Jason Michael, who recently left the staff of the NFL's New York Jets to become tight ends coach with the Vols, says he got a taste of the recruiting process during his stint as a Tennessee graduate assistant in 2004.
"I did some of the recruiting things when I was a GA here before, as far as dealing with that on the phone," he said during a Saturday news conference introducing him to the local media.
Still, the fact Michael has never made an in-home visit with a prospect is a shortcoming he must overcome in order to be a productive member of the Vol staff. Most likely, he will make visits in conjunction with one of the veteran coaches – as academic advisor Judy Jackson did while filling in as a UT recruiter in 1998 – until he's familiar enough with the process to fly solo.
"There's some things I'll obviously have to get into as I go along," Michael conceded. "But that's what these guys (fellow coaches) are here for – a sounding board. You go through it and hear the details, rule-wise and those types of things. You use these guys around you."
Michael, 29, already understands that the key in recruiting is "building relationships," and seems fully aware that securing talent is the foundation of any college program.
"That's as important as coaching, if not more important," he said. "I realize and understand that, and I'm excited about tackling that and really being involved in that as we go on here."
Michael must wade through the NCAA rules manual and then pass the Coaches Certification exam before he can recruit. When asked how soon he expects to be out on the road, he shrugged.
"I don't know," he said. "We really haven't talked about that yet."
A lot of coaches leave college for the NFL because of their disdain for recruiting. Michael reversed the process, partly because he's eager to give recruiting a try.
"One thing I missed from being here before was the seasonal part of football – the recruiting part, the buildup to signing day, spring football, then you've got spring recruiting," he said. "It's more of a seasonal deal that I miss.
"When you get into the NFL you get into a role where it's football, football, football. That's great, but there's pros and cons to both ends of it. I missed those seasons, and I'm excited about the recruiting part of it."
He's so excited, in fact, that his enthusiasm overcame any concerns he might have entertained regarding his inexperience as a recruiter.
"Obviously, that played a role in the decision," he said, "but I'm excited about recruiting, building relationships and bringing those guys in."