Napier, Staff Hit the Recruiting Trail

The Clemson coaching staff will kick-start their 2008 recruiting efforts Monday morning as the Spring Evaluation Period officially begins.

For those that are new to the game of college football recruiting, it may be a surprise to learn that the next four weeks of the so-called "off-season" are critical when it comes to signing blue-chip prospects.

But in fact, nothing could be more true.

The next four weeks, which are otherwise known as the "spring evaluation period," give the Clemson coaching staff the ability to evaluate prospects in person, while also allowing them to speak to the families, coaches and administrators that are involved in these prospects' lives.

Up to seven assistant coaches can be on the road at any one time with three remaining back on campus.

One issue complicating matters is the fact that coaches are not allowed to talk to prospects they visit in person. They can evaluate these kids, and they can even offer scholarships through their high school coaches, but that's about it.

Clemson recruiting coordinator Billy Napier, who is in his first year on the job in that role, says the next four weeks will be especially exciting; even though there will not be wholesale changes from last year.

"We'll continue to do things in quite the same manner," Napier said. "I think (former recruiting coordinator) David (Blackwell) did an outstanding job. I'm excited about the opportunity to throw a few wrinkles in there. "But hopefully, my name will not be the forefront of this recruiting operation. It's my hope that Tommy Bowden's name will be at the forefront."

Napier says there are a number keys during the next four weeks, and even though his objectives are obviously different for each prospect, it all comes down to one thing- building relationships.

For the prospects that are already verbally committed to Clemson University, the key is to strengthen that commitment and answer any potential lingering questions that may be out there.

For the kids that have yet to make a commitment, the key is to establish and maintain relationships, not only with the prospect himself, but his family and high school coaches as well.

"Obviously there are a lot of guys you already know about," Napier said. "A lot of guys you've already offered a scholarship and you've developed relationships with.

"When you go in other schools, where you haven't been, you want to make sure you've done your research on the school and get to know the right people. You want to find out who the major players in the recruits' decision are going to be. Maybe coach Bowden will go in there with you and talk to the right people.

"Then there are always guys you are still trying to evaluate. You may need to see that guy practice. Some of these kids aren't as fortunate and haven't made the trip to Clemson yet so the position coach may get involved there."

Napier said learning more about a prospects' character and attitude are also important parts of the recruiting equation.

"A lot of times this will be the first time you get a chance to see these kids physically speaking with your own two eyes," he said. "We can talk to the coaches to learn more about their character and see what these kids actually look like in person. You want to see what kind of demeanor they have and also look at their transcripts."

Another one of the keys for Napier in his recruiting efforts is to simply make sure the prospect actually steps foot on Clemson's campus.

"You know going in that some of these kids haven't made the trip up to Clemson yet," he said. "I'm very fortunate to around good people here at Clemson. We just need to get these kids on campus and let them meet our coaches.

"We think Clemson sells itself to be quite honest. We want them to meet Wayne Coffman over at Vickery Hall. Let them see Clemson with their own two eyes. That's all there is to it. Everything about Clemson we feels like sells the school. It's an easy sell."

As one can imagine, the schedule for an assistant coach can be fairly hectic during this time. In fact, Napier actually left the Clemson area Sunday evening to make his first stop Monday morning.

"Personally my first week I'll be out seeing some national prospects," he said. "I fly out Monday to Ohio then out to Kansas City, Mo. then back to Ohio then Nashville, Tenn. That's with some of those guys we've developed relationships with that have connections to the Clemson area that we've had on campus.

"Then my second week will be in North Carolina. Third week in South Carolina and then my last week in Georgia."

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