CFN Archives ... How A Team Should Recruit
2009 Florida State DT recruit Jacobbi McDaniel
2009 Florida State DT recruit Jacobbi McDaniel
Posted Feb 5, 2014

We've unearthed some of the old CFN pieces, and with a few minor tweaks, we've kept them intact to show what the thoughts were at the time. So how would you build a team? Pete Fiutak gives his thoughts on his recruiting plan and what he'd do to put together a program.

Recruiting 2011 

CFN Archives - How To Build

Recruiting 2011 | Recruiting 2010 | Recruiting 2009

CFN Top Prospects for 2011

- No. 1 to 50 | No. 51 to 100 | No. 101 to 150
- No. 151 to 200No. 201 to 250 | No. 251 to 300
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers
- Tight Ends | Off. Tackles | Guards & Centers 
- Def. Ends | Def. Tackles | Linebackers | Corners | Safeties 
- 2009 CFN Top 150 | 2010 CFN Top 200 

CFN Recruiting Archives
- All-Name Teams
2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

- How To Build A Team Through Recruiting
- The 5 Star Prospects of 2006 
- The 2-Star Prospects Who Became 5-Star Players 
- The 2006 All-Recruiting Class Defense 
- The Unheralded Stars ... The 2005 Class
- Recruiting Busts ... the 2005 Class
- Recruiting Booms ... the 2005 Class
- Re-Ranking the 2004 Recruiting Classes
- Late Bloomers ... the 2004 Class
- Re-Ranking the 2003 Recruiting Classes
- Booms & Busts ... the 2003 Class
- Booms & Busts ... the 2002 Class -
- The Blue Chippers ... the 2001 Class
- The Busts ... the 2001 Class
- The Late Bloomers ... the 2001 Class

By Pete Fiutak 

Welcome to my annual filibuster about how a program should recruit, and what a team, in general, should do when it comes to recruiting.

While the entire process is overblown, of course recruiting is the lifeblood of a college football team. Biff the evaluation of an incoming recruiting class or two and your program hits the skids. So, in general, how should teams go about recruiting?

For purposes of this year's version of my exercise on how to recruit, assume I'm the recruiting coordinator of XYZ State. Unfortunately, my job is made more difficult because of the discouragement of recruiting visits with $100 handshakes and babes shaking their booties and belly rings (my goodness do I miss college). I personally would like nothing more than to pull out the Blue Chips/He Got Game recruiting handbook on acquiring talent, but I'm not allowed to. Here's my game plan for 2011 ...

Step One: Hit the JUCO ranks hard for depth

When doing anything requiring speculation, whether it be recruiting, drafting, stock analysis, or ordering Chinese food, the key is eliminating as many elements of chance as possible. When you recruit a high school prospect, you have to hope he can immediately get used to the collegiate life, you have to put him in a college weight room and get him to add 15 pounds of muscle, and then you have to hope he can actually play as he matures. When going after a JUCO player, you get a kid that you know is already used to collegiate life, has at least two years of maturity on high school prospects, and is more likely to be able to play right away. Essentially, you know what you're getting with a JUCO player. While you can't build your whole team around JUCO players, just ask Kansas State, and you have to go mostly after the top high school talent, you'll get a nice base to provide some decent depth. Maybe, just maybe, you can hit the jackpot on a Cam Newton or a Nick Fairley. You can't succeed long term without getting good high school talents to develop. Even so ...

Step Two: Don't get too hung up on superstar high school recruits 

Of course some of the high school players on everyone's list are going to be superstars, but that's not always the case. Every year there are going to be players who come out of the gates roaring, but getting a true freshman superstar requires as much luck as anything else. For example, Florida State went yard in 2001 by getting superstar prep quarterbacks Joe Mauer and Adrian McPherson. How'd that work out? Chris Rix turned out to be the quarterback for the next four years. West Virginia was all excited about getting Jason Gwaltney a few years ago, but Steve Slaton turned into the impact player. Arkansas based its whole future of the program on getting Mitch Mustain ... oops. If you spend too much time courting the superstars, you might lose focus on one of the several bazillion unpolished gems that are out there. Most top recruits turn out to be merely average.

Step Three:
There's one position that we must go after, and go after hard
What's the toughest college football position to fill? Quarterback? Nah, they're a dime a dozen. Running back? Puh-leez. Left offensive tackle? Possibly. No, the hardest position to fill is defensive tackle. The first problem is finding guys with the needed size. The second is to find a guy with that necessary beef that has the quickness to handle the position. Most really big guys end up playing on the offensive line, and many teams try to convert offensive linemen to the defensive side or else try to pump up defensive ends. A top-notch 275+ pound defensive tackle prospect is worth his weight in gold. Check out the best teams in America and check out their tackles; they're likely to be killers. Which leads to step four.

Step Four:
Find high school linebackers who look like they can add a few pounds, and then put them on the end
It's easy to forget that we're dealing with 17 to 18-year-old bodies here. There's always room to develop, grow and improve. I believe the number one key to a winning football team is being able to get to the opposing quarterback. Just ask Tom Brady after getting flattened by the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl. Rare are the college quarterbacks who can handle consistent pressure and consistent shots since they don't have the poise, or the options, to check out of plays. 99% of all college QBs can't throw consistently well on the run, and when you can get to the quarterback, you make life easier for the secondary. I'm not talking about necessarily finding great sack artists, but there need to be players who can get into the backfield and make quarterbacks worry. You can take a fast 215 to 225-pound high school linebacker, bulk him up, and move him to the end and make him a playmaker (TCU and head coach Gary Patterson have made a living off of doing this). However, to do this, you have to get the defensive tackles in the middle to be able to handle the run. In today's day and age of spread offenses, you can never have too much talent on the defensive front seven.

