Greg Mattison is the most senior Irish coach on the Notre Dame staff. Mattison is known as a great recruiter and has landed many of the top players currently on the Notre Dame roster. He played a large role in bringing players like Darrell Campbell, Cedric Hilliard, Glenn Earl, Mark LeVoir, Ryan Harris, and many other top players to Notre Dame.
We asked Mattison what makes a great recruiter. "I never really like to use the words ‘great recruiter,' to me, the school that you are at makes you a great recruiter," said Mattison. "It's easy to go out and recruit when you are selling the No. 1 tradition in college football, the best academics, the greatest atmosphere—all those things that make Notre Dame special."
The recruiting environment has changed a lot since Mattison started coaching at Notre Dame. "The competition for the great players has gotten tougher and tougher every year. It's not like it was 10 years ago. The premium on great students has made all the schools want the top academic and top football players. As long as you have a school like Notre Dame that you are presenting, it allows you to have success."
Many Irish fans don't realize the long hours and busy schedules Irish coaches will keep from now until signing day. "You leave on Sunday right after the last group of kids' leave that come in for their visits. They leave at three o'clock and you might be on a plane at five o'clock. You won't get back until Friday morning for that next visit weekend. You might be on 10 planes in one week, going from home to home, and high school to high school. You have to be very organized to do that."
"You've got to be at your best at every place," Mattison continued. "It's almost like every stop you make is a new ballgame. You've got to know what the game plan is going into that place. You've got to know what that person needs to hear, what you have at Notre Dame to offer that person. From there, you've got to be able to communicate. If you go in selling Notre Dame, and you can communicate that, I think you can have success."
The long hours can become a grind for coaches. Mattison says the changes in duties make it bearable and rewarding. "It's like you go non-stop from 6:30 AM until 11:30 PM as a coach, and then you do the same thing in recruiting. It's like going from being a coach to a salesman. I think that change in your job is what makes it doable. If you did just recruiting for a full year, you couldn't do it. If you coached football for a full year, you could do it. You can't keep the same energy level that you need."
Coach Tyrone Willingham also sees a major change in recruiting in the last five years. "The whole arena of recruiting has changed," said Willingham. "Never before has there been such of an outside concern, from the internet, from other sources about recruiting. That attention to it has made a tremendous difference in how young people and their families respond to it because of that attention. There are more parents becoming actively involved with it and being much more involved in the decision-making process."
The internet has changed the landscape of recruiting with sites like Irish Eyes getting involved. We asked Willingham if the internet hurts his recruiting effort. "It can be detrimental to all recruiting because sometimes it does place the individual with lofty expectations that maybe he's not yet merited."
Some have questioned the level of success the Irish are having right now in recruiting. The Irish only have seven commitments right now, and some wonder how well the Irish will finish. We asked Willingham for his response to those that have criticized the Irish recruiting effort. "Stay the course, if we get the right kids at the right time, we'll be in great shape. It's not important what you're doing right now it's what you do on signing day."
Willingham is also known as a great recruiter. He's been very successful selling his plan to prospects and their parents. Willingham says his message can be effect if he's speaking to the right prospect, and the right family. "You have to be selling to the right kid. He has to believe the many things that you're selling. If he does then you have an opportunity. You have to have an excellent product. We've got a great product at Notre Dame. That attraction to Notre Dame, and hopefully a kid that wants the values of Notre Dame, you've got a chance."
Willingham's thoughts have merit. Last year at this time, the Irish only had eight commitments. Willingham and his staff ended up signing what many believe to be the best class in many years at Notre Dame in 2002.
The Irish season hasn't gone the way many had hoped for, including Willingham. Still, we get the feeling that Willingham will be able to sell his plan once again, and many top prospects are going to want to listen. He's a very charismatic person, and that should give Irish fans some hope for a successful recruiting season.