Recruiting: Pursuing Targets

Larry Fedora's emphasis on recruiting is evident in his coaching staff's daily schedule.

Each day's staff meeting begins with the entire staff watching and evaluating the film of five prospects together. On Fridays, the number of prospects the UNC staff evaluates swells to 20.

"It could be a case where we say, ‘Yes, we're going to offer,'" UNC assistant coach Gunter Brewer said. "It could be [we'll offer] with contingency because obviously we need to know their academics or it could be something we need to know about them personally – like making sure his character checks out with the [high school] coach. It could be an offer on tape, but not a formal offer until we determine the other aspects of his life. Sometimes we know that [information] going in, because the area [recruiter] will say, ‘He has a 3.5 core GPA. He hadn't taken the test yet. He's taken the PSAT. I know about his mom and dad and his character – this is what the coach told me and what I know about that point.' Sometimes it's just ‘Hey, here's this kid that the coach said had a great year.' Each case is different. When we watch five guys, sometimes – especially with these 2016, '17 guys – you haven't had a chance to find out everything about him."

According to fellow UNC assistant coach Chris Kapilovic, a prospect's offer list or outside ranking plays no part in UNC's evaluation.

"For me, I don't just look at the list of four- or five-star guys and just recruit them – I recruit the kid first," Kapilovic said. "We as a staff evaluate [a recruit] without even having that knowledge [about the recruit's ranking]. We have to watch their film – what do they do on film. How they play is more important than anything else and that's first and foremost. And then it's about how they are academically [and] what kind of people they are."

Generally speaking, whether to extend an offer is a group decision with the respective position coach, coordinator, and Fedora possessing the most powerful vote.

"The decision to offer is sometimes based on the position and allowing the position coach to sometimes pull the trigger," Brewer said. "Obviously, the coordinator and head coach have veto power on that situation. But you are in charge of your own position with Coach Fedora the way he does it. So each coach has [the ability to say] ‘I really like this guy. I'll go to bat for him. This is a guy I want in my room.' It's not solely based on the position coach, but a lot of it [is]."

Kapilovic added: "We watch these kids as a staff, so everybody gets to give their opinion, which is great. But essentially, I'm the O-line coach and if I want [an offensive line prospect], then we go after them. But typically if I'm going to say ‘Yes' then everybody in the room thinks it's a no-brainer."

Once an offer is extended – in a typical situation – the number of UNC coaches that regularly contact that recruit increases. In addition to the area recruiter, the prospect hears from his projected position coach and coordinator, as well as Fedora.

"So you have four people really involved with each kid," Brewer said. "In a case such like Bentley [Spain], that was in my area, so I started the initial phase of the evaluation. Then the position coach – obviously Coach Kap -- got involved and starts forming a relationship, also. Coach Kap gets to know Mom and Dad, girlfriend – everybody that touches his life. In a team recruiting aspect, you also have the coordinator and head coach that rotate those calls or have them call them or work through social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

"In the same way with Elijah [Hood], who's in the same area, with Coach [Randy] Jordan and his family getting to know the Hoods. [Jordan and I] went down and watched games together when we were allowed to. Obviously as many phone calls and numerous letters to people in the family, such as the grandmother and mom and dad, people at the school, and getting to know really everybody in their life."

Spain explained how that process worked with him: "The first coach that started talking to me was Coach Brewer, because he recruits the Charlotte area," Spain said. "And then I took a visit and was introduced to Coach Kap. From then, [Kapilovic] started talking to me about the same amount as Brewer and then it kind of went from there. Coach [Blake] Anderson talked to me a couple of times and visited my school and Coach Fedora went by my school a couple of times, too, but it was mainly Coach Kap and Coach Brewer."

Kapilovic believes it's imperative that he's actively involved with any offensive line prospect UNC is recruiting.

"Once you get into the mode that you're going to offer a kid – and everybody is a little bit different – but for me, if we offer an O-lineman – whether he's in my area or not – I start recruiting him like he's in my area," Kapilovic said. "I recruit him like he's mine, because I do think it's important for offensive linemen that they do have good relationships with their O-line coaches – maybe even more so than other positions. Once that happens, if he's not the guy that I've found myself, then I jump in full go.

