5 Coaches Who Have the Biggest Built-in Recruiting Advantages
Recruiting is a year-round process. Coaches are always on the lookout for the next key addition to their program.
But when the clock hits :00 in the national championship game, the focus of the entire college football world shifts toward national signing day, when recruiting takes center stage and the very best high school players make one of the most important decisions of their lives.
There are several key factors that make it easier to recruit at certain schools: winning tradition, location in terms of being surrounded by top high-school talent, facilities, the promise of early playing time, and well, the list goes on and on.
But which schools have built-in advantages that make it easy for any coach, regardless of pedigree, to land the top players?
Take a look at five such coaches who have an easier time recruiting than those at the helm of other schools. Obviously every program has something to hang its hat on; otherwise it wouldn't be able to sell anyone on playing football there. But while this is list is far from comprehensive, these five coaches all have built-in pitches that help them succeed in the ever-changing recruiting landscape.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich: Facilities
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich may still be young and inexperienced, but he gets to sell recruits on what are perhaps the nicest facilities in all of sports.
If you haven't already, take a look at the most recent addition to the athletic complex (via SI.com), which doesn't look like something that belongs on this planet.
The crazy part is that the new facility is just a small part of what Oregon has to offer, from the hundreds of different uniform combinations to the indoor practice facility that becomes a tailgate spot on game day.
Let's be honest; the Ducks can't sell tradition unless they pretend football started in the mid-'90s. But not all recruits care about the national championship your program won back in 1940 or the Heisman winner you had in '75.
In recent years, Oregon has climbed to the upper echelon of college football by going to four straight BCS games and winning two. When you add recent success to a program at the very forefront of innovation, it's an intriguing combination for the best high school players around the country.
The Ducks may not be reeling in Top 10 classes, but they're beginning to land more talent each year, and Helfrich can thank the dazzling facilities for helping him in recruiting.
Texas' Charlie Strong: Location/Alumni Base
Charlie Strong wasn't exactly working with a bare cupboard while coaching at Louisville—just look at quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has a chance to be the first player taken in the 2014 NFL draft.
But at Texas, he'll have the opportunity to recruit more talented players than he's ever seen in his life.
That's just one of the perks when you're the head coach of the Longhorns, a team that is recognized even in the farthest corners of the globe.
In 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that the alumni base helped pay for more than one-third of the athletic department's budget. This frees up room to make sure the facilities are top-notch and that players who choose to wear the burnt orange will have more support than they would anywhere else.
Aside from having myriad boosters help out with the needs of the athletic department, Texas is in an ideal location to recruit the best high school players in the country. This Max Preps report shows that the state had the second-most talent of any state in the country in the previous recruiting cycle.
An easier way to explain this would be to simply look at the talent Texas has produced in recent years, from Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III to LaMichael James and Johnny Manziel.
Strong is entering a situation that offers inherent recruiting advantages, which he'll undoubtedly use to benefit the program during his tenure.
Florida State's Jimbo Fisher: Location
If we're in agreement that the state of Texas annually produces some of the best high school talent, let's also agree that Florida is in the same category—and perhaps even a notch ahead.
This Yahoo! report from 2010 details how the Sunshine State reigns supreme in the world of recruiting, in large part because of the speed of its high school athletes.
No longer is football strictly about winning the battle in the trenches, though that remains a huge part of the game. Now, with running backs running sub-4.3 40-yard dashes and quarterbacks escaping the pocket with the agility of a point guard, speed is of the utmost importance.
Because Florida has so much high school talent, schools like Florida State are benefiting. Of course, Will Muschamp and Florida are also scoring big with local recruits, but because of the recent national championship aided largely by players from their own state, we're giving Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles the headline in this one.
One might ask why simply having a program in close proximity to top-level recruits would be such a big advantage.
The answer is that programs have more exposure in their surrounding area than anywhere else, so nearby recruits are bound to know all about the team. In addition, many recruits aren't too keen on leaving town to play somewhere thousands of miles away when they can head to a premium destination and still be close to home.
Fisher isn't the only coach in the state to take advantage of fertile recruiting grounds, but with the 'Noles at the top of the mountain in 2014, he has perhaps the best built-in recruiting pitch of anybody else in the country.
Alabama's Nick Saban: NFL Pipeline
Tradition may have been Alabama's only built-in advantage when Nick Saban arrived, but he's done plenty of work underneath the hard hat and now has himself a program with a number of distinct advantages in recruiting.
The best one may be the fact that former Crimson Tide players are now playing throughout the NFL. In fact, 35 former 'Bama standouts had a roster spot when the 2013 NFL season began, and of those, 30 played under Saban for at least a year (via RollTide.com).
Every high school football player has different priorities when picking a college to attend, but we're willing to bet every single guy who's been offered a Division I scholarship has the same goal: to play in the NFL.
When Saban can walk into a recruit's home and point out the overwhelming percentage of players on his team who eventually make it to the NFL, it's an advantage that's tough to match anywhere else.
Alabama isn't the only school that regularly sends players to the league, but it's hard to think of another team sending as many guys who turn out to be excellent pros. Or perhaps you've forgotten about Julio Jones, Eddie Lacy, Mark Barron and Marcell Dareus, among countless others?
There are a lot of reasons why high school players would want to play at Alabama, but the school's top selling point is the fact that it has become one of the best NFL pipelines in the country.
Ohio State's Urban Meyer: Tradition
We said earlier that not all recruits care about what a particular program may have done in the past, and that's probably true. But there's also something to be said for walking onto a football field and knowing that you're following in the footsteps of legends.
From "Script Ohio" to former Heisman Trophy winners, Ohio State football screams tradition louder than anyone else, and current coach Urban Meyer has one heck of a built-in recruiting advantage because of it.
When you're Ohio State, there isn't a recruit who won't at least hear what you have to say. You don't have to beg for an in-home visit with a 5-star recruit; you have recruits begging you simply to watch their game tape.
Becoming a Buckeye is something that many young football players dream about, and with the team now coached by a man who's won a pair of national titles, Ohio State is truly one of the premier destinations in the country.
When the name of your school, by itself, is enough to grab recruits' attention, you have a built-in advantage in the recruiting world that is as special as they come.