On February 21st several top 2011 recruits headed over to the Murphy Center for the Wolfpack's first Junior Day of the recruiting year.
"Junior Days are extremely important for recruiting," said NC State recruiting coordinator Jerry Petercuskie. "The day is filled with tours and meetings that allow the recruits to become more familiar with us, but it also allows us to become more familiar with the recruits."
NC State's coaching staff believes to have a strong football program you must sign individuals who fit what you're looking for academically and athletically but who also mesh well with the players already enrolled in school. Because of that, the staff always has several current players participate in Junior Day festivities.
"Our players are extremely involved," said Petercuskie. "We have panel discussions and over the years those have been very good to us. What we do is bring in four or five of our current guys and put them in the front of a room with the parents and coaches of our recruits visiting for Junior Day.
"The guys we select will play different positions and come from various backgrounds. None of our coaches will remain in the room... we introduce the players and leave them in the room with the parents. The parents can ask anything they want, and those discussions usually last between 30 and 45 minutes. We receive tremendous responses from those discussions... we've received standing ovations from the parents. They really enjoy it."
The players also spend individual time with the recruits.
"It's also important to have our players around the recruits," added coach Petercuskie. "We also have the same panel discussion with the recruits, and we have our players around the recruits during the meal. We have our players around without the coaches, and it allows the players to mingle with the recruits... it lets them mesh together.
"When it comes to our Junior Day, the panel discussions are critical, and as I said they always yield a positive response."
What else do the recruits experience?
"You also have your standard aspects of the day," said Petercuskie. "The academic folks come in and give our academic presentation, you tour the campus and the facilities, the recruits have position meetings with the position coach, and before they depart they have a meeting with coach O'Brien. Those are some of the things we try to touch on."
A major positive to on-campus visits such as a Junior Day is it allows the recruit to interact with the coaching staff and enable the staff to show what they have to offer.
The recruit can get a feel for the staff and current players, but that also works both ways. The more you have recruits on campus the better feel the coaches have for if they really fit what they are looking for in an individual. These types of visits can often cause coaches to pursue players even more aggressively but also back off a player who they have been recruiting hard because character-wise they might not fit.
"There is no question about it... there have been kids over the years, without naming names, that we've had on campus that we just didn't feel fit into the type of player that we wanted to bring in here," said Petercuskie. "It's pivotal to mold the locker room culture to what you want it to be, and it takes a number of years to get the culture right.
"Once we develop that culture within the program, then when a like-minded person is on campus and around our players, he's going to see that he fits into that group of players. He'll like the way they work, like their character, like that they are interested in academics as well as playing in the NFL. If you get that mesh and commonality going throughout the locker room and the culture projects that to a young man who visits, then you've got a great chance to keep that going. That's what we're doing here, and I think it's working.
"On-campus visits allow us to be around the kids and make sure he's the right fit for us, but it also allows him to make sure we're the right choice for him," he added. "I still think that's the key factor of the selection. We want guys who are going to select us for the right reasons."