One of the big questions many NC State fans have with the hiring of Tom O'Brien as the new head football coach is his impact on Wolfpack recruiting. Under former head coach Chuck Amato, the Pack broke through as a serious player for some of the nation's best talent in the southeast. Where recruiting received barely any attention pre-Amato, the efforts to lure top notch talent to Raleigh have since become a popular third sport to many Pack faithful. Amato's flash and charisma helped State land several top tier players while earning the former coach a reputation as being a solid recruiter. Conversely, Tom O'Brien rarely made headlines with his recruiting classes with many conceding that the stoic Boston College coach preferred players that fit his system versus an all out blitz to sign a class full of 5-star all-americans. While it would be safe to say that O'Brien does target players who will fit his system and style of play, perception can also be slightly misleading.
According to SuperPrep magazine, O'Brien landed three top 20 recruiting classes while at Boston College. When comparing his success to that of Amato from 2001-06, O'Brien's average class rank was 28.6- Amato's was 29.3. While this is a very small difference, it shows that O'Brien will come to Raleigh with a recruiting resume at least as good as Amato's. For those that may have thought recruiting would take a hit, the numbers simply don't bear that out. It must also be taken into account that Boston College is tucked away in the northeast which makes it a difficult sell for prospects from the southeast. Coach O'Brien will not have that hurdle to face. NC State's central location will give O'Brien the ability to head north and south for prospects. He will also have a home base to recruit from that ranks in the top 15 in the nation for producing division one prospects. That is a vast improvement over the talent supply provided in Massachusetts.
The style coach O'Brien employs while recruiting will be different, yet, similar in several ways to Amato. Amato used a low-pressure approach with recruits and rarely pushed players to make commitments until they were ready and comfortable with their decision. O'Brien's style at Boston College was similar. While hosting DE Derrick Morgan earlier this year on an official visit, Eagles' MLB Jeff Herzlic gave some insight into O'Brien's approach.
"What the coaches told me," Herzlich said, "is basically make him feel that it's up to him, the same thing they told me when I was getting recruited, that the decision is his, don't force anything on him and basically let him guide the trip. You don't want to tell him, ‘Aw yeah, now we're going to go out to dinner, now we're going to go see a movie,' whatever. So that's what I based my hosting around, let him kind of guide the place and see what he wanted to do."
For the next four weeks, the Wolfpack's recruiting efforts will be a four-man operation with O'Brien, Chad Jamison, Curt Cignetti and Dick Portee holding down the fort until reenforcements arrive in early January. The first order of business will likely be to lock down all of the Wolfpack's current commitments. Equally important will be to get the Wolfpack's two January enrollees, LaMarcus Bond and Owen Spencer, into NC State early next month.
After that O'Brien will likely have three weekends in January to host official visits with his new coaching staff in place. It is not imperative that he add a large number of players to the committed class of 2007 but he will almost certainly need to secure two or three LB's at a minimum. It is impossible to identify specific targets at this point but it is possible that a few of O'Brien's targets at Boston College will give the Pack a look. This could be dependent in large part on how many of O'Brien's assistants, if any, stay at Boston College when the Eagles name their new head coach.
For now, it would appear Wolfpack recruiting fans have much to be excited about. O'Brien arrives in Raleigh with a resume on par with the results they've grown accustomed to over the last six years. With an expanded recruiting base, better facilities and rabid fan support, there's reason to believe O'Brien's results could be even better at NC State going forward.