MESA, Ariz. – Relationships are in. Facilities are out.
When it comes to what’s important to recruits – at least the ones talking about it at the OT7 regional near Phoenix last weekend – human connection, relationships with the coaches and the people around the program, and how they interact with the players already on the team are what it’s all about for them.
Facilities are nice. The glitz and glamor are welcome. But everybody has those now, so it’s less vital to spend too much time on that when taking a visit.
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“First off, facilities don’t really matter to me,” three-star cornerback Miles Lockhart said. “Everybody is going to have nice facilities. If you’re a Power Five school, you’re going to have nice facilities.
“I really like connecting with people. I look at the people and how they treat me and my family, especially my family. That’s the nearest thing to my heart. How they treat my family is how they’re going to treat me. If they treat them well, they’ll treat me well and the players there well. I look at how they treat their players and how I fit in the system.”
Fit is important to players these days. How they jell in the scheme, with the players already on the team, with the players in the recruiting class, with the head coach and especially with their position coach.
Weight rooms are weight rooms, and some are nicer than others. Facilities are facilities, some with cold tubs, some with great views, some with whatever.
But if a recruit is not vibing with the situation there – the feel of a campus, a coach, the players in the locker room – then the Taj Mahal of facilities won’t matter to most of them.
“The coach has to relate, and just the vibe I get,” LSU commit Joseph Stone said. “I’m big on how I feel where I’m at. I want to be comfortable where I’m living. I’m playing football, but at the same time I have to live there so I like to get a feel for where I’m at.
“I’m not a big person on facilities. I care about it, but I like what gets the job done. Someone could have the best facility but I could be comfortable somewhere else.”
During recruiting visits, sitting down with the position coach is crucial. Tape is watched. Strategies and schemes are discussed. Envisioning yourself at that receiver spot, or running the show at quarterback or how the school plays man coverage, that all matters.
Off the field, even off the campus, also matters to these prospects a great deal.
“The lifestyle outside of the field matters,” five-star athlete Mike Matthews said. “On the football field, everything is on me. How much I play is how much I work. The living style, if I can survive in that type of environment with those types of people, that’s what I care about.”
Prospects also want time away from the coaches to get the real story from the players on the team. Coaches are going to love them up, they know that. But what do the guys who are in it day-in and day-out say about that particular position coach in private?
What’s the best thing about going to school there? The worst?
And is there fishing? For four-star Ricardo Jones from Warner Robins (Ga.) Northside, there has got to be some nature.
“Can I go fishing right here?” Jones said. “What else is there to do? Most people don’t look at that, but I like to look at stuff like that.”
Another thing: Enough with the photo shoots. Maybe for underclassmen they’re cool and good for social media but 2024 guys, they’re on to bigger things, more important considerations.
“The photo shoots are whatever,” five-star safety Peyton Woodyard said. “Like (defensive backs) coach (Fran) Brown said, ‘You’re not always trying to take photo shoots like everyone else. What’s wrong with you?’ I was just chilling.”
Matthews said: “I’m not really into photo shoots. I’m not really a photogenic dude.”
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