"For example, with Bentley probably a few weeks after we got here, I met him and his mom when he came to a basketball game. Gunter laid the groundwork at his school. And then once he became a junior, I jumped in and took over the last year of it with Gunter being involved also."

Though they are rare, there are outliers who only want to deal with one coach. Even in those situations, each member of the staff is still an integral piece of the recruiting effort.

"Sometimes with certain kids in certain areas it's just the recruiting coach that really recruits him," Kapilovic said. "But we like to get a couple guys to [recruit a prospect]. The more people we can get to recruit a guy the better and that's really the approach we try to take. The staff will reach out to him on social media and everybody on the staff writes these kids on a regular basis, so they're getting something from everybody throughout the process."

A great example of a recruit who was primarily recruited by one coach was T.J. Logan, a three-sport star who earned AP Player of the Year honors in football and signed with UNC last year. Per his personal preference, Logan wanted to keep contact with college coaches to a minimum – meaning just his recruiter, Kapilovic.

"T.J. Logan was different in the fact that he wasn't a kid that was going to all the combines and camps," Kapilovic said. "He wasn't the kid that wanted to be on the phone with coaches – he didn't even want to be involved with social media with coaches. So with him, I was able to work a relationship with him and his coach to say ‘If that's the way you want to be recruited, I'm good with that.'

"We worked out a time that we'd visit on the phone once a week and he was good with that. We had it set up to where it was every Tuesday in the fall and every Thursday in the summer he would accept my call or he would call me. He didn't want to get bombarded by a bunch of other people."

When dealing with a recruit such as Logan, it was crucial for Kapilovic to identify who Logan trusted.

"The biggest thing with T.J. Logan was his high school coach," Kapilovic said. "I had to build a relationship with Johnnie Roscoe and getting him to believe that we were going to take care of T.J. and this was going to be a great system for him to be in. So I had to recruit Coach Roscoe as much as T.J. Once Coach Roscoe felt I was genuine and he felt that what we were doing here was going to be positive and we were going to win, that's kind of when things really opened up for T.J."

It's important to realize that Logan is the exception and not the rule.

"You try to find out what is important to the kid," Kapilovic said. "For some kids, building the relationship with the position coach is huge, so you've got to make sure that happens. For some kids, it's not, but those are normally the exception."

In addition to the reasons mentioned above, having multiple coaches recruit a single prospect lessens the likelihood of de-commitments. For example, when Anderson and Walt Bell departed for Arkansas State, UNC's commitment list remained intact despite Bell being the recruiter of record for roughly half the pledges.

"Coach Bell initially recruited me, but [Vic] Koenning, my position coach, had been kind of taking over the role as recruiter for a while," Allen Artis said. "I still had a really good relationship with [Bell], as well."

Spain noted: "I had a relationship with Coach Anderson but him leaving didn't affect me. I was just really happy for [Anderson] and I understood [why he left] and just have best wishes for him."

M.J. Stewart had a similar experience: "A lot of coaches picked up the slack. Coach [Dan] Disch, he's been talking to me a lot. He's eased the transition. I'm thankful for him and Coach Fedora, too."

Recruiting – with regards to which areas have talent in a given class – is cyclical.

"You can't look at how many [recruits] a [coach] necessarily gets committed as the sign as how he's doing, because if you don't have guys in your area that year that we want to offer than you're not going to have many guys that we're going to sign," Kapilovic said. "For instance this year's class – the '14 class – my areas were not loaded with offers. I've worked hard to recruit all the offensive linemen that are on the board."

Even if an area is fertile during a given class, the numbers game that is often involved with recruiting could prevent UNC from heavily pursuing prospects in that territory.

"A coach might offer a bunch of guys in his area, but because other guys have taken the scholarship first we've filled up," Brewer said. "It has nothing to do with the [area recruiter]."

***

Check back tomorrow for the final installment of this three-part series providing a behind-the-scenes look at the UNC staff's recruiting approach.


Inside Carolina Top Stories