Step Five:
Do the homework and find out which star high school players are being asked to switch positions 
The star high school athletes will always play several positions. A top running back might also be the team's top defensive back. The top defensive lineman might also be a stud offensive lineman. The thing about these precocious talents is that there's always one position they really want to play. I'm not talking about the guys on the top 100 recruiting list, but maybe the next tier. Time and again a recruiter will go into a player's home and tell him that he projects to play at a certain spot. I want to find the guy that tore it up as a high school running back, wants to be a running back but is being courted as a defensive back. I want to find the record-setting quarterback that people want to move to safety. Why did Marshall Faulk go to San Diego State? Everyone but the Aztecs wanted him as a defensive back. If you're a mid-level recruit that desperately wants to play a certain position, come to my school and play that position. If it doesn't work out, then we'll deal with it. You can never be too deep at a position.

Step Six: Don't beg
If you don't want us, we don't want you. If you need to get your butt kissed and fall for continued flattery, the chances we're getting a potentially soft drama queen will go up ten-fold. Rule number one on a team has to be that every position is always open to the best player performing at his best. For everyone involved with the program, that's the only fair policy. If you're a hotshot recruit, you'll get a chance to play right away if you've earned the job. Of course, the starting position isn't guaranteed to you. Essentially, its most important to be as upfront and honest as possible at all times with recruits. If you sell a kid something just to get him to sign, you're going to end up with a disgruntled player down the road. On the flip side, if you're a school like USC under Pete Carroll, Alabama, Ohio State or Florida that has a track record of playing freshmen in prominent spots, recruits see that and will respond.

What to look for at the positions
(This doesn't necessarily apply to the top 150-type recruits who are the elite at their positions.)
Everyone wants big and speedy players, but there are a limited number of them out there. Here are a few basic guidelines I want my program to follow.

Quarterback - Obviously the basics have to be there, but in today's day and age of college football, some mobility is an absolute must. Not everyone is going to be Cam Newton or Vince Young, but an ability to move if necessary adds a whole other element. Unless the recruit is an upper-level talent, like Matt Leinart or Matt Ryan, the quarterback can't be a statue.

Running back - Breakaway speed is overrated. If a back can get five yards past the line of scrimmage with some sort of consistency, that's all that matters. The back has to be able to make the first guy miss and has to be able to follow blocks. That might sound basic, but too many runners are used to taking the ball and using their speed to make plays. In the faster college game, backs must show running back skills, patience and instincts, and not just simply be great athletes.

Receivers - Must block, must block, must block. This is one of the biggest hit-or-miss collegiate positions. Obviously, speed is at a premium and good hands are nice (although this can be worked on), but the receiver, no matter how big he is, has to at least have the potential to grow into a solid blocker. Most college teams are going to run more than pass, and being able to make a big block on a defensive back will be the difference between nice gains in the ground game and big game breakers.

Offensive Linemen - Versatility. How many positions can the recruit potentially play? How much room is there to grow? Just because a high school prospect is 290 to 300 pounds, that's not necessarily a good thing. A lot of that might be fat, and he might not be athletic enough to grow into the position at the collegiate level. Unless the prospect is out-of-this world, the ideal recruit will be relatively athletic at about 255 to 270 pounds with a frame that looks like it can support an extra 15 to 20 pounds of muscle. 

Defensive Linemen - As stated above, finding defensive tackle prospects is a top priority. The most time needs to be spent finding and courting them. The ends can be bulked up linebackers to provide the necessary speed. An interior pass rusher would be a bonus, but mostly, the tackles have to hold up against the run. The ends have to be quick enough to handle reading the spread options on the outside.

Linebackers - Athleticism over production. At no other position does the term "football player" apply more, but slow linebackers means death to a defense. Preferably, these aren't bulked up safeties, but sideline-to-sideline linebackers. If the job has been done in getting the right defensive tackles, size at linebacker can be sacrificed for speed. If the tackles are light, the linebackers generally have to be bigger.

Safeties - Tackling ability is more important than coverage skills. A college football safety will have to make more run stops than pass breakups. If a high school safety looks like he has tackling problems, he most likely won't work out even if he's a sensational athlete. There's also a chance that a good run-stopping safety can be bulked up to become a great outside linebacker.

Cornerbacks - Speed, speed, speed, speed and speed. Technique can be taught, but if the corner can't stay with a fast receiver, the safety will need to provide more help and the defense will have some serious problems. Obviously everyone wants speed at defensive back, but if you have to find a relatively obscure high school receiver, quarterback or running back to get that speed, do it and hope you can teach him how to cover.

Punters and Kickers - Not enough attention is paid to this. This might be the flakiest position to recruit, but there should be as much time finding consistent kickers as is paid to the other major positions. Look at what an advantage Ohio State had in the 2002 championship season with Andy Groom and Mike Nugent. USC has had one of the best kicking games in the nation over the last few years. Considering most teams need to win with the running game, field position is a big deal.