I usually begin each edition of “Ask Aschoff” with a shout out to my readers and the great questions you ask (almost) every week. Things will be different this week.
I figured I’d give myself a pat on the back. You’re only allowed so many in life. If you’ve checked out SI.com’s Stewart Mandel’s mailbag, which is probably the best around, you’ll notice that the killer Wii skills I mention in my bio have become national news. Well, sort of. I must admit, Stewart was a tough adversary. Check it out! The Champ is Here.
Now, on to the questions!
Can you describe the “typical” recruiting process and the vehicles that are most frequently used chronologically from discovery of a prospect to commitment — how does the school learn about a player? What part do camps play, videos, letters, calls, e-mails, visits, H.S. coaches, etc.?
— bill giauque
Finding a prospect can work in many different ways. Obviously, players who have a connection to a certain university or have family members that play or have played for a school are usually the easiest to find. Just look at former Gator running back Fred Taylor’s son. Kalvin Taylor is a freshman, and he’s already coming up in tons of conversations concerning a possible future with the Gators. For most prospects, word of mouth is good. High school coaches will sometimes contact college coaches. Or college coaches who have good relationships with high school coaches or have a “pipeline” with a certain school can always find prospects that way. Video is pretty key. Getting coaches to see you as much as possible never hurts — unless you’re not too good. Players can send video to any school they want, and with Rivals.com, Scout.com and YouTube, most anyone can get their stuff on the Web. Coaches love them some Internet.
Once coaches find prospects they’re interested in, they send out letters. The more interest, the more letters. E-mail works wonders because now that text messaging is a no-no, coaches can e-mail as much as they want. It’s actually a pretty slick loophole. Almost every coach in America has a PDA of some sort. iPhones and Blackberrys work wonders for recruiting. You can’t send a text message, but you can e-mail directly from your phone. Kids these days have the same phones, so they’re basically communicating back and forth as if they were text messaging.
Camps are huge. Players can rise and fall in the eyes of coaches and recruiting analysts with their performances at camps. A few years ago, quarterback Cameron Newton was barely even recognized until he took over at Friday Night Lights. Florida fell in love with him and shortly after, he became a five-star recruit. Gator running back commit Mack Brown barely camped this summer and some of the recruiting sites dropped his rating. They love watching kids compete at these things because they’re mostly camps with the best guys in the country. Florida kind of lost interest in Victor Hampton after he wasn’t too impressive at Friday Night Lights this year. He’s not a Gator today. Now, for school camps like the ones Florida runs before Friday Night Lights, it’s a chance for kids to come on unofficial visits and see the campus, talk with coaches and try to impress the coaching staff (if they need to).
During certain times of the year, coaches can call recruits. Other times, they can’t. It’s pretty complicated. Coaches can call a prospect once a week, but prospects can call whenever during the contact period, which ends just before Signing Day. Again, if you can send a quick e-mail and tell a prospect to call you, then you’re getting ahead of the game.
For visits, you have official and unofficial visits. You can have as many unofficials as you want. They are on your own dime and you’re not getting the royal treatment — well, you’re not supposed to. Officials are the real deal. You get five and you have to take one of the standardized tests (ACT or SAT) before you can schedule them. Lots of kids take them in-season to check out games. The universities pay for them, so prospects get wined and dined. They are more personal visits for players and coaches. Sometimes, the ones taken after the season are better because you can get more time with more kids.
Coaches can visit a prospect only once during a particular week during the contact period, no matter now many prospects are at the school.
1. Is Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin telling WR and RB recruits that UF’s offense doesn’t help them prepare for the NFL working on any prospects beyond Nu’Keese Richardson? 2. Do the Gators still have Gator Getters — or similar UF student recruiting support?
To your first question, I can’t speak for Kiffin, I can only go by what recruits have told me. It’s a part of the selling process to kind of negatively recruit against another school, whether it be academics, playing time or playing schemes. Kiffin has said that the spread hurts college prospects, and with his more pro-style offense, it would come as no surprise for him to tell recruits that if they want to make it to the NFL, his offense is for them. I think the recent success of Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell and Louis Murphy should help the Gators. Now, if they can just get a running back to produce like that.
Gator Getters? I’m not sure what they’re called anymore, but there are a group of students that I think are called the Cicerones that help show recruits around on campus. I have a couple of buddies who do it or have done it in the past. They’re always in uniform in the South End Zone with recruits during the game and they help direct them away from the media after games. I still get what I need, though.
