What makes a good college football recruiter?
That's an extremely complex question that demands complex answers, and you have to take in all the factors that come into play on the recruiting trail.
Let's examine if a coach's recruiting skill really matters or if it's really all about persistence.
If Nick Saban was the head football coach at Wake Forest and Jim Grobe had Saban's gig at Alabama, would their respective recruiting draws be any different?
Well first off, I dare say you wouldn't have to Google Grobe to know who he was, and Saban may not be the household name he is right now.
That said, I have no doubt Saban would find a good amount of recruiting success at Wake Forest if the aforementioned hypothetical was true. He may not be able to lead the Demon Deacons to Alabama-like heights, but his natural charisma as a coach and a recruiter would allow him to hype up the program and bring in a handful of good recruits each year.
Talent begets talent, and sooner or later as that talent builds, the program would start to get better, which then allows it to compete on the field. Once a program starts winning consistently, big-time recruits will notice, and that's where the recruiting skill of a coach like Saban can seal the deal. That's also how dynasties like Saban's real-life Alabama program are built.
Know this: There is a skill to being a great recruiter, though I believe it's more of a natural skill than a learned ability.
For instance, I had the great fortune of being able to attend a coaching conference about a month ago due to my position as a high school football coach in Michigan.
The keynote speakers for the first day's morning sessions were none other than Brady Hoke of Michigan and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State—and they taught me more about recruiting than they'll ever know (considering they weren't talking about recruiting).
I was introduced to Dantonio and he looked me in the eyes, shook my hand, smiled and greeted me in a very warm and welcoming manner. Admittedly, I was a bit intimidated due to to the fact that I see him on television every Saturday and I know he's a great football mind, but he treated me like we were equals.
Overall it was a very pleasant experience.
We then proceeded to listen to him talk about his program. He was clear, concise and confident. He made his points in a very matter of fact way and he came across as an "all business" type of coach.
The kicker is that at no point was he stale and everybody in the room was thoroughly engaged in his presentation. He wasn't over the top, but he commanded the room and he earned his respect by giving us respect by the way he handled himself and talked with us—not at us.
I imagined him taking that same approach on the recruiting trail, and it didn't surprise me that he's had such a successful run with the Spartans. His natural confidence and calmness will really draw in a certain type of recruit, and that's a skill he was born with, my friends.
Next came Hoke, who possessed the exact opposite skill-set, yet it was equally as effective. I actually spent a good majority of Hoke's presentation out in the lobby working on an article, but I could hear his voice bellowing seemingly throughout the whole hotel.
His personality was larger than life, his enthusiasm was contagious and he brought an excitement and buzz to the room that was very tangible. You can tell that he's a great motivator and probably excellent in the locker room before the game or at half time.
Hoke's personality demanded our attention.
That same enthusiasm and personality shines through on the recruiting trail, and it's easy to see why Hoke is one of the best recruiters in college football.
Much like Dantonio, though, that's a skill set that Hoke personally possesses, and that's what makes him so valuable as a recruiter for Michigan.
You can take a coach like Dantonio, Saban or Hoke and put them in charge of a lesser program that doesn't have a lot of draw, and they'll be able to build it up because of their abilities as a recruiter.
Not every coach can do the same.
The trend in recruiting right now is that schools are making offers to kids at a very young age, as early as eighth grade in one instance. The general thought process is these recruits are getting better, younger, so the quicker you can get on their radar as a coach, the better it will be for you in the long run.
If a recruiting race were to come down to two schools, coaches want to be able to remind a recruit that they've been talking to said recruit for a long time and have shown interest in him for years upon years—much longer than the other school has.
This also comes into play when a recruit commits but has not signed.
Nowadays, a commitment is almost an invitation for other programs to really turn up the heat on the recruiting trail more than it is a signal that the recruiting process has stopped.
Coaches want to be able to tell a recruit that they "never gave up" even after said recruit committed, and that's how "dedicated" their program is to bringing the recruit into the fold.
Persistence is becoming a recruiting tool, but it's not as valuable as you may think.
In the end, all it takes is a coach with great personality and charisma to enter the equation and that alone can change four years worth of "recruiting" from the competition.
Sure, both Hoke and Saban have thrown their hats in the ring and have made offers to some very young recruits as of late, but in the end it's going to be their charisma as a coach that wins a recruit over and not the amount of time that they've spent together on the recruiting trail.
Recruiting is about personal connection and whether or not a player feels comfortable with a school or program.
Sometimes, it take years to develop those connections. A great recruiter can establish that connection in one sit-down though, and that's what puts the best of the best so far ahead of the rest of the field in recruiting.
Persistence is a valuable recruiting tool and it should be utilized, but nothing makes up for natural charisma, confidence and personality on the recruiting trail.
That's a skill, and one that separates the good from the great in recruiting.
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