as I walked in front of the student section. They did not approve. Being on the field allows players to get a feel for the gameday atmosphere, because that’s exactly where they would be for every gameday. It’s wild looking up at the audience, and witnessing 100,000 plus…the anticipation is moving through the air. Right before the band comes out, recruits are ushered to their seats, usually in the first 5-6 rows, in between the 40’s. My UTL II seats were 4th row. At OSU, we sat in the 6th row. Maryland we were in the 2nd row. I am a family friend of a former player who is not well –regarded around these parts, but every time I went with his family, we were between rows 8 and 14.
After the game, the recruits leave together, and meet up in the athletic center to wait for coaches and players. Coaches will sneak in and say hi if they can. Once the players are dressed and done for the night, they take out or hang out with recruits.
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Ideally, unofficial visits take place during spring practice and you follow up with an OV during a game the following fall. Coaches and parents prefer this option. What’s the point of having a kid on campus if you can’t spend any time with him? During spring practice, recruits and parents actually get to watch the coaches coach. You notice different drills and habits that may vary from one school/coach to another. It’s not really all that exciting to be honest, but it illustrates how practices are run. The UM coaches had their wives there to interact with recruits and their families. Mattison and Hoke’s wife, both knew who Hand was by the way, which was pretty cool. I believe UVA practiced first thing in the morning to allow students time to study during the rest of the day. That is something that appeals to recruits who are undertaking more demanding majors. When we arrived at Schembechler, we were given a tour of the building, the coaches offices, locker rooms, and meeting rooms. Mattison is not what you’d expect. He is a really goofy, funny guy. He gave us a little Beyonce dance, sang some Rihanna for us, and recommended Emile Sande songs. I truly dislike Mike Vrabel, but he’s a very good guy as well. Very intense..and you see it every time he is on tv. I mentioned this before but I thought Urban was very likeable, and I very nearly committed my unborn son to play for him at that moment. Some of the women that I worked with were very interested to hear about Urban Meyer and see pictures, which should tell you how easy it is for him to convince a mom to send their kids to him. [Below-right: Magnuson on his visit | Eric Upchurch]
Also included are the inevitable trip into the stadium. The locker room in the stadium is where you see the pictures taken with jerseys. Many schools will lay out the assortment of items, various helmets, jersey options, shoe/glove options and there will be a jersey hanging for each recruit with his number on it. They encourage the pictures because it is good recruiting and good psychology.
There is a building which is a study facility for athletes, I think it is the Ross Academic Center. IIRC, this is an athletes-only study center. There are different support programs, computers, study halls, tutors, etc. that are for players only. Michigan has an “M-Pact”(Michigan Athletics Professional & Career Transition Program) program which is used to essentially mentor kids about their future. Most high school senior football players will have 5 more years of football in their life. The ones that get to the NFL will have about 8. The lucky ones will have 15. What is left after that? It's eye opening for many kids who never thought about it like that. They have programs where they can pair current athletes with former athletes whether it is career advice or help dealing with situations. Former players actually still use the M-Pact program, including guys in the NFL or who are recently out of the NFL. Another example would be allowing a student-athlete to shadow someone in the career of their choice, to evaluate whether they would want to pursue that career.
The academic presentation is typically with the dean of the school, which the recruit intends to major. Many of you are familiar with Professor Needs A Raise. He gave a very interesting presentation and even encouraged me to look into the Sports Management Program. (Clearly, I looked like I ran a 4.4). It wasn’t the same presentation normal students get. It was…this is what I’ve done, this is what I’ve been a part of. Where do you see sports going in 20 years? Do you know where the money in sports is? Where it’s going. It was essentially a mini-lecture and it was captivating. He discussed former players who still contact him, the businesses they were getting into and current players and the options they had in front of him. I think RVB and Kovacs were two guys that were not going to fail at life because of the opportunities they had whether they chose football or not. I think there was a Rangers player and M grad who was doing something big that he was a part of. He also had hats around his office from all the professional teams he had worked with. It works. (it is also how I can see why some parents would not be impressed with other schools presentations. Sometimes a great teacher can entertain and blow you away, while others at different schools aren’t bad, just not comparable presenters.)
On day2 of a weekend visit, typically Sunday morning, recruits will meet with coaches again. This is a bit more football oriented as they may watch film and coaches will generally show how they plan to use a particular player in their system. Or they may pull up highlights of the recruit and coach up their tape. (Think Spider 3 Y Banana) For Hand, Mattison was showing clips of all the things he did with Terrell Suggs, blitzing, coverage and illustrating how he’d be used on different formations and packages. After that, the visit is pretty much wrapped up as parents/kids have to catch flights or drive back home.
I’m sure there are people who know more about compliance than I do and can offer more. On UV, you MUST pay for everything. Even meals in the facilities will be charged. We paid to eat at the buffet at OSU. (the food was meh). We ordered food at Schembechler and had to pay for our portions of it. Even when no one is looking, someone is paying attention. Maryland has a fantastic buffet and a patio on one end of the end zone where recruits can sit and watch the game. On OV, 1 hotel room for parents, and 1 for the player is paid for. Many charges are reimbursed, as opposed to paid for outright. Compliance officers are around the entire time, for example making sure that the recruit comes back to his room at some point for the night if other people are in the room with him (for example a cousin or a teammate on an UV) otherwise it could be a violation.
There are any number of factors that play into a kid’s choice. There are kids that take exception to not being offered early by certain schools. Some kids are much more into the school than the coach, and will join a program with a coach on the hot seat. There are a lot of kids who need stability and aren’t willing to risk uncertainty, whether it is a firing or taking another job, some kids will stay away from it. Different schools have different atmospheres and it really depends on how you fit in. The vibe at OSU appeals to some kids. There are some talented guys at OSU that would not fit in at Michigan. At VT, there were a lot of parents for Junior Day wearing camo. That’s who VT is. Maryland has an air of indifference to it. Tennessee is an awesome environment. I met Jalen Hurd at OSU in 2012 and I could tell he wasn’t that kind of kid. Tennessee is perfect for him. South Carolina under Spurrier was much more OSU than Michigan. I don’t understand why every kid doesn’t want to go to Florida. I have heard from more than 1 recruit that Florida has the best campus lifestyle of anyone.
Keep in mind, the big schools have all the same stuff. Great coaches, NFL experience, top notch facilities, women everywhere, good food, and a committed fan base. Many kids realize that they can get to the NFL going to any number of schools. Recruits have to nitpick reasons to not go. I heard a recruit had a bad experience hanging out with the players from a school, so he marked them off the list. I know 3 top recruits who weren’t offered soon enough by a number of schools, and refused to put them back on the list. Confusion about parking spots and security guards can eliminate a school as well. Proximity, people around a recruit….there was a top ten recruit who had people around him that pushed him to go to an instate school. His coaching staff wanted one school, and his family and those associated with his family graduated from the other school. There are so many factors that play into it, unless the kid is transparent, it really is impossible to predict.