Flipping the Script

Kliff Kingsbury and the rest of the Texas Tech coaching staff have turned a perceived weakness into one of their biggest strengths on the recruiting trail.

When Kliff Kingsbury was hired in December of 2012 Texas Tech fans rejoiced as one of their own was returning to lead the program. The one logical question many asked was if the 33-year-old Kingsbury, now just days away from turning 35, had the necessary experience to run a Big 12 football program.

It was a legitimate question and even Kingsbury himself admitted in an article by ESPN in 2013 that he wasn't sure where to start when he moved in to his office in Lubbock.

"Literally the first two days I got here, I sat in this chair and was like, 'I don't know what to do,'" Kingsbury told ESPN. "'I don't know the next move.'"

Obviously, Kingsbury figured out what to do next, and a funny thing happened; that question mark about inexperience faded with a 7-0 start to the 2013 season and while Kingsbury was learning how to process and deal with all of the extra responsibilities that come with the head gig, he and the rest of the staff found recruits were drawn to their youthful exuberance.

After all, Kingsbury recruited several other young, successful coaches who were also former Texas Tech gridiron stars such as offensive coordinator/receivers coach Eric Morris (28 years old), cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis (34), safeties coach Trey Haverty (33) and linebackers coach Mike Smith (33).

Coach Morris said during media day on Sunday that Kingsbury didn't necessarily set out to field a young, hip coaching staff.

"I think it just happened that way," Morris said. "I knew coach Kingsbury would be a head coach, especially when I left and went to Washington State, I just didn't think it would happen that fast. But you look at everybody, I mean all the people he hired he was really comfortable with and all had good jobs somewhere. We were all friends, but everybody was pretty successful at that stage of their life.

"When you're taking your first head coaching job the first thing you want to do is surround yourself with people that are your people, that if things were to go bad, you have people you trust and that have got your back. So, I think it wasn't planned that way as much as the way it all fell into place."

Many recruits have stated the Tech coaching staff's ability to connect with them is appealing and it has become one of the Red Raiders' greatest assets on the recruiting trail. Needless to say the staff quickly realized what they had on their hands and have tried to accentuate it as much as possible.

While Kingsbury doing the stanky leg in a dance off with one of his players, the team bringing an ice cream truck on the field after a spring workout and the rap music played during practices has received significant media attention, the numerous calls, texts and Twitter direct messages made by the entire staff behind the scenes have made as big of an impact to the young prospects interviewed by RaiderPower.com.

Simply put, the younger Red Raider staff can identify with the players. They get the cultural references and they understand what the kids are going through in the recruiting process.

"We know we need to capitalize on it in the next three-to-four years, because we won't be the young, cool staff anymore," Morris said. "Coach Kingsbury does a great job with that; understanding what kids like, what's relevant. He understands he might have to look at TMZ or E!News to stay up with current events or something, but he does a good job of it just to stay in contact and relate to these kids."

The truth is in the results as Texas Tech is on the verge of building one of it's most heralded classes in years, if not ever, and is just getting acclimated to the dividends lent from a very respectable 2014 class as they open up fall training camp this week. But don't take my word for it.

*The following is a compilation of quotes from prospective Texas Tech recruits and current players collected in the past nine months since I began covering Texas Tech sports and recruiting exclusively. All but one listed were communicated directly to me.*

"Oh, absolutely (their rep as a young , fun coaching staff is legit). I mean most of our coaches are not too far removed from playing at our practice field and at the Jones Stadium themselves so they're excited. They bring that. They know what we are going through each and every day in the grind of fall camp and a season, so they definitely know how to adjust that. I think just being relatable to our players on and off the field (is a big deal). I mean it is definitely not just media generated. Those guys are great coaches and I think the biggest thing is they can just relate to us and that is big for us. " -Texas Tech WR Bradley Marquez

"It's (the coaching staff's reputation as young and energetic) definitely not overhyped, what you see is what you get with this coaching staff. Them being fired up, you just get fired up being around it; it's just a chain reaction. I love it, man." -Texas Tech linebacker/running back/special team standout Kenny Williams

"With the coaching staff and how young they are and really the kind of energy they bring to another group of young people, I mean it's really cool. With athletes and stuff, that's what we really look at. We like to have some fun and those are the perfect guys to do it." -Stephenville QB Jarrett Stidham

"The chemistry with the coaches (is what made me stick with Texas Tech). I knew what I wanted and I saw it at Tech." -Texas Tech DT Rika Levi

"He [Kingsbury] came out of the RV with the Ray Bans on and he was looking swagged up. As a player, you always want a coach or a guy you can relate to and he's one of those guys. So that's why me and him have established a good relationship with each other." -Aledo WR Ryan Newsome

"The coaching staff is awesome, coach [Mike] Smith, coach [Matt] Wallerstedt, coach Brock, and coach [Mike] Jinks are all great men. They approach you make you feel at home. They're great coaches and even more they are great people in general. " -Katy LB Paddy Fisher

"I like their passion, no one else matches it," Dyer said. "They care about their players more than other coaches do." -Mesquite Horn OL Conner Dyer (before he committed)

"I went to their camp and saw how they coached and hung out with them some. The camp was really hype, a really fast-paced camp and everybody was really getting after it. That's something that I admire." -Plano East LB Anthony Hines

"It (the camp) was real fun. It was lively. The coaching staff is young and rowdy so that made it fun." -Kaplan (LA) DE Jalen Bates

"Coach Kingsbury does a great job when it comes to recruiting. I really like coach Kingsbury, he's cool. He's a chill dude, but also a go-get-it type coach." -Abilene Wylie LB Clay Johnston

"I like coach Curtis, without a doubt he's one of the top three people recruiting me. He's just cool and he talks to me aside from the football aspect of things. He talks to me about life and making important decisions. He's just really helpful and I like him." -Dutchtown (LA) safety Justin Reid

"They're (assistant coaches Kevin Curtis and John Scott) great people. Them being at the game tonight was like 2 older brothers there supporting me." -Kaplan (LA) DE Jalen Bates

"I like the relationship between the coaches and the players (at Texas Tech) and just the way they run the football program, they are bringing it right back to where it used to be." -Fort Bend Elkins athlete Jonathan Giles

"Really, I like coach [Trey] Haverty a lot, just because of the relationship he has built with me," Johnson said. "He doesn't just talk football, we have just a regular conversation, he's not talking to me like a coach, he's talking to me like a regular person. I like that." -Garland Lakeview Centennial DT Jordyn Johnson

"He's a great coach (Tech assistant Lee Hays). He's a fun guy, a really nice guy, but when it's time to go he really turns it on and coaches them up." -Flower Mound OT Evan Curl

"The coaching staff is probably the main reason I did commit there . I love the coaching staff they have there and the energy, kind of like we have at Whitehouse. They love Tech and that's one of the main reasons I committed" -Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes

"Coach (Trey) Haverty and coach (Kevin) Curtis talked to me the most, but to be honest with you it was the whole coaching staff. They came to my house, they came to church with me and we had a good time. They brought the whole coaching staff and it was a good experience." -Texas Tech safety Josh Keys

"The coaching staff is most appealing about Tech. What they did this past year was impressive and they are all young and have fun. I like how its not just business it's really fun." -Waco Midway safety Kahlil Haughton (as told to Alyssa Chrisope)

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