Why Schmoozing the High School Coach Is the Most Important Part of Recruiting
"Winning in the living room" is a phrase that often gets thrown around in the offseason, as coaches sell their programs to student-athletes and their families.
Impressing the parents is a big step, but it isn't the only step.
Winning over the high school coach plays a major role in the process, and recruiters often have to sell themselves to the coach to seal the deal.
A college program takes on the identity of a coaching staff; and with the coaching industry being the fraternity that it is, establishing that identity and fostering those relationships with high school coaches is incredibly important.
They provide guidance to players and their families, as they search for that "perfect fit" at the next level.
"I think coach-to-coach relationships are very important," Central Gwinnett (Ga.) head coach Todd Wofford said. "I've built up relationships with coaches from different conferences and different teams, and knowing what kind of guys they are off the field allows me to provide guidance to my players as they're making their decisions."
One recent player whose decision hinged quite a bit on coach-to-coach relationships is current Ohio State linebacker Trey Johnson.
Johnson, a 6'2", 218-pound linebacker prospect in the class of 2013 from Central Gwinnett, was a long-time commit to Auburn under former head coach Gene Chizik. When Chizik and his staff were let go, the 4-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite index went looking for a new home.
Wofford helped connect Johnson to Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer, and the rest is history.
"He [Johnson] was committed to Auburn for the better part of a year," Wofford said, "due in part to the relationship I had with [former Tiger defensive coordinator] Ted Roof. When he opened his recruitment up, I had a relationship with Coach Meyer. Knowing how he [Meyer] is with his players was important when his dad had some questions about it."
The relationships run deep.
Prior to taking over the program at Central Gwinnett, Wofford was the offensive coordinator at Gainesville (Ga.) High School when dual-threat quarterback Blake Sims was taking the snaps.
Sims, who was a 4-star prospect coming out of high school, according to 247Sports.com, has bounced around between quarterback and running back in his two seasons in Tuscaloosa. But when it came to deciding on his college choice, it was all about Nick Saban and his no-nonsense approach.
"I knew Blake's dad wanted someone who was a disciplinarian and a strict guy," Wofford said. "When Alabama became an option for Blake, it's hard to top that."
If implemented, will new recruiting rules impact the coach-to-coach relationship?
But will that coach-to-coach relationship change in the future?
The NCAA has made a concerted effort this offseason to deregulate certain aspects of recruiting. The organization passed measures that would allow unlimited contact and off-the-field staff members to recruit.
Those measures hit roadblocks and won't be implemented this offseason, but they could play a factor in the relationship dynamics of the recruiting process if and when they are.
"It could change a little bit, because most of the schools would hire other coaches to do most of that stuff," said Wofford. "It wouldn't be those lead recruiters that we're talking to on a regular basis. It would be other people who we aren't as familiar with taking care of that."
Whatever happens, it's clear that the high school coach often has a big role in the final destination of high school prospects.
Whether they serve as father figures, mentors or just as another coach who these players play for during their younger years, the contacts they have with head coaches and assistants play a vital role in the recruiting process.
*Barrett Sallee is the Lead SEC College Football Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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