Recruiting Issues (Part 3)

Image via

In the first two parts of this “Recruiting Issues” series, I offered up some thoughts on the possible role that facilities and cheating can play in recruiting. In this part, I wanted to talk about something I’ll broadly term “location.”

Facilitating Visits

Time and time again folks argue that OU is disadvantaged by the fact Oklahoma does not contain, within its borders, a high number of ‘OU good’ caliber prospects, when compared to states like Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, etc. And this is obviously true – though as a side note, I do believe there is more talent in the state of Oklahoma than the general football public estimates.

But what I want to focus on is OU’s ability to host a vast number of recruits on unofficial visits. The obvious point being when you look at the talent inside and surrounding the state of Oklahoma, it’s not as rich as a state like say Louisiana. A state which contains within it an incredible number of athletes and they are bordered by Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. All of which have a number of BCS quality prospects. This fact is true throughout much of the SEC’s footprint.

However, something that gets overlooked quite a bit is the ability of school to actually get kids on campus for unofficial visits. In the SEC and southern parts of ACC territory, unofficial visits to their programs by talented players is a very common thing. Some will argue that is due to proximity, but it’s certainly not the only reason.

Some examples to try and help make my point: Breylin Mitchell is very interested in OU and lives in the bordering state of Texas, about five hours from Norman, but still hasn’t been able to make a visit. PJ Mbanasor was interested in attending Oklahoma’s spring game, but could not get a ride. Jaylon Lane wanted to make a trip to OU before his commitment to Ok. State, but due to some financial issues he was not able to make the trip at that time. The list of recruits in Texas and other territories OU recruits that cannot find a way to make the trip to Norman goes on and on.

Part of this travel issue is geographical, in that state of Texas is huge and cities like Houston, Austin, and San Antonio are far enough away that they can be (1) costly in gas and (2) require an overnight stay. But the bigger issue is that in SEC territory, there are a number of coaches, services, boosters, mentors, and even “handlers” that are more than willing to make sure recruits are able to get to campuses across the SEC and in southern ACC territories.

I’ll give you another example. I have a friend who runs an NCAA compliant organization in Florida that does annual bus tours. They load up a charter bus (or two) with local D-1 prospects and visit schools like Georgia, Clemson, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc. Many of the schools they visit are 10+ hours away and are schools that would normally never get visits from that many ‘star’ prospects at one time. To my knowledge, nothing like this currently exists in the state of Texas. And this is just one example. There are a number of boosters in SEC territories that are more than willing to facilitate visits. There are mentors, handlers, and/or coaches all willing to help. Schools like Tennessee will often have vans (plural) full of top kids show up on a visit.

As I’ve detailed, while OU (among many other non-SEC schools) is at a disadvantage in this respect it’s the the last handlers/coaches, who are willing to help kids make these visits, where the special attention really needs to be paid. It’s these people that the OU coaches need to do a great job of building relationships with. Remember, it was Torrance Gibson’s coach that brought him on the visit to Norman. Oklahoma’s relationship with coach and mentor Tony Perry has yielded two or three top California commits in the past and has all the look of continuing to pay dividends in the future. But OU must continue working to build the key relationships with coaches, handlers, mentors, etc. in order to help get more and more kids on campus.

In my opinion, if this isn’t already a huge part of recruiting (and I believe it is) it’s going to be very, very soon. Your chances of landing a kid go up significantly once a player gets on campus. Additionally, players talk and the more of them that come to Norman and have a good experience, the more OU is talked about in those circles. And that’s never a bad thing. A lot of people, for example, don’t know that Ryan Newsome and James Proche are VERY good friends and will be taking visits together this summer.

The person taking them on said visits? You guessed it, a coach/mentor.

Players don’t have the money to get themselves to-and-from unofficial visits, and many times their parents don’t either. It’s often other people around the player that are able to facilitate the visit. Oklahoma needs to be better at identifying those type of people and building long-term relationships with them. Someone has to spend their time and money to get kids on campus, and most people are not inclined to do that if they don’t have a relationship with a staff.

  • ToatsMcGoats

    Excellent. This is my favorite one so far, by far. Great job once again.

    • Jordan Esco

      I agree, told K the same thing earlier. Really good read, IMO.

  • BigJoeBrown

    A great read. This is a big factor that odds are, often get’s overlooked. Its easy to focus on facilities which can help, but it’s relationship’s that build commits.

  • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

    Skype or Google Hangouts a viable option? Chat with current players and coaches. And the videos of the players walking us through the campus facilities has to help a bit. Technology has reduced the “distance” between people these days that a physical trip to a school could be one of the last parts of the recruitment.

    • Super K

      I’d like to see more of this as well. I think it’s a great idea. I know coach Sumlin and coach Saban do it.

      • Super Keith

        Saban got in hot water for Skyping with a kid recently. Under current NCAA rules, it’s not allowed. Recently, the PAC commissioner (along with the Big 10) said that it’s high time NCAA catch-up with technology and allow those kinds of things. It coming soon.

  • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

    Skype or Google Hangouts a viable option? Chat with current players and coaches. And the videos of the players walking us through the campus facilities has to help a bit. Technology has reduced the “distance” between people these days that a physical trip to a school could be one of the last parts of the recruitment.

    • Super Keith

      They will be soon. As of right now, they are not allowed. That’s one of the changes the Power 5 want to implement.

  • bjwalker82

    Recruiting issues are thus…

    We and others (the University of Hubris at Austin specifically) let the mongol horde past the gates of Texas. This has gutted our recruiting pipeline while Texas A&M has grown thanks only to two main reasons (and two smaller ones) it is in Texas and it is in the SEC. They think it’s as a result of some great resurrection they have pulled off but let’s be honest with ourselves.

    Now we have to recruit nationally which yields mixed results. It’s a lot riskier than going after the areas we used to (and still do with less success).

    Unfortunately (for football) we are not in a state that still disproportionately benefits (in sports only) from the evil institution of slavery (you know it is true). It is a fact of life that we will have to hustle more and have to make do with what we have.

    Until we win the big one again.

  • Eddie and Amber

    Good insight in this post! I guess a big part of rebuilding that pipeline is to grow the relationships with HS Coaches. Does OU ever do any camps (meet and greet, etc.) for coaches only? I’m sure most Texas HS Coaches have never been to OU, hence, making it hard to endorse.

    • Super K

      Oklahoma, like other schools, builds relationships with coaches. But a current trend is coaches who don’t just help with their players in recruitment…they get involved in the recruitment of other players in the region. Some school districts have tried to make rules to stop this but it doesn’t work. Those are important people to know. Additionally, Oklahoma needs to find more wells that they can go back to. This happens by getting one kid and never harming the relationships in that region. For example, last year one of my big issue with the Juwan Dowels thing was that Dowels was a player who was tied into so many important people in the Miami area. He played at American Heritage where at any point in time you’re going to have multiple D1 athletes on both sides of the ball (It’s Torrance Gibson’s HS). And he was trained and mentored by coach Stanford Samuels and coach Sly. Those two guys help so many kids in terms of training and otherwise in the Miami area that parents and kids love them and trust them…getting on their good side is a good thing. Getting on their bad side is not. Fortunately for OU, Juwan is a very kind person and he didn’t make an issue of it but other kids could have. You offer a kid in December and when he tries to commit in January you don’t take it…not a good look no matter how justified it may have been.

      • Zack

        They didn’t take dowels commitment? Did they really want Jordan Thomas more or were they just scared off by the academic concerns? I don’t know how good he’s going to be (I think he has a chance to be really special) his film was awesome.

  • rphdenton

    re lane…… he couldn’t afford to visit ou, so does he sign with the pukes without seeing them or did he suddenly find the finances to visit the pukes

    • Super K

      He had a chance to see OSU last fall. Lane doesn’t come from a poor family. They are just having a lot of financial strains at the moment.

      • rphdenton

        so, couldn’t he have taken an official visit to ou where his expenses would be paid or am I wrong about that…….thxs

  • Gary Robbins

    Breaking news-is it true that Mbanasor just committed to OU??? per Joey at OUI.

    • Jordan Esco

      This site broke that news, well before OUI or anyone else had it.

  • Dr. Doobie

    So K, since you have these connections to handlers, coaches, etc., how do we get you a job at OU with recruiting??? ; )

  • Super Keith

    I completely understand what Super K is saying here, however, I think guys that really want to see a campus (like OU) can and will. The NCAA allows for 5 official visits, and if a kid really wants to see what a campus/program is like, he has the opportunity. Of course it’s not as easy as an unofficial, but the opportunity is there.

    I like Jaylon Lane, and wish he had been a Sooner, but I don’t think him not being able to come on an unofficial visit had much (if anything) to do with his early commitment to OSU. Going back to my first thought, if Lane really wanted to see OU, he could have taken an official.

    I don’t want to discredit what Super K is saying, because I agree that there is a great importance on connecting with mentors/coaches, because a lot of those guys direct the visits for various recruits. All I am saying is that I think fans put too much emphasis on unofficial visits. If we went back and looked at all of the kids (since Stoops has been in Norman) that made multiple unofficial visits, and committed elsewhere, it would illustrate my point.

  • Doobie74OU

    Great read K! As many have already said it is my favorite of the series! These families are depending more and more on these coaches/mentors/handlers that you have to be developing these connections at all times. It is something they obviously know with their connection to Cali so hopefully we can keep getting better and better at this! Maybe the new On-Campus Recruiting Coordinator can do a better job of identifying these people and building these relationships!

  • Scott Cloud

    Super K,
    Do you think that OU has stayed away from these “handlers” because some (not all) have their hands out?
    I venture to say that some of these folks are looking to cash in on their relationships with recruits.
    I know that is a cynical way to look at things but college hoops has been this way forever and I hate to see college football go down the same path, though we all know that there is cheating in foorball as well.

    • Tulsa Terry

      It would be naive to think otherwise.