TODAY IS SIGNING DAY!

Recruiting athletes is akin to managing a political campaign. Both require organization, research, persuasive skills and stamina

Recruiting athletes is akin to managing a political campaign. Both require organization, research, persuasive skills and stamina. Each campaign employs direct mail, telemarketing, sales presentations and market research. Closing skills are essential to the success of both. Logistical details are critical. Team work, trust, spontaneity and individual creativity are also essential in each endeavor.

Tales of humor and bitter disappointment are sprinkled throughout the history of football recruiting.

There was the day four years ago when the FedEx driver delivering Tulane commitment papers for Quentin Brown could not find the high school in Ennis, Texas. Back home at Tulane, one Wave coach was on the phone with the Fed Ex driver. Another coach talked with the school guidance counselor, reaffirming Tulane's interest in Brown. The driver eventually found the school. And Brown signed with Tulane, much to the consternation of the University of South Carolina coaching staff.

There was the day that Linnis Smith's parents arrived at the signing ceremony wearing Tulane garb, only to witness their son sign a Texas A&M letter of intent.

There was the time that an opposing coach made his sales pitch for Billy Don Malone. Trooper Taylor, back in New Orleans, kept in touch with Malone's grandmother by phone throughout the presentation by the rival recruiter. Malone honored his commitment to Tulane. Chris Scelfo and company again have delivered an impressive recruiting class to Tulane. Don't order any championship rings just yet, but the Green Wave has had sound recruiting classes for two straight years. It is the kind of work that one day will be rewarded against Conference USA opponents against some of the same teams that knocked Tulane around in the recent past.

The Tulane staff started early to target replacements for the inevitable holes in the roster. They made a concerted effort to get commitments from players who could make a difference. Most of this recruiting class had committed before Christmas, a first for Tulane football.

There were several major reasons for the early commitments according to recruiting coordinator Giff Smith.

"This staff has been in place for several years now," Smith said. "High school coaches and players are beginning to know us and trust us. Our reputation as good people to play for is beginning to spread. We began to have some success on the field this year. Some players like to be a part of changing the situation. And there were defensive players who could see that they would have an opportunity to play early."

Suddenly, Tulane is strong at linebacker, a position where they were weak last August. The solution: recruiting. Tulane will open fall practice two deep in letterman linebackers. They are Wesley Heath, Brandon Spincer, Brandt Quick, Blake Baker, Anthony Cannon and Antonio Mason.

On the horizon are an impressive group of incoming freshmen linebackers – Craig Morris, Kelvin Johnson and Patrick Benford. They will make a strong bid for playing time in the fall.

There are no defensive schemes that can top good athletes. Tulane appears to be blessed with good athletes at linebacker. Successive years of good recruiting produced this result. No chalkboard wizardry. No spellbinding orations. Just long hours on the road, endless phone conversations and the constant viewing of video tapes.

Do you still believe in coaching magic? That is, the messiah-coach who will turn Tulane into Southern Cal in one season by installing a New Age Offense and a Stone Age Defense and motivate with fire-breathing oratory. Get over it! It ain't gonna happen.

Games are won by players. Athletic players. Fast players. Big players. At least two-deep on both sides of the ball. The way to get them, is to recruit all the time and everywhere. Game plans and strategy work best when there is talent to execute the plan.

Go no further back than last season. The instinctive and athletic moves of Lynaris Elphaege and Mewelde Moore were not programmed by the coaching staff. They were God given. The trick is to fill the bus with gifted players. And try to replace the great ones before their eligibility expires. These Tulane coaches have done as good a job as any Wave staff in overcoming a bare defensive cupboard and putting good athletes on the bus.

Tulane's immediate needs are on defense; the offense returns virtually intact.

The front four is the most urgent concern, where four starters and four top reserves are missing. Most of the incoming freshmen linemen will get an ample opportunity to contribute next fall.

Can the incoming freshmen make Tulane forget the departed veterans up front? Will some young linemen emerge as Michael Roberts did last year and Bam Mateen did two years ago? Can Tulane avoid the injuries that plagued the Green Wave for the past two seasons?

It could happen!

After all, today is Signing Day!





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