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Recruiting and the Legend

I am not exactly a recruiting junky. The cottage industry that has sprung up on the Internet that claims to offer recruiting insight has done so without the first bit of support from me. These sites are run mostly by self-appointed ‘recruiting gurus’ who claim to be able to ‘rank’ high school players that for the most part they have never seen play. The more imaginative ones also offer predictions as to which college the most-wanted wunderkinds will attend. Every once in a while, they are even right.

It can be amusing to occasionally peruse the recruiting message boards. There can be read humorous posts from some loon who might live five hundred miles from some prospect claiming to have a ‘gut feeling’ as to where said high school hero might attend school. Others range from supreme confidence that their favorite school’s class is the best collection of high school talent ever assembled in the entire history of collegiate sport, such as, ‘If John Bunting doesn’t win the ACC next year with this class he should be fired.’

Still more will express panic in July, a full seven months before Signing Day, that there beloved football factory is not gaining commitments from every recruit in sight. ‘Why hasn’t Tech gotten any more commitments’ or ‘Have you seen who the Hoos are getting compared to us?’ identify the easily-excitable loon.

There is a much darker side to these recruiting ‘services.’ They provide a platform for those with the emotional stability of a see-saw to interject themselves into the process. Feeling the need to pitch in and help those who recruit for a living, these numbskulls are able to find out exactly which teenagers their school is after, along with where they live and other information that is absolutely none of their business.

Eventually, one of the knuckle-draggers that abuse these sites is going to provide the impetus for a major scandal that will involve the NCAA cracking down hard on a school and most all of the sites. Coaches hate them and with good reason: they are trouble coming. While I would consider it a good thing if all of these so-called ‘recruiting services’ were wiped off the Net, I very much hope that it is not my school that is the one penalized.

In the meantime, I treat recruiting sites with a cheerful contempt and mostly ignore them. I can usually come up with better ways to spend my time than reading somebody’s ‘rankings’ that often reveal the rooting biases of whoever is running the site- ever notice how certain sites automatically award another performance ‘star’ when a prospect commits to Carolina? That is why every year finds the Tar Heels in a BCS bowl. I also consider it an utter waste of time to read various musings as to where some high school hotshot ‘might’ be leaning this particular week.

I tend to trust the recruiting professionals. i.e., the staff assistants who do this for a living, to identify and convince enough decent talent to attend Tech to keep the winning seasons flowing. For the past 13-14 years, they seem to have been doing a pretty good job of it.

Nevertheless, it is hard not to notice when a particularly big recruiting catch gets netted. It tends to be in all the news, both Internet and the ‘traditional’ outlets. Such was the case recently when highly-regarded [by both college coaches as well as the clowns running the recruiting sites] defensive end John Graves of Richmond committed to Tech. This is a big one.

Graves seems to be the Tech prototypical defensive end that will continue a line begun over a decade ago by Cornell Brown and continued through Corey Moore and others to today’s Darryl Tapp and should roll on for the next couple of years with Chris Ellis. ESPN’s Mike Tirico once opined that Frank Beamer grows these star defensive ends in the cornfields near Lane Stadium and it does indeed seem the case. They just keep on coming.

Of course, this is a prime example of having a system installed for many years and recruiting to it. The high school kids notice what goes on at a school and want to be a part of it. Virginia Tech always seems to have a cupboard full of quality defensive ends along with both running and defensive backs. These players benefit from excellent coaching and prosper. That tends to lengthen the line of those in high school desiring to be beneficiaries.

I would think the recruitment of Graves would have gone fairly smoothly. While SEC schools Florida and Georgia were involved, the indications were that he wanted to stay in-state. That narrowed the possibilities. It also seems his positive feelings towards Tech received a boost from an unexpected source.

Various news reports indicated that Graves took a visit to Hooville late in his recruiting process. Graves himself related that he sat down with algroh for an extended conversation. That seemed to have done the trick. Immediately after conversing with the Great NFL Legend, Graves returned home and promptly committed to Virginia Tech. Thanks, algroh.

These are busy days for the Grand Chessmaster. A large number of his assistants have escaped. In a rather remarkable example of spin, algroh claims this is a good thing and was planned all along. Certainly the ones that were able to get away consider it a good thing. It’s not every coach whose master plan contains the goal, ‘run the staff off.’

Rarely has a coach who has been exiled into the wasteland that is Temple football sounded as excited to be there as Al Golden. Bobby Wallace might have described it as the worst job in Division I-A, but after those 3 am phone calls and brutal finger-pointing staff meetings following losses to Tech, North Broad looked pretty darned good to Golden.

Once again, algroh has reminded Hoo fans that while the staff may run away, he will be on the job working hard to keep the six-win seasons flowing. The rejoicing from the Hoos can be noticed in those thousands of Music City tickets being snapped up.

Other things are intruding on algroh’s valuable time. There is the little matter of hoo will call the plays in Nashville . algroh has indicated that the job of telling Hagans to run for his life will fall to son and assistant boygroh. The cries of “Gee thanks, Daddy” can be heard all over the Grounds.

Then there is covering missing staff positions for the bowl. According to the Great NFL Legend, things won’t change much. Graduate assistants will be elevated to full-time positions for the MCB; algroh claims the crack Hoo coaching machine won’t miss a beat and the kids will do just as good a job as those hoo left. It would seem the guys at Kansas State have a higher opinion of Ron Prince than did algroh.

As you can see, algroh is a busy man. According to published reports by Graves , however, the Great NFL Legend was not so busy that he couldn’t sit down with the star player and make a recruiting pitch. Not just any run-of-the-mill recruiting pitch, either. Since it seemed to have been his talk with algroh that convinced Graves where to attend college, one can only assume that Mr. NFL made quite a strong case for Tech. What a guy.

I have never sat in on a recruiting pitch and have little idea exactly what is said during the conversations. I did once, at a Hokie Club function, ask a Tech assistant known as a fairly good recruiter what transpired during these visits. He related that the most important thing is to be yourself. It can be assumed that algroh’s tendency to engage in incoherent babble went far in convincing Graves that Tech was the place for him.

The Tech assistant also told me that Frank Beamer demanded that all of his recruiters be honest at all times when dealing with a prospect. This would have been a tougher one for algroh, as he is famous for telling recruits whatever he perceives that they desire to hear, such as, “Of course you can play quarterback for the Hoos, Vic. In fact, I give you my word I’ll hold the position for you” shortly before converting him to a defensive back. It would have been very difficult for algroh to suppress his natural urge to tell a prospect something other than the truth and advise, “Son, you’re as perfect a defensive end for the system at Tech as I have ever seen. Bud Foster and Charley Wiles will work wonders with you.” Praise is due algroh in telling a prospect, for once, the truth.

I join other Hokies in welcoming the newest addition to the ranks, John Graves. He is joining a pretty good line of defensive ends and should continue it. Hopefully, both the coaches who assess and recruit talent and the recruiting services that guess at it are on the money with him. The Tech coaches involved in the recruitment are to be congratulated. A tip of the hat should also go to algroh. The Great NFL Legend certainly seemed to play his part.

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