Recruiting Still Requires Human Touch, says Legg

According to Marshall football recruiting coordinator Bill Legg, in this day and age of information overload, college football recruiting still relies on human skills. The internet is nice for gathering information, but nothing beats one-on-one contact. Nothing ever will.

"Recruiting is the lifeblood of the program," Legg said in an interview with Herd Insider. "You can have the best coach in the country, but if he can't go out and recruit, or if you don't have good players for him to coach, then it's not going to do a whole lot of good."

In reality, college football (or basketball, soccer, any sport) recruiting is just like recruiting for any worthy cause: Coaches are looking for the best player they can realistically get to come to their school and play football. However, that's not to say that football abilities are the guiding force in recruiting. Coach Legg added that, "You've got to make your best educated guess as to how fast is he really…how fast is his competition…how good is his competition…then, compare him to all the other kids that you're looking at. Then, try to call those kids and tell them what Marshall University has to give them, from a standpoint of not only a football program, but an education, a community."

The college recruiting process has been equated with voodoo by some, a black art that is rarely understood or spoken about, yet is critical to the future of any program. "It's part investigator, part salesman, and it's a year-round thing now," Legg added. "And, there's nine million rules that govern it, which makes things more difficult." One of those rules is that college coaches are forbidden from speaking about specific recruits, which is understandable, yet it is what makes recruiting appear on the outside to be such a hush-hush business.

And in the last 10 years, the internet has had a huge impact on the recruiting scene. On the surface, the worldwide access to information has made collecting data - newspaper reports, etc.- on just about anybody a simpler affair than it once was. From a coach's point of view, the internet has been both a good thing and a bad thing, according to Legg.

"Sometimes it's good, because you can find a kid that you didn't know about that's an outstanding player." Information, especially in the last three years, on specific recruits has been plentiful on the internet. Just about anybody, anywhere, can keep tabs on any football player in America these days. Which keeps coaches happy, to be sure.

The reverse of that becomes what is known as 'reverse recruiting', a practice that has become all but commonplace these days in college recruiting circles. Instead of coaches recruiting players, nowadays you'll find players recruiting the coaches, using the internet as a powerful weapon. Having a school listed next to your profile on an internet recruiting website doesn't always mean that school is recruiting the player. Most times, it's the other way around: The player is interested in the school, and is recruiting the school, instead of the other way around. The ability to get tons of information in front of a coach instantly just helps the players make a better case for themselves.

According to Legg, the bottom line for coaches still comes down to an age-old medium: Video. Despite all the info available to coaches via the internet recruiting services, nothing beats actual game video to assess a potential recruits' real-world abilities. "The bottom line is, we've got to make a decision based on the best facts available," Legg summed up. "When any other college or professional coach turns that film on, what do they see? Is he jumping out of the film? Is he the guy making those around him better?"

And that really is the bottom line for recruiters. In a time when high-tech rules just about everything in life, college sports recruiting decisions are made on the big picture presented by a recruit the old-fashioned way: In person, face-to-face. High technology is great, sure. But it stil doesn't beat a meeting between the coach and recruit.

And when you're deciding on the future of both a college football program and a young, impressionable student-athlete, isn't that the way it should be?

"They're all important, because you never know where you're going to find a prospect," Legg said.

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