For WVU Football, Recruiting Goes Virtual
Mountaineer football coaches are traveling all over the map in search of talented prospects during the current spring evaluation period, but they are doing so without ever leaving home.
“We’re virtual recruiting,” explained WVU head coach Neal Brown. “Spring evaluation usually goes from April 15 to the end of May, and we’re trying to cover our areas, obviously via phone.”
The global pandemic has curtailed many aspects of normal life, and that includes recruiting travel. Because of the virus, the NCAA made a change to its recruiting calendar this spring and imposed a dead period until May 31, meaning there can be no face-to-face contact between coaches and prospective student-athletes until at least June.
Thus coaches can’t go on the road to recruit, and prospects can’t come to campus for visits.
That doesn’t mean recruiting is stopping, though, not by any stretch.
College coaches in all sports have had to get creative with how they are currently recruiting. Almost everything during this period is being done through computers and smartphones. There are plenty of video conversations going on, and college staffs are putting together informational videos for prospects and their families.
“We had a plan for the virtual recruiting once this all went down in mid-March,” said Brown, noting the end the end of in-person visits. “Our thought was to take our program to those student-athletes who were planning to come (for visits to WVU) in the spring or early part of the summer.
“So what we’ve done is virtual tours and kind of infomercial-type videos on who we are,” he added. “We try to take each of the important aspects or our program to the student-athlete and their families, whether it is nutrition, strength and conditioning, academics, facilities and all those type of things. We’ve taken it to them and continued to build those relationships with the hope that when the dead period is over we can get those student-athletes on campus.”
The recruiting hasn’t stopped, and neither have the verbal commitments. WVU pulled in several commits for the class of 2021 during this dead period.
“Our plan was to continue on with the guys who had been on our campus multiple times,” said Brown. “Those who were close to making decisions, we continued to move down the path with them. I think our staff has done a nice job with that. We’ve maintained really good relationships.
“It reaffirmed to me that people make decisions based on kind of the momentum of social media. I felt that all along, but this has reaffirmed that to me.”
Those who have committed to the Mountaineers have previously gotten a chance to visit WVU, but there are some elsewhere who are verballing sight unseen.
“The only real surprise to me is that kids are making decisions without ever setting foot on campus,” admitted Brown. “It will be interesting to me when signing day rolls around on how many of these commitments from guys who have not been on campus, how many of those stick. You always read about decommitments, but the high, high percentage of commitments stick. And they stick because people have been on campus multiple times and they’ve made educated decisions. But it will be interesting to me on how many of these commitments that will stick who haven’t been on campus for visits, haven’t been around the coaches, haven’t been around the team. That will be interesting to me when all is said and done.”
— Dontae Wright (@CoachWright37) April 22, 2020
Most of West Virginia’s current football recruiting is focused on those who will be members of the class of 2021, but the Mountaineers still have some openings left for the class of 2020. They are searching for players who could provide immediate help, which likely means graduate transfers.
“We have two, possibly three, but at least two,” said Brown in terms of the scholarships WVU has available for the class of 2020. “The spots where we have needs are offensive line, maybe another interior defensive lineman and then we are thin in the secondary. Those are the three areas that if we could find the right fit, we’d like to add to our roster whenever we do return.”
The travel itinerary for West Virginia’s football coaches shows they’ve covered a lot of virtual ground the past couple of weeks.
Travis Trickett has been to Columbus, Ohio, and New Jersey. Matt Moore has recruited in West Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia. Gerad Parker has travelled to Kentucky and Indiana. Chad Scott has gone to Philadelphia, Orlando and south New Jersey. Sean Reagan has journeyed to eastern Pennsylvania, Chicago and Jacksonville. Vic Koenning has dealt with prospects in south Georgia, South Carolina and West Virginia. Jahmile Addae has spent time in the Washington, D.C. and Virginia area, as well as central Florida. Jordan Lesley has recruited in southern Ohio and Atlanta. Dontae Wright has been to western Pennsylvania, northwest Ohio and Detroit, while Jeff Koontz has dealt with recruits in northeast Ohio, Atlanta and West Virginia.
And they’ve done all that recruiting without ever leaving home.