Knock reviews recruiting season

Director of Football Operations Don Knock knows more than a thing or two about the Cyclone signing class of 2003. As recruiting coordinator he's involved in every facet of ISU's efforts to secure talent for the gridiron. In an exclusive question and answer session, Knock gives us a peek into the "inside" of this year's recruiting .

One might imagine that football signing day is the most important day of the year for Iowa State Director of Football Operations and Recruiting Coordinator Don Knock. But for Knock, it simply marks a culmination of thousands of hours of work by the Cyclone staff that goes on throughout the year.

Iowa State announced the signing of 26 new players on Wednesday, highlighted by a group of offensive linemen that one analyst says is among the tops in the country.

CI Steve had an opportunity to visit with Knock on signing day to get an "insiders" view of how things went for the Cyclones with the class of 2003.

CI Steve: What specific issues concern you most on signing day?

Knock: The biggest concern you have is having things working on a day like today, making sure the phone calls get made at the right time, the fax machine is working, paper is in the fax machine and the coaches are here to talk to players when they call in. It's the organizational things to make sure you've done everything.

We Fed-Exed the (LOIs) out last week and double-checked and triple-checked to make sure they're in the homes. You need to make sure the parents and athletes signing them know what to do and follow instructions. We have a lot of guys that fax their letters in at the same time, so the machine was very busy.

CI Steve: I imagine you don't want any surprises on signing day. Were there any today?

Knock: No, not really. We had some disappointing news the night before from Nick Moore, the linebacker out of Arlington, Texas. We felt we really had him. But as far as signing day, the letters were pretty much on time. We had one from the West Coast we knew was going to come later, and one from Florida that was going to come early because they signed early (due to the time zone). But for the most part it went pretty smooth.

As Mac said in his press conference, Milan Moses was the last one to get it faxed in, yet he was the first one to commit this year. I think they had something scheduled for him at school and they wanted to wait and do it later. We encourage everyone to have everything done by noon, so we can get our ducks in a row with the highlight videotape and with media relations to make sure the press release was ready to go by three o'clock.

CI Steve: What are your thoughts on this class as far as meeting team needs and the overall quality of the group?

Knock: We pretty well met all of our needs that we identified. You always kind of want to upgrade in some areas a little bit more than what you did. We had a couple of guys in the end, like H.B. Blades, Nick Moore and Brandon Owens, that would have made a little bit of difference if they had come.

I've been through all of Mac's recruiting classes in one way or another, either as a high school coach watching, grad assistant or as the recruiting coordinator. I've always said as a high school coach that if you can recruit linemen and DBs and coach them up, you'll win a lot of ballgames.

Those are two crucial areas and I think we hit them pretty well with Caleb Berg, Dominique Flower and DeAndre Jackson, along with these linemen we've got now. They are special. Tom Lemming thought this class of O-linemen would probably be one of the top five recruiting classes in the nation. When you bring those big-bodied kids in that we know are going to grow and get stronger, it's going to make a difference down the road.

CI Steve: Did the number of recruits at each position come out close to what you originally wanted?

Knock: It was good. We could have always used one more inside guy on defense and maybe we could have gotten one more linebacker, but you feel good about the guys we got. The corner position is a tough position to recruit, too.

As a high school coach, I've always said and still say that you've got to recruit a lot of running backs because most high school coaches put their best athletes at running back. You take those best athletes and know if they can't play running back, you can put them at corner.

We feel we've done a good job with our numbers. With 48 guys coming back from this past year, a lot of these new guys will be able to spend a year getting a lot better and ready to play.

CI Steve: How many of the new players will be on initial scholarship when they first arrive?

Knock: The majority of them will be. We over-signed by one and have a couple out there we might take a look at yet. We felt we had to do that because of certain number situations and attrition. We feel we're right on target and maybe one or two short on what we could have signed.

CI Steve: Can you tell us about Blades' decision to sign with Pittsburgh?

Knock: He made the decision (Wednesday) morning. Auburn was hitting him hard. Pitt has been there forever. Other people kept calling and they kept taking calls. We talked to him late Tuesday night. It was close with him.

CI Steve: And what about Brandon Owens' decommitment and decision to sign with Minnesota?

Knock: It was a disappointment. I don't know if it was a major disappointment. I think Nick Moore was probably more of a disappointment than Brandon Owens. After Owens visited Minnesota, we kind of knew there was a coach down there at his high school who graduated from Minnesota and played football up there. There was a buddy he wanted to go on the visit with and he liked the city deal. In terms of being an athlete, he's a heck of a player.

The other thing is, I'd rather be disappointed now than in May if he doesn't make his grades or something like that. I think you look at the big picture and down the road with our needs. We have to be very satisfied with this class of 26 we brought in, because there are some great athletes and quality kids in there.

CI Steve: You only signed one recruit out of California --- a high school player. Have you backed off recruiting out there?

Knock: There were some reasons for that and the junior college thing has a lot to do with it. We didn't do a lot of heavy high school recruiting in California. Where is your biggest bang for the buck? We can't be everywhere.

We'll still hit California, still do the JUCOs out there and do some tapes from out there. John (Skladany) and Nelly (Mike Nelson) will still spend some time out there. But I think spending more time in California this year would have been wasted time. It wouldn't have been productive. John was more productive in Florida when he was down there. Nelly was very productive in Texas, recruiting the kids that he got. He got (Brent) Curvey and (Jason) Berryman, to name a couple.

CI Steve: With new head coaches on board at Texas A&M, Baylor and the University of Houston, did you notice any changes in Texas recruiting this year?

Knock: It was still about the same. The Franchione thing at A&M, I thought would be more of a major thing to us, but it didn't end up being that way. They had some de-commitments because of the coaching change. The other thing that played a factor late is the Houston change, because of the high school coaches that they hired. They hit the high schools in Houston a lot harder than some of the other coaches did. That may be something we have to address in the future, because they do have the high school connections because of their backgrounds as coaches there.

CI Steve: Does any particular time frame or event during this year's recruiting season stand out in your mind?

Knock: All our recruiting weekends were excellent. But I go back to January 17th and 18th. I think we got nine commitments out of that weekend. We had 15 kids visiting and got some big hitters out of that weekend. The kids meshed so good together. It was the right combination of kids that we brought in. They got along well and continued to call each other afterwards.

It's hard to sit here and say what was great about recruiting, because it's such a grueling time period with seven guys out on the road. It's like moving chess pieces a lot of times, in terms of recruiting and making phone calls until ten o'clock at night. I really appreciate our staff. They worked very hard, put in extra time and did things the right way. The thing we have to sell here is the family atmosphere and people.


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