"During the fall and winter periods, you have in-home visits. During May, you can't talk to the prospects at school or at home. When I was a graduate assistant at Tennessee, I though the spring recruiting would be great because all I thought you did was work from 8 to 4, then you were free for the rest of the day. But, it's not like that, because, number 1, you are either traveling to the next town or, number 2, you are in the hotel trying to get everything organized from the day's recruiting."
You mentioned organizing the day's recruiting. What are some specific things that you do?
"What I normally do when I get back to the hotel is write a note to every coach that I visited that day just to let him know how much I appreciated him taking the time to visit with me and how much I enjoyed our visit. I also plan out the next day's activities.
"And when May 1st comes around, you can start calling the prospects. So, I'll sometimes call them at night while on the road. But, I don't make a lot of calls on the road. You have some guys you know you will call on May 1st. With the other guys, especially if it is a guy that we haven't offered a scholarship to, I'll try to wait until I get back into town so that all the coaches will have seen him on film. That way, when I call him, I can relate to him what the other coaches said about him. In fact, we had our big recruiting meeting last week and called a lot of guys and offered some of them a scholarship."
What's it like on the recruiting trail during the spring?
"A lot of people think because it's the month of May and not the prime recruiting period, it's pretty laid back. That couldn't be farther from the truth. A lot more goes into each day because you are trying to find the guys and follow up on them. I have a big area, including Jacksonville to Daytona Beach, Florida, a large part of Atlanta and everything in Tennessee except for Memphis. In Mississippi, I have everything from Gulfport to Natchez in south Mississippi. Because of that, I really had to hustle to get to as many schools as I could. I had three weeks out. I spent four days in Mississippi, four in Tennessee, I believe four in Florida, Atlanta four days and Jacksonville three days."
What was a typical day like?
"You first have to get to the school as early as possible. Most schools don't start until 8 in the morning, but sometimes a high school coach will be in the weight room with his kids lifting weights, so you may be able to visit him at 7:30 in the morning. After you talk to him, you go by and visit the guidance office and follow up on the player's grades. You are allowed two visits to each school, but I tried to do both things at the same time. There were a couple of schools that I had to visit twice, but normally, due to how big of an area that I had, I only had time to visit them once. As an example, I went to one school, then came back a couple of weeks later and watched a jamboree."
This was your second spring to recruit for Mississippi State. Was it easier this time?
"Really, it was a lot easier this time out than it was last year because I knew where the schools were. Last year, I was just trying to figure out where everything was and who the coach was. After visiting the schools last year, I not only knew where they were, but what was the best order to visit them."
How many schools were you able to visit during a typical day?
"I visited anywhere from 6 to 9 a day. I didn't take lunch. Instead, I spent a lot of time at fast food places, because I was trying to get to as many schools as possible each day. Generally, you spend between 30 minutes to an hour in a school. While I was in Atlanta for my three days, one day I was able to visit 9 schools. That was possible because they were so close together. A lot of times you will come back and visit the school in the afternoon after visiting them in the morning because they may have a baseball game or have a football practice."
What is the specific purpose for watching them during a baseball game or football practice?
"You get to see him in person, which allows you to see the intangibles like how he competers, how he runs. Really, there are all kind of things you look for."
Normally, you visit schools during the week and Sunday is a no-recruiting day. That leaves Saturday. What do you normally do on that day?
"There are a lot of combines on the weekends, so you go to as many of them as you can on Saturday."
How much do the combines help, even the ones on Sunday, the one day you can't recruit?
"Both Saturday and Sunday help. It helps more if you can go to them, like the ones on Saturday. We had (the Scout.com combine) here at Mississippi State on a Sunday. You did a great job with it and there was a great turnout. Even though the coaches couldn't be at it, you can still see the results. You see an accurate height and weight on each kid. Plus, it gets those kids on your campus, which is always good. I know a lot of the kids that I called that night had been to the combine and they raved about it and how well organized it was."
