Chris Beatty has enjoyed outstanding recruiting success throughout his coaching career. He was credited for bringing in several top prospects to Vanderbilt last year despite academic restrictions and limited success in the powerful SEC.
"Coach (James) Franklin does a great job. He puts a big emphasis on recruiting. I think a lot of it is the lure of the SEC. Like he says, you can get it all in one. Why settle when you can get the best of football, playing in the best conference, and then academically you can get the best too. That appeals to people.
"It's an interesting dynamic when you are trying to compete against the Floridas and Alabamas. It's difficult. And at Vanderbilt, we're competing against Illinois. We're all trying to recruit the same players. Recruiting down there is difficult, but we had a great place to sell. Just like we have a great place to sell here at Illinois."
Beatty's approach appeals to prospects. He believes he knows why he's enjoyed recruiting success over the years.
"Having been a high school coach gives you both sides as far as having heard all the coaches come in and give their recruiting pitches. You sit back and hear the good and the bad, and you get feedback you wouldn't normally hear if you're a college coach: what the players say when you leave. I knew what things were reaching the players and what things weren't.
"My biggest thing is to always be honest. I feel like if I'm honest with them and just be who I am and not try to be anybody else, things will work out. I don't try to be their buddy, I try to be me. I think sometimes they gravitate to that because they look at you as being real and not just a salesman. That's what works for me.
"I think that's an advantage for me. Recruiting is such a long process, the players can kind of weed out who's honest and who's not. I think all that plays into it when it's a long haul in developing a relationship."
Beatty will be responsible for multiple recruiting territories.
"I have the Illinois side of St. Louis, so that will be my primary area in the state. I'm looking forward to that. And then I have Maryland, DC and Virginia. I also have Houston, and I have Tampa all the way down towards Ft. Myers on the left hand coast of Florida. I've got a lot of area to cover. Of course, I'll go wherever there is a good quarterback."
Quarterback recruiting requires attention to detail.
"Recruiting quarterbacks is a little bit different. We are a little slower to pull the trigger on some guys because rarely do you take more than one in a class. Only one quarterback plays, so it's not like you have five linemen. You play one at a time, so you want to make sure that you do your best diligence to make sure you get the best one that fits your system.
"When you're recruiting them, they realize you're only taking one. If you were taking three, they could sit back and wait, knowing they can still go to that school. But at quarterback, if you get one you're done at that position. When that happens, it causes a trickle-down. Others want to get on board so they can save a spot somewhere."
Illinois has four quarterbacks on campus, so it didn't recruit a quarterback for the 2012 signing class. But getting an outstanding signal caller capable of competing for playing time early will be a high priority for Beatty this year.
"We're looking forward to trying to get a good one. The reason we didn't want to get one this year, as a new staff we wanted to make sure we got one that fit what we want to do. We wanted someone we know because there's so much invested in that position.
"For the success of our program, you want to make sure you get the right one. If you're going to put your faith in one guy, make sure he's the right one. We didn't want to rush to make a judgment, to get a guy to just take a number."
Top quarterbacks have intangible qualities that cannot always be identified in highlight film. Coaches need time to evaluate prospects to know who best meets team needs.
"No question. A lot of times, people underestimate that. A highlight tape doesn't show you how someone competes. It shows you how talented they may be in selected plays. But it doesn't necessarily show how accurate they are either. They could be a 50% passer, but it looks like 75% because they're showing the best of the best.
"In a quarterback, you want to make sure that you see them throw the ball live. You can't always see the spin of the ball when it comes out of someone's hand. More important, you've got to get to know the student-athlete because you want to know you're getting the right type of player.
"Of course you want to see them throw the ball, but you want to make sure he is got all those intangibles. We can see those things when we evaluate them in person.
"You learn as you go. That's why you like to recruit coaches' sons because you know they get it. They're around the game for a long time, so they understand a little bit."
Some colleges use a pro-style offense, while others like Illinois prefer more of a spread offense. Each side argues the merits of their style. Beatty is convinced any offense can be effective and produce NFL-caliber prospects if both the recruiting and coaching are of high quality.
"Everywhere I've been, one of our pet peeves has been developing talent and maximizing our talent. Hopefully, will be able to do that with the system that we have. We want to make sure we're getting good players in through recruiting.
"To me, it's always production that's what's best. Everybody wants to go to the NFL as a player. The NFL takes players that are productive. It doesn't matter if they're from LSU in a pro-style offense, or if they're from West Virginia in a spread offense. Productive people go on to the next level. That's what we want to try to do, is put them in a position to be productive."
Illini coaches are competing with the best schools in the Midwest and around the country for top prospects. Some schools have a history of frequent success on the football field, and many top prospects feel their path to the NFL is enhanced at those schools. Beatty is not concerned about the competition.
"It's about developing relationships. Anywhere you go, it's all about the people. Everybody focuses on the bells and whistles, the facilities, the size of the stadium and all those things. But the bottom line is, there's a lot of great players coming from the MAC to the NFL. There's a lot of 1-AA players playing in the NFL.
"So it's about developing relationships and developing talent. Do the research, dig and find talent where other people don't see talent.
"In order to compete with the so-called 'powers,' I feel like we're a power. So we've got to make sure, number one, of recruiting inside-out. We have to do a great job of keeping the great players inside Illinois. If we can do that first and foremost, we can give ourselves a chance to be successful.
"There's so many people within a 4 to 5 hour radius of this area, and we've got to keep those people home. And then we've got to supplement them by finding great players from the surrounding states. We've got to recruit speed at certain places that have more speed. So we've got to go and find guys.
"You do that by developing relationships and making sure the coaches, the players and the parents all feel comfortable with us. All those facilities and everything, they do nothing by themselves. They need people.
"So our biggest thing is making sure they get to know us and get to know how we're going to treat their sons. And how we are going to develop them as people. Then they feel good about sending them to us."