Over the past few years, I've watched several documentaries on how college football coaches build their teams through recruiting. Through this, I've picked up a couple of thematic elements common to nearly every coach:
It's Always a Geographic Thing
The top tier of athlete recruited in any area is a player that can step in with the right development and become an elite college football player. While the measureables may be off the charts for a guy out of Texas in comparison to a guy from Connecticut, there is no way to determine how a player may turn out in four years. Teams often have wishlists for recruiting, then go out and find the right players in the right areas.
The right area is usually dictated by where a team is located geographically. While at Southern Methodist, head coach Ron Meyer focused heavily on three areas: the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area, East Texas, and Houston. He roped off the area in his mind and opted to recruit predominantly athletes from that area.
For the University of Miami, Howard Schnellenberger roped off South Florida and chose to go into areas like Liberty City and Overtown. Creating the "state of Miami," he brought in guys from neighborhoods never before recruited until it became a fertile ground that helped build a national champion.
Steve Addazio very heavily stated his desire to get Boston College back to "building a fence" around New England. As I've mentioned before, the New England area isn't as deep as other sections of the country, but the top elite athletes jump off the sheet for measureable attributes. They either have a desire to get better, a high ceiling, or raw talent. Addazio looks at them and is bringing them in to capitalize on the same ideas other successful coaches looked at before him: get the best athletes in the home region and make it a "hometown thing" for them.
St. John's Prep and Everett routinely play for the Massachusetts Super Bowl, so Addazio brought in Lukas Denis and Jake Burt, two of the best athletes on the field when they played against one another. Naugatuck and New Canaan both went to the Class L-Large playoffs; Addazio recruited Zach Allen from New Canaan and Sharrieff Grice from Naugatuck (although Grice went to prep school at Kingswood Oxford). The fact remains that this will help team building by uniting guys who played against one another, the same way so many other coaches have done before.
You've got to remember that when kids go to college, they're in a world that's unknown. When they get to college, they often drift or congregate to the known and the familiar until they're fully acclimated. For guys who played football against one another, joining a football team with a bunch of guys they don't know is remarkably different. This helps to link the players together with existing guys who already played with or against each other.
That can be augmented by individual guys who want to be the only guys from a particular area. Getting that right mix is an evaluation process by the coaches to protect and build the integrity of the locker room. That said, Steve Addazio isn't doing anything differently from other coaches who built at other schools. I know we've talked about this at length, and I'm not saying anything different that we don't already know.
Identifying Needs Now To Build For Later
Each of Steve Addazio's recruiting classes addresses needs for building for 2016 and beyond. He looked at his team on both sides of the ball and looked at where he wanted to build from the foundation up. His first recruiting class gave him the quarterback and the running backs he wanted since those are the most important positions. He could start addressing from the start with those guys. In Year Two, he brought in offensive linemen and wide receivers while addressing defensive back. His Year Three recruits will probably focus on linebackers and defensive line.
While he's doing this, Addazio isn't just throwing the guys to the wolves as true freshmen. The need to develop them and stick to a multi-year plan is instead too important. The development will allow him to have a full roster by 2016 or 2017. At the same time, he recognized the need to continually win games, resulting in the plug-and-play fifth year seniors he's brought in. He did it two years in a row on the offensive line while recruiting and bringing in guys. He's doing it this year on the defensive line while utilizing existing athletes. His next area of need will bring those guys in and rebuild.
It's easy to look at recruitment and want guys to play right away, and it's easy to look at guys who can step in and make this team better right away. But Addazio's comments almost echo the approach taken by hockey or baseball drafts—we're taking guys who are going to be good later because those guys are going to develop better and more completely than guys who are rushed into action.
It's All About That Coaching
Every single aspect of the recruitment process comes back to one single, solitary fact: it's all determined by development in coaching. Everything comes back to the coach's belief in their ability to develop and nurture talent. For the past two years, Addazio's forefront and most public athletes have been guys he was using as band-aids, and he's all but admitted that in his press conference.
The guys who came in might have had major flaws, but we knew the coaching staff didn't have time to develop them. They brought those guys in because they believed their limited skill sets could help BC win now while they worked on developing later. That's not to say the "limited" skill set meant they were bad at something; the coaching staff just didn't have the time to build them up. They knew it, and they didn't try to do it. There was no point.
It's pretty easy, though, to look at the guys brought in and see the direction Steve Addazio's taken. The pressure's on him to build those guys up and develop them. It'll be a fun ride from here.