What are you trying to accomplish with your spring calls to the prospects?
"You want to let them know you are interested. During the phone call, you want to find out as much about them as possible because you won't be able to contact them again until September. You try to find out their background, where they grew up, their parents occupation, who lives in the house with them, what will be the factors in what school they will choose. I'll also tell them about Mississippi State. A lot of guys know about State and a lot of guys don't know a lot about Mississippi State. You sell Coach Croom and the Mississippi State football program. I make sure they know that I can't call them again until September, but that they can call me as often as they want."
Sometimes, fans start worrying when they see that other schools have called a player but MSU hasn't. It sounds like they are needlessly worrying, since the MSU telephone call process on guys, other than the known top guys, is to wait until all the coaches have seen him.
"That's right. If it is a top guy that we haven't offered a scholarship to, but think we might, I am going to wait until we (the assistant coaches) have seen the tape and Coach Croom has seen the tape before I call him. That way, when I call a prospect I can tell him that we have seen his tape and that we were very impressed and Coach Croom wants to offer him a scholarship. There are even some guys that we won't offer until well into their senior year because you want to wait until you have seen them play."
If you give a verbal offer over the phone, do you always follow it up with a written offer?
"Yes. I know there are some schools that probably have over 500 offers, but the players don't always have written letters from those schools. We are very thorough with our evaluation. The recruiting coach will see the film and has to approve it. Then, the position coach has to see it and approve it. Next, the coordinator has to see it and approve it. By the time Coach Croom and the rest of the coaches see the tape, two or three coaches have already seen it and approved it. In other words, by the time he sees it, he knows that 2 or 3 coaches are ready to offer the kid a scholarship. Once he sees the tape, he'll either give his final approval to offer the scholarship or not offer a scholarship. However, even at that point, he'll solicit opinions from the other coaches. We normally have very thorough discussions. So, when fans see that we haven't made a phone call or offered a scholarship to a player that other schools may have offered, it's not that we aren't interested, but because we are very thorough with our evaluation. Plus, when we make our call to a prospect, we want him to know exactly where he stands with us."
So, you aren't throwing out offers just to be offering a kid?
"No, we don't have 500 offers out there. The guys that we offer are guys that we think can help us right now. We don't have guys that we have offered that, if they do commit, we don't have to say to them, well, we aren't quite ready to accept the commitment. If they want to commit to us, then we are ready to accept their commitment. We are honest with the players. We tell them how many players that we plan on signing at their position. As an example, last year, we offered 5 scholarships to quarterbacks, knowing that we would probably only sign two. We told them that the first two that jumped on board would get the scholarships."
Once all the coaches have come off the road, you have seen the kids you are recruiting and have tapes of most of them. What is the next step in the recruiting process?
"We already had a lot of tapes of prospects before the spring recruiting period began and had extended a lot of offers. That was really helpful, especially when we went to the prospect's school. But there were a lot of prospects that we didn't have tapes of. We tried to get those while on the road recruiting. We are still waiting on some after leaving blank tapes with the coaches.
"Last week, all the coaches brought in their tapes and we gave them to the particular position coach that needed to look at them. From that point, it goes up the chain to the coordinator and finally to Coach Croom. Last week, we, as a staff, spent all day Thursday and Friday looking at tapes. We spent Thursday on the offensive guys and Friday on the defensive players. Coach Croom knew, if we were putting a tape in front of him, that two or three coaches had already approved the guy and wanted to offer him a scholarship. We are still receiving tapes, so it's an ongoing process. However, we expect, when Coach Croom gets back from the SEC meeting in Destin, Florida, to offer some more kids next week. Actually, we will continue watching tapes throughout the summer and into the season."
Do the coaches normally watch the entire tape or do you sometimes watch a few plays and make a decision to offer a scholarship without watching the rest of the tape?
"It takes a special guy for you to offer him after seeing just a few plays. It only took a couple of plays to know that Ryan Perrilloux was special. There are certain guys that just stand out and you know are special."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.