Scott’s Turf: Recruiting or Sales?

My FishDuck Friends — I wish to roll out a new feature called “Scott’s Turf” on the site that will appear on every Monday, which will have opinion-editorial pieces written by Scott Reed. Scott has been writing recruiting and game analyses articles every week for the Oregon franchise of Rivals.com Duck Sports Authority for many years. I’ve known him long before FishDuck.com began and have enjoyed his insight and commentary over the years. He will continue to contribute recruiting articles for DSA, but will be sharing his creative writing with us at FD.com. 

As Oregon fans we all owe a bit of gratitude to Scott for his investigation into the Willie Lyles episode years back, as he unearthed and publicized important information unknown to the traditional media. The revelations brought to light resulted in a different national view of the incident, and consequently a different NCAA reaction to Oregon. His writing and research brought over 800,000 readers to his blog and established him as an Oregon writer to watch for and learn from. Mondays at FishDuck.com are going to be much more fun as we welcome Scott to the team!

Recruiting is an inexact science but one which is not subject to extreme oversimplifications. There is no formula and there is no slogan that makes recruiting simpler. “Always be closing” was a phrase popularized in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Sounds simple enough to apply to college football recruiting, right? If only it were that simple, Oregon coaches would go to sales classes and be the best closers on the market. What seems to be forgotten is that at the major college football level, there are about 60 other teams, all with coaches who are trained to sell their programs, too.

This week, Oregon football fans were hit with a third loss in the quarterback recruiting bonanza as Blake Barnett, once thought to be a heavy Oregon lean, chose to commit to Alabama. After losing out on super talented Kyler Murray (Texas A&M) and Brady White (Arizona State), Duck fans were relieved when Barnett decommitted from Notre Dame. That relief quickly turned sour this past week.

The “always be closing” mentality is one in which a hard sell is a must. If a coach lets a prospect leave campus after a visit, be it official or unofficial, without asking for his verbal commitment, then he is not following the mantra.

That shtick works for coaches like Lane Kiffin; but that is not the way the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex was built. The Men of Oregon are grown and not closed upon. Sell the recruits what Oregon has to offer and let them make their choice based on information, not pressure.

Alabama's Lane Kiffin

From Video

Alabama’s Lane Kiffin

Pressure to commit does not lead to solid commitments. Brian Kelly closed Blake Barnett, he got that commitment. Barnett’s family was excited, Brian Kelly was excited. Then suddenly, a quick trip to Eugene and that commitment was as solid as the paper it was written on: worthless.

Lane Kiffin is a master salesman, but not a master coach. Last season’s mess at USC was headlined by the ringmaster who sold just about every five-star kid on the glitz and glamour of playing for the Trojans in southern California. He parlayed a season without expectations where pressure to perform on the field was non-existent into a No. 1 ranking the following season. And then the house crumbled from within. Kiffin was unceremoniously fired midway through the 2013 football season.

Maybe Lane Kiffin becomes a better coach with Nick Saban pulling the strings. Maybe this Barnett commitment sticks. In the grand scheme of Oregon football though, it doesn’t even matter.

A couple of years ago, Duck fans fretted at the loss of the highly ranked Brett Hundley to UCLA. Oregon signed a little heard of quarterback out of Hawaii who had never started a football game until his senior year of high school; Marcus Mariota turned out just fine.

Marcus Mariota as a high school prospect

From Video

Marcus Mariota as a high school prospect.

Does that mean the Ducks will sign the next Mariota in the 2015 recruiting class? Maybe. Maybe not. One thing we know for sure is that the Ducks signed a very talented quarterback in 2014 named Morgan Mahalak. Like Mariota, Mahalak did not start as a quarterback until his senior season. He was stuck behind Jared Goff; the starting quarterback at Cal last season as a true freshman.

Rumor is that Mahalak may be even better. The good news? He gets to learn from the best to ever play at Oregon for a year before he will be needed. Between now and then, another player may come who is even more talented, rated higher. Who knows, recruiting is a crazy game.

Fans tend not to see outside their own bubble. They need to understand that there are no simple solutions in recruiting. If there were, someone could make a boatload of money selling this simple solution to coaches. When they do, they can always be closing. Remember, a pressured commit can become an unhappy player. And that does a program no good.

Mark Helfrich is following a blueprint that was laid out by his predecessor. For those who forget, that blueprint was pretty darn successful. Helfrich has tweaked that master plan to include earlier offers, but to start putting the pressure for commits too early would completely undermine the groundwork that has been laid for the past seven seasons. Recruits talk. If Oregon changes their methodology, it will backfire.

In the meantime, the Duck coaches may lose a few recruits to another school. But, have some class, folks. Sometimes kids just choose other schools. It is not the wrong choice simply because it was not Oregon. It’s time to let these young men revel in their choices rather than slather them with innuendo and insults.

(Top Photo by Craig Strobeck)

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