How Does Small College Recruiting Differ from Large Conference Recruiting?
As we cover recruiting here at Bleacher Report, naturally we focus are efforts on the big schools and conferences in college football. Those schools have the largest fan bases and get the most coverage because they're the most visible programs.
But what about the little guys? I won't name any names, but there are surely schools who feel they're at a big time recruiting disadvantage when compared to the bigger schools in the bigger conferences. Some of you may be asking, "What's the difference? That little mid-major school should be going after the same prospects Alabama, USC, Florida and Notre Dame go after."
Well, you're wrong if you're asking that question. There are several differences in recruiting at a smaller college versus recruiting at a big school in a big conference.
Here's a few of those differences.
Recruiting Intensity and Competitiveness
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I've heard some crazy recruiting stories from various people on some far stretched things coaches and schools have done to land a recruit.
The SEC is said to be very competitive and intense when it comes to recruiting and many say the Pac-12 schools do all they can to fight USC.
At smaller programs and even mid-major programs, recruiting is not as intense as it is in the major BCS conferences. Some small schools don't even really start getting serious about recruiting until after their season.
The big conference schools must treat recruiting as a year round sprint. The smaller schools can wait and recruit at their own pace because it isn't as intense for them.
Recruiting Reach Proximity
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Look, if you're Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and etc., you can go anywhere in the country and land a talented recruit. Nick Saban knows he isn't restricted to the South and don't think Urban Meyer is going to stay in Ohio for recruits.
The bigger schools can recruit nationally and even internationally in some cases. The smaller schools just don't have the recruiting reach to do so.
A small school on the East Coast is probably not going to go to California too often looking for players. That small school is going to stay local and recruit its surrounding areas.
Evaluation and Types of Recruits to Go After
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Coaches at small schools and mid-majors can choose to go after 5-star and 4-star recruits if they want, but more times than not they're not going to land any of them.
The type of player a small school must recruit is the recruit who has adequate talent, good grades and a little upside. Robert Nkemdiche was not going to Georgia Southern. Max Browne wasn't going to Puget Sound.
The big schools can go after the elite-level recruits because the best talent in recruiting goes to the biggest schools. That's just the lay of the land.
I'm sure the type of players Brian Kelly recruited at Central Michigan and Cincinnati differ greatly from what's available to him in South Bend.
Budget and Resources
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This is the No. 1 main difference in small school recruiting versus big school recruiting. Nick Saban and his staff at Alabama have an extraordinary recruiting budget and they can even take private planes to small towns to get directly to recruits faster.
I'm sure small schools and mid-majors have a recruiting budget, but they can't compete with budgets and resources like Alabama's and such.
The Tide can print out all kinds of ridiculous amounts of material to mail to hundreds of recruits and not have it even be noticed in their budget.
Another way budgets and resources come into play is with staffing. Smaller schools likely have a coach who also works as the director of football ops, while the big schools can afford to pay full time support staff who can help with recruiting.
It always comes down to money, doesn't it?
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.