Here's Why Official Visits Are so Critical to the Recruiting Process

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterJanuary 17, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 05:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide speaks to the media during Media Day ahead of the Discover BCS National Championship at Sun Life Stadium on January 5, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Tuesday, at Your Best 11, we talked about the recruiting process from a macro view, a quick rundown of the ordeal from start to finish that is National Signing Day. Today, we'll take a closer look at one of the more intriguing elements of the recruiting process: the official visit.

The official is the big moment of truth. It is the no-holds-barred recruiting showcase. Sure, you all know that coaches pull out all of the stops and turn on the charm for a kid and his family. They play to the recruit in a way that will hopefully woo the athlete and get them to buy into what the coach is selling.

Yet an official visit is so much more complex than that. The coaches are going to be great, no matter what, but when a kid takes a visit and who hosts the prospective student-athlete are tremendous variables. Variables that can breath life into the chances of landing a player, or they can suck the wind from the recruitment's sails.

When is the first big issue, where official visits are concerned. The choice becomes whether or not the best sell for a prospect is the in-game atmosphere, or if it is more face-time with the coaching staff. It is less about basketball-versus-football-school and more about putting one's best foot forward and knowing one's targets.

Everything is heavily prospect-dependent, and understanding what each kid needs is Job 1. Some players require the fawning, coddling and being catered to that only an out-of-season visit can give them. Time with the coach. Time with their position coach. Walking around being told how they can be a major player. 

There are kids who need that commitment. They want to feel needed and have to truly develop that relationship with a head coach and his staff.

Other kids need to be sold on what their Saturdays will be like. Not just the game itself; you can get that from an unofficial visit. Rather, they need to know what it is all like. From the hotel and spending time with a player, to the game's festivities, into the night out with the players. Even though they get less face-time with the coaches, going through that entire process helps make them feel comfortable in their decision.

Which brings us to the most critical factor of a visit, regardless of whether it is in-season or out-of-season: the host. Hosts ultimately get the commitments. For all the love for coaches get for being expert recruiters, the greatest thing that they do is know their recruits well enough to pair them intelligently. A bad pairing means that elite prospect is looking elsewhere after he wraps up his awful visit.

Bad pairings can mean a lot things. Every player on the roster is not into recruiting in the same way. Certainly, they all understand that they need good players coming in to win football games; that doesn't mean they want to spend their weekend hanging out with a high school kids.

The first hurdle for coaches is knowing who is willing to recruit; guys willing to give up the time on their schedule to sell the school, to shepherd around a 17- or 18-year-old for a couple of days. That is not everyone, and finding those who are willing is the first task.

Next comes finding who is able to host out of the willing. Sure, Linebacker No. 53 might be "willing" to host, but if he has no social skills and creeps people out; he's not exactly the man you want on the front lines trying to rope in talent. Finding the guys who are willing AND have the social skills, the social network and the charisma is another job coaches have to do.

All of that takes place before the recruits even come into question. Once the recruits set up their dates, the coach then has the tough task of pairing the kid with a willing and able host. This is another big ordeal that runs the risk of backfiring on the coach.

Some of the questions coaches have to answer when it comes to pairing the recruit with a host:

Do you go with a player who is from the same place as the recruit?

Do you go with a player who plays the same position as the recruit?

Does the recruit like to go out and have a good time?

Is the recruit an introvert that would prefer to stay in and play cards or video games?

What are the recruit's parents going to think about all of this?

There is a lot that goes into it, and you have to get it right, or you run the risk of losing the recruit.

Pairing a prospect that likes to get out on the town with a player who wants to stay in and play video games is a dealbreaker. The converse, a prospect who wants to stay in paired with a Good Time Charlie, will also end with the recruit looking to play his ball elsewhere.

It is a delicate science, and that is still all before you get into the actual visit itself. On the visit, you have to hope it goes well and that the host who has been selected sells the school and shows the kid the type of good time that he was looking for.

Official visits make or break you. Recruiting decisions hinge on the official visit, as kids want to ultimately feel at home during their extended stay. If a kid comes, has a great time with the current players, enjoys talking to the coach and has a ball during his nights on campus, and if coaches can get official visits right, they can land a lot of very talented players.

If they tank the visit, they will find getting good ball players to be a tough task.