High school football recruiting: Honesty, trust and relationship-building are big factors for players
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/04/13 at 9:30 AM
Follow along: High school players across the country will sign letters of intent to attend the college of their choice on Wednesday. Follow along on the web as local players make their decisions.
The USC football recruiter walked into Allan Trimble's office needing a little help.
The assistant coach, unnamed by Trimble, wanted one of Jenks High School's top players to join his program, which was highly ranked at the time. But he needed Trimble's insight to help land the targeted recruit.
"You have to give me some inside scoop on this guy," said the coach, who is no longer at the Pac-12 school. "I need to know something that we can offer him that will lure him to USC. We really want this guy."
The player wanted to be a weatherman, Trimble said. Then he walked with the recruiter - who looked more beach guy than coach with his gold chains, unbuttoned shirt and loafers with no socks - to meet the player.
"He shakes my player's hand and says 'I understand you want to be a weatherman,' " Trimble recalled. "The kid said 'yeah, I'm really interested in the weather.'
"The coach then told the kid, 'I'm here to tell you that USC has the best school of astrology on the West Coast."
In the business of college football recruiting, some only say what recruits want to hear. But if you do that, it's also wise to know the difference between "astrology" and "meteorology."
The art of recruiting has been going on for years. The concept hasn't changed during that time.
But today's high school football stars are more savvy than you'd realize. For elite recruits, their radar has been on for more than two years.
Honesty is best policy
Cody Thomas, an Oklahoma commitment, was an Elite 11 quarterback. He worked out with many of the nation's top quarterbacks at an event last summer.
He has received thousands of pieces of recruiting mail over the years. He has his own mailbox at his Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High School. One day, Alabama sent him more than 100 pieces of mail.
The correspondence was over-the-top. So were some of the recruiting pitches in person.
"One guy recruited me really hard. Then I went out to the Elite 11 (event) and talked to other quarterbacks and they'd talked to the same guy," Thomas said. "The guy, word for word, said the same thing to all of us."
Bill Blankenship is wrapping up his third recruiting class as Tulsa's head coach. He has also been a high school coach who has watched his players being courted by colleges and a parent who has had three sons go through the process.
"Everybody that does recruiting across the board, I would call a salesman," Blankenship said. "Some will tell you anything and convince you that you'd be a star, start right away and then also begin to bash other programs.
"Other guys are incredibly professional. They aren't obnoxious and don't put anyone down."
Blankenship's philosophy is to be honest with his recruits.
"One of the things we've accepted is to be a little more forthright with players even though it may work against us at times," Blankenship said.
There are times when he'll tell recruits that he can't offer them a scholarship right away so they can find a college home.
"We may tell them we're offering two other guys and, in fairness to them, that we're waiting for an answer," Blankenship said. "It doesn't serve me real well ... but this is a process for the young man and his family."
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said it's important for his staff to relate with targeted recruits. That includes honesty and trust.
"All guys are different, but if a guy doesn't want to relate to you, he's probably not going to," Stoops said. "Usually, we feel we're pretty good guys and relate pretty well to people."
Jenks wide receiver Jordan Smallwood is an Oklahoma commit. He built a bond with assistant Mike Stoops, who recruited him.
"I got a real good feel for him," Smallwood said. "He came in and was being real and honest about things. He was serious in what he was looking for.
"You just know that from the coach's eyes."
Christian Daimler, an Oklahoma recruit, told ESPN's SoonerNation that the Sooners' staff has "guys who are going to be developing you for the next four years. I have complete trust in OU. It's one thing I will never have to worry about."
Playing time is an issue that comes up often. Many recruits want to make a seamless career from high school to college.
Oklahoma recruit Hatari Byrd told The Oklahoman last week that he was told he would start in the Sooners' secondary. Commit Jordan Evans said he was told by OU coaches that he wouldn't redshirt in his freshman season.
The OU coaching staff's honest approach on future playing time was a hit with East Central's Stanvon Taylor.
"They told me the situation with their defensive backs," Taylor said. "(Mike Stoops) just kept it up front with me.
"I told myself that I might not get to play my first year, but I'd work hard and, if I get the opportunity, would take it and go with it. Coach (Mike Stoops) told me if I worked hard, he may have no choice to play me next year."
The waiting game
The courting process for all college football players won't be complete until Wednesday, when a signed national letter of intent faxed to a football office seals the deal.
No one understands that more than Blankenship after he completed the process with Tulsa wide receiver Thomas Roberson.
The Union player changed his mind at least three times in the final 72 hours, debating between Tulsa and Oklahoma State. On the Tuesday night before signing day, he was an OSU commit. Hours later, he signed with TU.
"It was nothing short of crazy," Blankenship said. "What happens is - and I knew this as a high school coach as well - is that multiple people get in the ear of a recruit. One of the things I try to caution recruits about is that absolutely everybody that tells you has an agenda and it may not be in your best interest.
"The ones you should talk to are the ones that care about you the most," Blankenship added. "A lot of people got in Thomas' head and confused him ... in his case, it went to the wire on signing day."
Blankenship got a win in that battle. But last year, the coach lost Caleb Muncrief to OSU. Muncrief decommitted from Tulsa on signing day's eve.
That's why coaches like Blankenship won't breathe easy until the letter is received on Wednesday.
"Until it comes through, you think some people are still working that guy," Blankenship said. "Maybe they aren't 100 percent in or Mom and Dad are wanting him someplace else.
"It can be a little stressful until the paperwork comes in."
What recruits look for ...
Four things recruits are looking for when exploring colleges:
Honesty: Oklahoma recruit Cody Thomas was at an Elite 11 quarterback camp, where all the players discovered that one recruiter used the same pitch - word for word - on each quarterback.
Trust: OU recruit Christian Daimler told ESPN's SoonerNation: "These are the guys who are going to be developing you for the next four years. I have complete trust in OU. It's one thing I will never have to worry about."
Playing time: Jordan Evans was told by coaches that they expected him to compete for playing time right away. The Norman North player said he was directly told by Bob Stoops: "I'm not getting redshirted."
Proximity: East Central's Stanvon Taylor will play less than two hours from his home at a tradition-rich football school. "Some (other) schools did impress me, but there is nothing better than that at-home feeling and being in my own backyard."
- ERIC BAILEY, World Sports Writer
Original Print Headline: The art of the sale
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
From left: Owasso's Jaylen Lowe, East Central's Stanvon Taylor and Jenks' Jordan Smallwood.Tulsa World file photos; photo illustration