5 College Football Programs That Changed Revamped Recruiting Strategies
Change is synonymous with college football, but one thing that seems to remain consistent is a team's recruiting footprint. However, when change occurs it's often when a school is at the bottom and looking to shake things up.
Yet, over the past few years some big-name programs have gone about some pretty big changes on the recruiting trail thanks to new coaching staffs. Whether it's connections from a previous school or someone being from a specific state, there are reasons for a change in where and why a school recruits new areas.
For a few schools it has meant completely redesigning how they go about recruiting and where they do the most recruiting. Let's explore five examples of this over the last few years.
*All recruiting info courtesy 247Sports.com.
Lexington, Kentucky, is just about a 90-minute trip from Ohio, but under former head coach Joker Phillips you wouldn't have known it existed on the recruiting trail. Given the talent in the Cincinnati area, it was a bit mind-boggling as to why there wasn't more of an emphasis on recruiting in Kentucky's immediate footprint.
Enter Mark Stoops and a change in how the Wildcats have attacked the neighboring state. Before Stoops' hire, Kentucky had put out 27 offers in the state of Ohio in three recruiting cycles; yet in the year Stoops was hired, the offers in Ohio spiked to 30.
It hasn't stopped there either, as Kentucky put out 32 offers in 2014 and currently has 37 offers out in 2015—and five offers in 2016, too.
Offers are great, but landing players is the most important part of recruiting a new area hard. Stoops' 2014 class featured 11 players from the state of Ohio, the most of any single state in the class. In this current cycle, Kentucky has three of its eight commitments out of the neighboring state.
Kentucky made strides on the field in 2014, but it's clear that Stopps and his staff are banking on the talents in Ohio to turn this program around for good.
Arkansas is in a very unique situation in the SEC because it is a program in a state that doesn't produce talent on the level of any other state in the conference footprint. So, Arkansas has always gone out of state for the majority of its talent.
Whether it is Texas, Florida or neighboring Louisiana, the Razorbacks have had roots in the South for their recruiting base. However, something was bound to change when Bret Bielema was hired after the 2012 season, especially given his roots in Big Ten country.
The Razorbacks have continued to recruit hard in traditional areas, but Bielema has put his personal touch on the program as well by recruiting hard in a state never really touched by Arkansas in the past: Ohio.
Eight offers went out to players in Ohio from 2010 to 2013, but since that time and with Bielema's plan fully in place, there have been over double the amount of offers (18) to Ohio in the 2014 and 2015 recruiting cycle.
The effort hasn't gone unpaid, either, as Arkansas does have a commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt in the current class.
What will be interesting to see is if Ohio continues to be a commitment for Bielema, especially given that primary Ohio recruiter Chris Ash left for Ohio State this offseason.
The Wisconsin Badgers have gone about recruiting in very specific areas for about as long as anyone reading this can remember. Wisconsin's formula never needed to change because it worked for what Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema planned on playing—mainly hard-nosed, grind-it-out football.
When Gary Andersen was hired to replace the departed Bielema, things quickly changed. Andersen and his staff began to focus more on recruiting the Maryland/D.C./Virginia corridor and the state of Georgia in ways that UW has never done before.
It had immediate payoff, too, which is the most important part of a change in recruiting philosophies and areas. Wisconsin pulled in two players from Georgia and Maryland, respectively.
Most importantly, the commitment wasn't just a one-time deal in those areas, as UW has put some major effort into those areas in the 2015 recruiting cycle. There are 25 offers in the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area, while UW has extended 22 offers in the state of Georgia.
UW also focused its attention on Georgia with the hire of Thomas Brown, a former Georgia Bulldog, as its running backs coach.
The staff also isn't afraid to evaluate its plan and change areas of emphasis, either, as it has recently planted a flag in the state of Texas in a major way for the first time. Currently, Wisconsin has 25 offers out in Texas for the 2015 class, which is second most to the state of Florida.
Putting out offers in new, talent-rich areas is great, but what Wisconsin proved is that its staff can recruit anywhere it needs to—regardless of the school's previous history in a given state.
When you're in the highly competitive recruiting world of the SEC, finding a way to stand out is difficult. However, at Tennessee, head coach Butch Jones seems to have found a way to stand out, indeed.
That's because Jones has gone heavy into states that aren't common for SEC teams not named Alabama—mainly California and North Carolina.
Jones went right to work in those two states, upping the offer total in California from 10 in 2012 to 22 in the 2013 cycle, and six offers out to players in North Carolina in 2012 to 18 in the 2013 cycle.
That kind of effort has paid off a bit, with one commitment from California and two from North Carolina in the 2014 class. Included in that group was 4-star wide receiver Von Pearson out of California and 4-star running back Derrell Scott from North Carolina.
In the current recruiting cycle, Jones and his staff have put out 17 offers in California and 20 in North Carolina, with two commitments from North Carolina amongst the 11 listed commitments, according to 247Sports.com.
While Jones has made it known that Tennessee and Georgia are the biggest priorities in recruiting, finding skill-position parts from other areas outside of Tennessee's typical footprint could give it an edge in the SEC.
Recruiting in the Northeast has always been a bit tricky, but when you're the biggest university in the biggest state in the region, you have some pull. That was always Syracuse's advantage; however, times have changed for the Orange and so has their recruiting philosophy.
With the move from the Big East to the ACC for the 2013 season, Syracuse football upgraded its profile and needed to get into more talent-rich areas, as well. For new head coach Scott Schafer and his staff, it meant turning attention away from the home state and going after more talent in neighboring New Jersey, and heading to fertile ACC recruiting grounds in Florida and Georgia, as well.
From 2010 to 2012, the Orange put out 46 offers in their home state of New York, but since the switch to the ACC with the 2013 recruiting cycle, only 24 offers have gone out to players from the state. On the flip side, Syracuse has put out 43 offers in the more talent-rich state of New Jersey.
Just 19 offers went to players in Georgia over the three-year period from 2010 to 2012, but in the last three cycles, the Orange have put out 67 offers in the Peach state. Florida has seen over a 100 percent increase in offers as well, going from a high of 19 in 2012 to currently having 46 offers in the current recruiting cycle.
The staff's efforts have paid off, too, with six players from Florida and two from Georgia signing in the 2014 class. Most importantly, the Orange have focused on upgrading the skill positions, with all six of the players from Florida being of that variety—signing two wide receivers, two cornerbacks, a dual-threat quarterback and an athlete.
While the staff may not have initiated the change to the ACC, it has been smart by diving into the talent-rich areas that will allow players to see their home states during their four-year careers. Now it's about making those inroads with higher-level talents, as well.
*Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB.