David Blackwell, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Clemson University, recently sat down with Dan Scott to discuss his summer, recruiting and the Internet.
DS: So how was your summer?
It has gone great. We’ve obviously had a little bit of time off which is always good. For me the summer is always a great opportunity to get a lot done as far as recruiting and paperwork and things that I am usually under the gun about. Now I can take my time and go back through and look at all our mail outs and things for the whole year and make sure everything is the way we want it.
DS: One of the newer trends in college football recruiting is a prospect committing to a particular school very early. What are your thoughts on the subject?
I think it is unusual for this part of the country. When I was going at Pittsburgh it was not unusual for kids to commit in February, March, April and May. A lot of kids are getting around to visiting places earlier. They want to get the decisions made. They get tired of the recruiting process pretty quick now. So you know a lot of kids now a days are making their decision a lot sooner.
DS: By all accounts you've had a good summer on the recruiting trail, already bagging your own fair share of early committments. How have you done it?
Our coaches have really worked hard. I think that is the biggest thing. We’ve done a great job as a staff of getting kids on campus and to me that is the most important thing. If we can get a young man on our campus to look around at our facilities and see the things that are happening here then we are going to have a chance. That’s really all you can ask as a recruiter is to get them here. If you can get them here then at least you know you have been able to fire your shots at them. If they don’t like what they see then that’s fine. At least give us the opportunity to show you what we have. I think our coaches have done a great job this summer of not only getting kids to camps but just getting them in for one day visits or half day visits or just stopping by. So we had an awful lot of young men on our campus.
DS: How have you embraced the year-round attention recruiting gets in this part of the country?
You know there is an awful lot of interest here. The biggest difference from here to other places I have been more than anything is recruiting is much more public in the South. I grew up in this area. I was well aware of that when I came here, but people around here are very passionate about football. When the season is over in January then recruiting is the next best thing to them. Then they will hold on to that till February and then they will start talking about juniors to hold them over till spring ball. It’s obviously very visible here and very public, which is good and bad.
DS: Explain both sides, the good and the bad.
The good is people care. It’s important. I think that is something you can sell is how passionate our fans are and the fact they do care and they know who you are when you get here. They are excited about you as a recruit coming in. I think all of that is positive. I think sometimes the negatives are every little thing is out in the public. Sometimes I heard about commitments from friends and family that call me who have read it on the internet and the kids are trying to get a hold of me to tell me. It has leaked out somehow, somewhere. It’s the nature of the business we are in these days. It’s here to stay and we have got to learn how to deal with it and use it to your advantage as much as you can.
DS: After a recruit commits isn't then when the pressure really gets turned up from other schools?
There is no question. One thing I have always tried to do is to keep them from going as public with their commitments, especially when I get one, unless he is someone I absolutely know there is no way we are going to lose him because when a kid commits especially early it puts a big target on the school he commits to. Basically it just tells everyone they are in the lead for the next six months. A lot can happen in a football season as we all know and obviously you want to keep the momentum we have going throughout the season and into January.
DS: How has the Internet changed recruiting? For instance, the way rumors can spread now, do you find yourself monitoring chat rooms and discussion boards to make sure nothing bad is being circulated about the team or one of your recruits?
As a coach, just as I am sure most every other college in the country and we had it at Pittsburgh, we monitor the internet as much as we can just to be sure what is out there. That doesn’t mean we sit at computers all day and read message boards. Our graduate assistants kind of monitor the internet for us. Every once and a while we got a few coaches that just go on and check when they hear things from graduate assistants. You need to know what is out there because we don’t own those sites and we don’t have anything to do with those sites.
But when a young man goes on those sites and reads what is on there he thinks a lot of it comes from us because it is a Clemson website. They think immediately it is tied to our athletic department and our football program and unfortunately that is not always the case. So you need to know what is out there a little bit. The other thing is people need to understand we are an age where people use computers and you are kidding yourself if you don’t believe these top recruits are not going on those boards to read what the fans are saying them and your program. Again, you need to know what is out there because you are going to hear about it from the kids you are recruiting.
DS: That being said, do you find yourself in damage control mode more now that ever?
Every once in a while but for the most part there is a lot more positive probably than negative. Obviously when things are not going well with the season those boards tend to get pretty negative because those are people’s opinions. You know obviously people are entitled to their opinion. That part can hurt and you do an awful lot of damage control with recruits. Obviously last season we went through a good bit of that where there were a lot of recruits asking about things they read or heard on the radio or the internet or wherever. There were several places that reported that we had been fired at one point last season on the radio and the internet. Obviously that was not the case so sometimes you do put out fires.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.