Brian Bennett, The Man Who Oversees WVU’s Football Recruiting – Part 3
(Editor’s Note – I recently got a chance to sit down with Brian Bennett, who is the new director of player personnel for the Mountaineer football program.
For nearly 45 minutes we discussed various aspects of his life, what brought him to West Virginia and also took a deep dive into WVU’s recruiting, which is the aspect of the program he oversees.
This is the third in a series of articles with Bennett on what West Virginia’s football recruiting will look like in the Neal Brown era.
Today we’ll look at the Mountaineers’ recruiting process during the spring evaluation period.)
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West Virginia’s football coaches recently got back from the recruiting trail, having spent the better part of a month and a half doing spring evaluations.
It’s a process Neal Brown and his staff perform with great attention detail to make sure they don’t leave any stone unturned.
Coaches are allowed out on the road from April 15-May 31 to assess a prospective student-athlete for both his athletic ability and his athletic qualifications.
“We’ll start with about 2,000 prospects per class, then we’ll filter that list. Well, we’ll filter it for this next class, but it’s only growing for the others,” explained West Virginia’s director of player personnel Brian Bennett. “Our coaches will generally go to six to eight high schools per day. The way the spring evaluation period works is that you get a total of 168 days, and those are split among your 10 assistant coaches. Each coach, based on the amount of area they have, we’ll assign them a different number of days. They have to use those days as effectively as possible. Some of those may be used in visiting the schools in their areas, and some of it may be in doing crossover. For instance, our O-Line coach (Matt Moore) may do crossover, where he is just visiting O-Line prospects, and will probably see two or three per day. So, he’s not going to visit as many schools when he’s doing the crossover recruiting as he does when he’s in his territory. While he’s at that school, he’ll take notes and observe other prospects, but he’s mainly there for the O-Linemen.
“On any given day, if a coach is in a heavily populated city with a lot of good players, he may go to eight schools and see 10 prospects per school, whether that is rising seniors, rising juniors or rising sophomores. He’ll get notes on each one. It’s amazing the amount of information we get, and then we go through that each day at our meetings with Coach Brown. We go through it pretty efficiently, but we cover a lot of ground.”
Every day at noon, while the assistant are on the road recruiting, Bennett and Brown sit down to meet and go over all the information the coaches have sent in over the past 24 hours.
Over the years, Mountaineer football has focused its recruiting on various territories. Every new head coach seems to try to incorporate a new area – Don Nehlen in Florida, Rich Rodriguez in Louisiana, Bill Stewart in the Tidewater area of Virginia and Dana Holgorsen in Texas. WVU was able to do well in some of those new territories, though not all.
With his background as the head coach at Troy University, Brown wants to continue to mine the areas he where he found recruiting success for the Trojans, specifically Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Certainly he and his staff want to maintain West Virginia’s strong recruiting presence in its traditional areas that are within a six-hour radius of Morgantown. Then, on top of that, his staff is also having some early success elsewhere, like Michigan.
“We do have a lot new territory now that we are at West Virginia, but what I’ll say is that football is football, and football coaches are football coaches. We all kind of get each other,” said Bennett in regards to WVU recruiting territory now to what he and the Trojan staff worked at Troy. “The coaches that Coach Brown hired here were hired for a reason. The coaches that came with us from Troy are unbelievable football coaches and unbelievable recruiters. They do a great job in all those aspects. The guys we brought in from other places, they are the same. We’ve got a lot of new area, but we have connections in many of those already. And then it’s our coaches’ jobs to build those relationships that leads to success in recruiting.”
Having been on the job just six months now, West Virginia’s new staff is playing catch up when it comes to recruiting future classes. Brown has a very detailed, systematic process for recruiting, and that comes to identifying prospects and building relationships with them starting when they are freshmen and sophomores in high school.
“Year one is definitely sped up,” admitted Bennett, who previously worked as Brown’s director of player personnel the previous four years and was at Texas, Louisville and Florida before that. “Generally for the rising senior class, the 2020 class, we would already have a spring worth of evaluations, a summer camp worth of evaluations and then a fall worth of evaluations. We’d have that list built, and we would be well on our way to having the list of the rising juniors, who are the class of 2021. So, we’re missing some of those evaluations, and we’re having to speed the process somewhat.”
They may have started out a bit behind, but the Mountaineer coaches spent the spring trying to catch up on the recruiting front.
(In our next installment, we’ll look at the Mountaineers’ philosophy in terms of transfers and junior college players.)