Recruiting For Dummies: The Foundation For Any Recruiting Pitch
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We published a newsletter last week that featured a few highlights of what recruiting is really about. It's more than just extending an offer and shoving a box score in front of the faces of high school kids and expecting an outcome. College football recruiting is incredibly competitive, incredibly cutthroat, and incredibly innovative each and every year. It's far more complex than most people realize.
For example, there are schools that contract marketing firms to come into their program each year. Their objective? One recruit. This marketing firm (and in some cases, multiple marketing firms are each individually assigned one individual recruit) will tailor a full-fledged marketing plan to land a player.
Several years ago, one of these marketing firms wanted the school they were working for to constantly be on the mind of the recruit they were assigned. They went out and purchased all of the billboard and advertising space around the recruit's house, on his route to school, and on his mom's route to work and put a bunch of advertising up about the university they were working for. No matter where this kid went, he saw the school colors and heard the name of the school that was pushing him the hardest. That's in depth marketing, folks. For a recruit.
I've heard of schools who have contracted with convenience stores in their local area. Using a texting service and geo-fencing, that recruit got a "Store X supports our local school! Go Mascots!" text whenever he pulled into their location.
Things get wild on the recruiting trail.
As BYU transitions into the Big 12, their recruiting philosophies will have to transition as well - or at least their execution of those philosophies. BYU can be unique, offer fewer total recruits than their peers, and have a more spiritual tone in their recruitment, but they have to match the level of urgency and the level of organization that these other schools have. Maybe more simply put, BYU can continue to sell a unique message, but there are certain table stakes that have to be met in order to match the volume that others are delivering their message with.
We talked in the aforementioned newsletter last week how recruiting is not just a sales process. People think it's sales, but it's more than sales. Recruiting doesn't simply require a salesman in the parking lot meeting recruits as they come in the door. Instead, recruiting requires full fledged business plans for each specific recruit.
These plans have to be individualized and tailored to each specific player. The message that might resonate with Smith Snowden is a completely different message than what resonates with Walker Lyons. There isn't a silver-bullet in recruiting that covers everything.
That is one area that will need to improve in the future.
In order to accomplish that task, BYU has to identify who their top targets are and get much, much more personal with their message and with their strategy. The best way that I can think to do that? Transparency with your business plans.
Let's say that BYU is recruiting a linebacker out of Texas who is a member of the Church (don't try to guess who I'm talking about, because you'll be wrong, I'm making this imaginary player up in my brain). BYU knows they want this player and it's clear that he's a priority in the 2024 recruiting class. The identification and prioritization of this player is an important first step.
Step two is figuring out how the hell you are going to make this player feel that they are a priority to you? This is where the transparency comes in.
Let's take a step back and get into the mind of the coaching staff for a minute. What things had to go through their minds in order for them to determine that Player X is an important part of their recruiting class? What were the steps of that thought process?
They probably see some sort of physical development in this player's future. Even the best of recruits still have to get into a college weight room and grow into their man-bodies, so what does the coach see when he sees into the future of that recruit's development?
If he sees a 205-pound linebacker who will need to bulk up to 235 pounds, how will the coach do that? What will the player's diet plan be? No, specifically, what will that plan be? How many calories per day will that player need to eat? What kind of foods do they need to be eating? Where will they get that food and what will be provided by the team? How quickly should the weight come on and when will certain benchmarks be hit that tell that player they are on the right track?
These are all questions that the coach is answering when they look a 17-year old recruit and project how they will develop over the next several years, but are they showing that thought process to that player? I can tell you this for certain - the schools BYU is recruiting against are absolutely showing that level of detail in a very transparent manner.
Let's keep going..
Okay, so the player is eating right. Great. But a diet by itself does not a college football player make. The dude has to hit the weight room.
What lifts does this player need to do? How many reps and when? How will each individual lift help them meet the associated development goal that was detailed in the diet plan? How will fall camp mess with a players development and what kind of weight training needs to be done during the summer to account for whatever gains are lost during camp? Where does endurance building come into play and how will gearing up to play on every day eat into the player's plan to get up to 235 pounds? What is BYU's plan to account for all of these things in the weight room?
Again, these are things that coaches have to think about anyways, but are they detailing it and showing this to the player? Does the player and the player's family know that BYU has carefully thought about this player's future and how they will take care of him?
By now, you're getting the drill, right?
What is the academic plan for a player? Whether they want to play football or play school, they have to have decent enough grades to play and ensuring that they are on track to graduate is a pretty important aspect of college. So.... how is BYU going to do that?
Player X wants to be a business management major. Great. How do his high school credits transfer over to BYU? Did he take any AP classes that meet requirements? Could he take any AP classes during his senior year that would give him a boost? When he gets to BYU, what classes should he take? Which professors should he take those classes from? Who will be his tutor for each subject? How will the coaches ensure that the player is going to class and accomplishing his work? What will the feedback loop with the player's parents look like from the coach? When will the player apply for their major program? Will they get into their program? Have previous athletes successfully graduated with this major? What were their grades like? What were the challenges and how will Player X be prepared to handle those challenges when they come up for him?
You get the idea here, right?
These are all things that have to be answered. Most of the time, coaches are answering all of those questions anyways. But figuring out a way to show these recruits how much thought you are putting into their futures is a challenge.
It takes time.
It takes resources.
It takes a strong relationship with recruit and parents.
It takes follow-through and dedication.
It takes a lot.
But this is become a competitive necessity on the recruiting trail, and it's something that BYU will have to figure out moving forward.
They will need to do the same thing about how getting a player to the NFL. Highlight films of linebackers that have played at BYU before, detailing exactly how Player X will be used in the BYU defense. A plan of what coaches will do with NFL scouts they know to help put a player on the map. Figuring out how a player will get in front of an NFL head coach during the offseason. All of these things.
Like any company, strategic planning is a long and detailed process. The best and most successful companies are the ones that plan well, think through as many scenarios as they possibly can and prepare themselves for roadblocks along the way. The companies who don't plan and don't prepare, well, you saw what happened to FTX.
Going forward, BYU needs to treat each recruit like they are their own individual company. They need to plan meticulously and show that plan to the recruit. As they do so, they will quickly be able to identify which parts of the plan resonate the most and which aspects don't seem to matter as much. Learning these aspects will only help their relationships with the recruit grow stronger.
This kind of transparent, organized detail is the beginning of the process. If BYU is serious about a player, these are the minimum level requirements to be considered. The Cougars can't win in the Big 12 by signing recruits that no other schools want. They have to start beating P5 schools for P5 talent over and over and over again. These are the kinds of plans that P5 schools are showing recruits. If BYU can't do this, at minimum, then they are already at a significant disadvantage.
Now that we understand the foundation, we can build on this foundation going forward in the next installment of GEHB's Recruiting For Dummies Series.