Spring Recruiting and Summer Football Camps

Brad Pendergrass, the assistant to Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom, talked with Gene's Page in detail about the spring recruiting evaluation period and the summer football camps, including their Little Bulldog Camp for kids 7 to 12 years old.

The month of May is basically the period when coaches can go out and evaluate players and also call them once on the telephone. How did you come up with a plan for the recruiting period?
"Our plan started with the assignment of our recruiting areas. Rockey Felker, Shane (Beamer) and I got together to determine that. Rockey, who had a better feel where our coaches needed to be in the state of Mississippi, did a great deal of that part of the plan. Because I have never lived here and he has such a great feel for the state, he has been an unbelievable help to me with Mississippi. Then Shane and I did more of the areas surrounding the state of Mississippi."

When did the Mississippi State coaches first go out on the road recruiting?
"Last week (April 26-May 1) was our first full week on the road. I feel like we had a good first week. Talking to the coaches that were on the road, they said schools and coaches were very receptive to us and were actually looking forward to us being in their schools."

You mentioned that the high school coaches were excited to see the Mississippi State coaches. Was that more due to the newest of the coaching staff or some other reason?
"My own personal opinion is the people in this state are starting to realize what a great group of guys that Coach Croom has hired. And I think people already know the type person Coach Croom is. Plus, they seem to be excited about the changes that are taking place at Mississippi State. I also think it was partly due to the overwhelming positive experience that the coaches that came to our coaching clinic had at that clinic."

What exactly do your coaches do during the spring evaluation period?
"During this period, we can go to a school twice, once for academic evaluation and once for athletic evaluation. We try to use one for watching practice, watching game film, talking to the high school coach and the other one we use to get the transcript from the guidance counselor and talking to the guidance counselor.

"The second thing is with our new staff, this first year is a time when we are building relationships. We are completely starting over. The number 1 thing is we are building a good relationship with the coaches, the principal and the guidance counselor. One of the main components in recruiting relationships is how comfortable the high school coach, the principal and the guidance counselor feel with sending the young man they have had in their school the last four or five years to you for four or five years.

Since you are trying to build relationships, are you having to spend more time at the schools than you normally would? If so, how will you be able to go to all the schools that you want to go to?
"It makes it tough. But the workload that we have had since we have been here at Mississippi State has been a challenge in itself. It has been an absolute challenge from Day 1, but that is because we are getting things accomplished by doing them the right way.

Do you feel comfortable talking about what coaches have what recruiting areas?
"I prefer not talking about assignments our coaches have in the state and throughout the country, but I can say that Coach Croom has already been on the road one day and will be on the road again before the end of the recruiting period. He will be out several days. Head coaches going out on the road is becoming a trend, especially in the Southeastern Conference, because you can now get your head coach on the road easier than you could in the past due to the NCAA rules."

Will he do the same things the assistant coaches do?
"He will do the same things that any of them would do. Of course, the areas that he goes to will obviously be of high interest for us."

Does it concern you that it will get out that Coach Croom visited certain recruits and didn't visit other recruits? Of course, that will be the case with all the head coaches from all the schools, but does that still concern you?
"Like you said, that will be the case with all the head coaches. However, a prospect should not get his feelings hurt if Coach Croom doesn't come to his school. He is just very limited in what he can and can't do. His engagements with the Bulldog Club and the Alumni Association put some restraints on him. He and I were talking yesterday about some areas that he would like to go but he just can't with his schedule. But we feel very confident that the assistant coaches in those areas will be able to get the job done. Truthfully, what putting Coach Croom in a school does is reinforce our interest in that school's prospect a little more."

Are you trying to key on Mississippi this time or will you have coaches travel throughout the country?
"We have guys from California to New Jersey. We aren't going to focus on the nation, but we are going to focus on the areas and spots where we can make a difference outside of what we would normally do. There will be some areas in California, Texas and some other areas that we will hit that we haven't hit in the past. That will be due to relationships that our current staff has with the people in those areas. However, we are mainly going to focus on the state of Mississippi and the surrounding states.