After a very hot start in the recruiting process, Florida has cooled down a little and dropped in the rankings. Do you still see Florida making a run at the nation’s #1 class? Also, do you see any new commitments soon for the Gators?
— Brandon S.
It’s slow right now because high school and colleges are playing ball right now. More commitments usually come before and after the season. Nature of the beast. It’s not helping that a few schools have made a bit of a run in the last few months. Florida’s staff just has an agenda. They know who they want and they don’t want to settle this early. I respect that. Why take a guy who wants to commit but you’re not sure about him? Guys like Jeff Luc, Jordan Hicks, Chris Dunkley and Ronald Powell are priorities and the Gators have to wait until they’re ready. Florida can basically wait and turn some players down right now. That’s how well they’re doing. Sure, their ranking’s dropped, but it should pick up in the next few months. A few prospects (Luc, Dunkley and Hicks) who are planning to enroll early — or want to — will be making decisions soon, and I think Florida looks good for a couple of those guys I just mentioned. I still see this class being one of the best in the country when it’s all over and done.
I’m not sure if I see guys committing “soon.” The next month or so? Yes. It looks like Luc is looking at Tennessee and Florida. He’s an early enrollee, so his decsion could come soon. I’m staying with my early prediction that because of his relationship with defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, Luc will pick Florida. Dunkley is a guy who seems primed to be a Gator but is just playing the game. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he committed today or in three months. He’ll commit when he feels like it. One guy who could surprise some people is Powell. I know, I know. He’s supposed to wait until National Signing Day to announce. I still think he will, but he has said recently that he could be a spontaneous commitment. I’m leaning toward NSD, but if he starts to tire of recruiting, he could pull the trigger early. I like Florida’s chances, but Southern Cal is tough to beat for backyard talent.
With tweeting and texting these days is it possible to “over-recruit” some players during the process, it seems like it could be too much at some point? On the other hand, are there many players who pursue colleges they like and does that work?
— Florida Frankie
I think coaches can always over-recruit guys they really want, especially if they are committed somewhere else, but some of these guys love the attention. Gator commit Solomon Patton told me he’s tired of Tennessee coaches calling him. Dunkley seems to love the attention. Even Brown picks up his phone for other schools. Guys can get bothered by it, but sometimes if they’re not getting enough attention they freak out. Lamarcus Joyner said over the summer that Florida wasn’t contacting him enough and he was ready to drop them all together. Now, he’s interested in them again because more love is coming his way. Still, phone bills can get high for some of these kids and inboxes and mailboxes can start overflowing.
On the other side, I’m sure less-heralded guys can over-sell themselves to coaches. There was talk that some of the Gator coaches stopped answering James Louis’ calls after he tried to commit earlier this year. It’s bound to happen. Coaches can only try to stay in contact with so many players. But when you’re trying to get into a school to play, I think players start to get the hint and look elsewhere.
Can you discuss the importance of creating pipelines to schools like Deland, South Grove, etc.?
— Rom 8:31
Anytime you can find a school that has an abudance of talent each year, it’s always smart to develop some sort of positive rapport with that school and its coaching staff. Florida’s been successful with those two schools recently. Developing better pipelines in south Florida would be essential for the Gators. Miami’s got some strong ones down there, so it’s tough, but consistantly getting the best players out of central and northern Florida is always good.
Hey Ed, I heard that there were some Seminole commits that have begun to look elsewhere. Matter of fact, Gator Country is reporting that some of them are showing the Gators some interest. What’s up with that?
— paul spradling
What’s up is that FSU’s on-the-field struggles are Florida’s gain. It doesn’t hurt that controversy is surrounding the ‘Noles (NCAA violations and Bobby Bowden’s job). Who is going to be the coach at FSU next year? Recruits want to know. Kids looking at FSU are starting to question the program and some players already committed to the Seminoles are doing the same. FSU already lost offensive line commit Ed Christian to Auburn. Current commits Darius Cummings, Terrence Brooks and Tavaris Barnes have all turned into “soft” verbals for the Seminoles. Florida has made some recent contact with Brooks and could go after Cummings as well. Guys who were thought to be heavy leans to FSU, like linebacker Christian Jones, receiver Kenny Shaw and cornerback Terrence Mitchell all seem to be anything but locks at the moment. The more issues that arise in Tallahassee will definitely help the Gators in recruiting.