By Radio Man - www.cfb360.com
Schmoozing isn't just a word, it's an art, especially in College Football recruiting, which for recruits and fans is a nightmare, a pleasure, and an entertainment industry wrapped into one. A handful of College Football's best programs are also led by some its best recruiting head coaches. Unfortunately for fans of a select few tradition-rich programs, there are a few slackers leading what should be at least good programs, but due to recruiting ineptitudes such as staggering to the recruiting finish line each National Signing Day instead of racing through it, aren't.
A few basic criteria to be honored as a top recruiter, or, ahem, slapped with the tag of basically being a lazy recruiter, err, golfer (more on that in a bit), are as follows: 1) preferably a head coach at the Division I level for at least 10 years, and 2) preferably coaching for at least one program that produces consistent winners, i.e. January bowl games are expected, not the exception.
Beginning with the best of the best, Southern California head coach Pete Carroll takes the cake. Even though Carroll is fairly new to the College game, from 2002-2008 the Trojans were a recruiting juggernaut. Last year was the first time in six years the Trojans could not stake claim to having the nation's top recruiting class. That's just ridiculous. How does Carroll do it? For one, location. It's LA man! Tradition comes into play with the Trojans, and of course having a coaching staff that has several good coaches and recruiters since Carroll took over at Troy makes him a powerful influence on the recruiting scene. What places Carroll no. 1, however, is his ability to land recruits from areas that Southern California just does not normally land recruits. Tallahassee, Fla., New Jersey, Toledo, Ohio, Muskegon, Mich., Texas, New York, NY, Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina are locations that the Trojans had, currently have or will have players on the roster. Carroll is the ring leader, and deserves big-time kudos for his efforts.
Next in line is Bobby Bowden down at Florida State. Ole "dad gummit" as some like to call him, has certainly won the lions' share of elite recruiting battles during the course of his time at Florida State. When Bowden arrived in Tallahassee in the mid 1970s, the Florida State program was a joke, a laughing stock. That quickly changed and by the early 1980s the Seminoles were a threat to land just about any recruit in Florida, not to mention adjacent southern states. Bowden's a man of faith, but more than anything, he's a man that knows how to talk to mothers. "Maam, you send your boy down here to Tallahassee with me and I'll make sure to take real good care of him, ya hear?" OK, that was uncalled for, but whatever Bowden says to mothers to win them over, it's become legendary. Nothing strikes fear into opposing coaches than to hear that coach Bowden has an in-home visit scheduled with a recruit. That leads to coach Bowden spending one-on-one time with a prospect, and an opportunity to win the battle with the all-important mom. Look out when coach Bowden comes to town. He talks a big game.
Bowden's protégé is Texas head coach Mack Brown, who just so happened to play at Florida State. Brown turned around a horrible North Carolina program (1988-1997) and is the current big shot down on the forty acres. Texas fans are usually bored by the end of August, at least in terms of recruiting. Why? The Longhorns have all but wrapped up recruiting for the year. The Longhorns sign about twenty of the top thirty or forty in-state recruits, and maybe cherry pick another one or two from the likes of California, Louisiana, etc. In short, Texas is the best gig in College Football. Great academics, but also the ability to hide "lesser" students if need be, great social life for student-athletes, excellent city in which to live, and a big-time tradition. Add Mack's personality and recruiting really is about just keeping the ducks in a row, err, local high school coaches. Brown established a strong relationship with numerous high school head coaches a decade ago and has kept those relationships strong to this day.
Now for the not so good news…drum roll please!
As the saying goes, "do not say anything if there is nothing nice to say." Well, to heck with that.
College Football is a business and the following coaches have stunk up the joint in recent years. No. 3 on the list, Greg Robinson, head coach of Syracuse. Now, understand that when Robinson headed to upstate New York, the Orange were floundering. That's not his fault, but the Orange crush can now just be called the crushed Orange. The recruiting horror. Ugh. For the current recruiting class, The 'cuse has one commitment, and it's from an unranked recruit, per Rivals.com. Are you serious? Come on! Syracuse has some tradition. It's in a decent conference – The Big East – that plays on national television. Robinson needs to improve dramatically. His last few classes have not been good enough either.
The next coach may surprise some people, but it is due to his inability to protect the home base more than anything else. Ralph Friedgen has already lost six possible recruits to Penn State this year, and one of the region's top cornerbacks, Dominick Clarke, to Ohio State. It's only June! What's odd is that a few of the regions top players signed with Maryland last year, but still not enough. Friedgen, much like Robinson, has a program that could be very good. He just is not getting it done on the recruiting trail. Because Maryland is in such a good area for recruiting, Friedgen goes one spot in front of Robinson.
And the winner (loser) for worst recruiting head coach is…Tyrone Willingham. This is the coach that is more concerned with figuring out if he is going to hit three wood or a one iron off the tee than whether or not to offer the state of Washington's top recruits in a timely fashion, if at all. Not to mention, Willingham was the man responsible for recruiting what turned out to be the worst class in the past fifty years at Notre Dame – last years senior class – before heading to Seattle. Nice job, Ty. And to take the cake, and it is just hard to fathom, Willingham and the Huskies have exactly zero commitments for the class of 2009 right now. None, zero, zip, nada. Mack Brown would fall over. Then again, he's probably not in as good of shape as Willingham as the Huskies head coach constantly lugs his bag of clubs around the various country clubs he frequents. Willingham is not long for Seattle, and his recruiting incompetency bears a great deal of the blame.