Last year there wasn't an abundance of talent in Mississippi. Does this year appear to be a better year?
"Mississippi has an unbelievable amount of talent year in and year out. But there is a great deal of talent in the state of Mississippi this year. We are going to give priority to those players."

This may be possible due to time limitations, but are your coaches going to try and visit every school in Mississippi during the evaluation period?
"We are doing our best to get into or call every school in the state. That is a very tough task for our coaches due to all the areas that they have to cover and because most of them are only getting three weeks on the road. There are only a couple of coaches that are getting the full four week time due to the way we have to space it out.

"I really think that we will do a good job in the state. The thing that I want high school coaches and prospects in the state to know is that we are going to do everything the right way and that we will do everything in a way where they feel comfortable with Mississippi State."

You mentioned that some of your coaches will be out three weeks and a couple four weeks. How do you determine who will be out how many weeks?
"(Recruiting Coordinator) Shane Beamer, Coach Felker and I try to determine the number of prospects and the number of schools that each coach has to cover in his area. The ones that have to cover more have more of a priority of getting the four weeks."

How have the coaches handled the fact that they can't all get the full four weeks to recruit their areas? "The thing about this staff is they are very unselfish. Each coach is willing to do whatever it takes to help the other coaches. There are no egos in the staff meetings. We are working as one unit to get things done."

How important is this first class for the Mississippi State football program?
"While it's not really our first recruiting class, it is the first one that is full circle. I think this recruiting class is a very crucial class for us because it is very important for us to fill some needs that we have."

Is that any one factor that has more importance in recruiting success than any other factor?
"The main thing that helps recruiting is winning ballgames. The faster we win ballgames, the better we will do in recruiting."

Once the recruiting period is over, you then have your summer camps. You'll have a Junior/Senior Camp and the normal 7 on 7 Passing Camp. Talk about them a little bit.
"Our staff felt it was important to cover all age groups in our camps. We have a Junior and Senior Day Camp on June 19th that will be from 8 to 5 and costs $40 per camper. For people who need to travel a long way to get here, they can pay an additional $10 and spend the night of the 18th here.

"What we will do at that camp is have agility testing and other testing during the morning. Then, we will break for lunch and come back and have more of a competition type setting that will include 7 on 7 passing and teamwork."

Is the Junior/Senior Day Camp an invitation-only camp?
"No, NCAA rules don't allow universities to have an invitation-only camp. It is open to all junior and senior prospects that desire to come. However, while you can't do an invitational-only type thing, you can heavily suggest that kids come to your camp."

Will the 7 on 7 passing camp that you will put on be any different than the way it has been run in the past?
"They will be the same as they were in the past. Phil Silva and Bracky Brett have done a great job of running that camp in the past. What I've heard from high school coaches is what a success it has been in the past. (Phil and Bracky), as well as I, will do it this year. We hope, by having it just before football practice starts, we will have even more than we have had in the past."

I noticed you are going to have a camp called the Little Bulldog Camp. Tell me about it.
"It will be going on at the same time as the women's clinic, June 17th and 18th. Like the clinic, it is from 8 to 5. The kids will not only have fun but learn the basics of football. It is always one of the more enjoyable camps because you see small children from 7 to 12 enjoying themselves and having fun. The more kids we have, the more fun it will be."

Is that any one thing you would like to tell the MSU fans who visit my webpage?
"Although it is going to take a little time, we will be a winner here."

[If you have a son who you would like to send to one of Mississippi State's camps or your wife or girlfriend would like to go to the Ladies Football 101 Clinic, click the link below.-Gene]

Summer football camps/clinic link...

Gene Swindoll is the publisher/owner of Gene's Page, a website that has been providing Mississippi State sports coverage to MSU fans since October, 1996, and the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. He can be reached by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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