Bridging The Gap

West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen has already begun the process of revamping WVU's camps to allow more players to get in for single-day visits – thus allowing a better shot at getting recruitable prospects on campus. That's a good plan, but how will those coaches who recruit in areas far removed from the school adapt?

Holgorsen's intention for camps, stated simply in his first full press conference as head coach, is to make them serve as recruiting tools as much as possible (and, by extension, to the full limit of NCAA regulations). In previous years, camps tended to be multi-day affairs, but Holgorsen, noting the trend toward one-day visits by the majority of recruitable prospects, has modified West Virginia's offering to include four one-day sessions. A team camp and a 7-on-7 passing camp are still on the schedule, but the multi-day individual camps appear to be no more.

All of that's good for those players that live in reasonable proximity to WVU's campus. Prospects from just about anywhere in the East can include West Virginia in a tour of their schools of interest, and by giving those players four different dates on which they can attend a one-day session, their chances of being able to attend one is increased.

The snag in this comes for those players who aren't within driving distance of WVU, or don't have the resources to finance a flight and trip to several different destinations. Of course, that was still an issue when WVU didn't have the emphasis on one-day camps, but it's bit heightened now, as the Mountaineers are not only recruiting Florida, but also Texas. Obviously, West Virginia has done well in Florida in the past, and hopes to get to the point where it can add four or five players from Texas to the roster every year, but it will be a challenge to get them into a summer camp at West Virginia, just as it has been for Florida players in the past. One thing that has helped in that process is that Florida players tend not to commit early, and usually delay their official visits until later in their senior years, so WVU has been able to work around the distance factor. That's not necessarily the case for players in Texas, so the Mountaineer coaching staff will have to rely on other methods to keep West Virginia on their minds.

One coach who has to figure out a way to keep those players interested in WVU without that summer visit is receivers coach Shannon Dawson, who recruits the Dallas and Houston metroplexes as well as Northern New Jersey. Dawson, a straight shooter, admits that the camp battle is one that poses a challenge.

"Texas has so many camps that those kids can go to, you probably don't really know who you have a chance to get until later on," he considered. "A lot of the kids that we have identified prospects are going to those camps, and some of them are committing, and we don't have that luxury [of getting them into camp]. "Obviously every kid can't afford to get on a plane and pay to come to one of our camps. When you recruit that far away, it is going to be hit or miss."

Summer camp visits can't be paid for by schools, according to NCAA rules, so any school that recruits long distance has to battle that issue. Dawson, who has seen differences in the way midwestern prospects visit and commit as opposed to those in the east, has identified a key tactic for those long-range players West Virginia is targeting.

"Our selling point is to try to get those kids to not commit early," he said. "That's probably the difference between that area of the country and the east. In Texas and the midwest, kids tend to commit earlier. You try to tell them, 'Look, if you are interested in us at all, let's delay that, and at least get you on campus and see what we have to offer before you commit.' That's what we're trying to do."

Dawson is philosophical about the process ("You have to realize that some guys will hold off and visit and some guys won't"), but he also is happy to be recruiting at a Division I school, where the recruiting process shapes up more quickly.

"It's easier to pinpoint the prospects at this level," the former offensive coordinator at Stephen F. Austin and Millsaps College said. "Obviously the kids that stick out in evaluations are the kids that you recruit here. It's easier to evaluate the kids that can play. When you get to lower levels, it's more of a wait and see type deal because every kid thinks they are going to go Division I So you really don't know who you are going to get until December, because before that they all think they are going to Division I. To me, that makes recruiting the lower level harder."

Dawson will continue to encourage prospects to hold off on those early commitments until they can take an official visit to WVU, but that tactic can't be employed in every case, as Division I schools are limited as to the number of official visits they can pay for in any one season. Still, he is counting on one big advantage that helps him over his previous years recruiting in lower divisions.

"It's a lot easier to walk into a school or a game with West Virginia on you chest, because people want to talk with you and want to be around you."

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