This 2021 class was a recruiting cycle unlike any other in recent memory which forced adjustments to the way things are typically done on many different fronts.
Due to the ongoing recruiting dead period, prospects weren’t able to take unofficial or official visits to schools, while coaching staffs were also resigned to their schools and prevented from seeing prospects or doing in-person evaluations after mid-March.
It was a challenge considering it eliminated many of the baselines that coaching staffs use when putting together a recruiting class, but it’s where they found themselves given the ongoing pandemic.
For West Virginia, who relies heavily on in-person evaluations that proved difficult in some areas. But perhaps not as detrimental as you’d expect in many outside of one.
“The one piece you’re missing on evaluation is some of it is non-tangible,” head coach Neal Brown said.
That’s because while coaches can obviously still glean how a player wins one-on-ones, what their first step or footwork looks like on film, although it is admittedly sometimes easier in person. The lack of a camp circuit also made things more challenging when it came to sorting through prospects.
But the true area that Brown believes has been lost in the evaluation aspect due to the ongoing changes comes in what you can’t see on highlight tapes.
“What’s the communication like between teammates? Are they the first in line when they’re going? How do they take coaching when their coach is trying to correct them or give them constructive criticism? How do they take that? Are they viewed as a leader?” Brown said.
Those are much more important aspects to the West Virginia coaches than verifying heights, weights or if a player can throw a tight spiral. It’s an underrated part of the process, but one that carries significance when putting together a recruiting class the way the Mountaineers want to do it.
The ongoing dead period also has eliminated the ability for coaches to go into the homes of prospective athletes in order to get a true feel of where they come from. While you certainly can use digital means, it doesn’t take the place of being able to communicate in-person and learn about a prospect.
That is especially important when it comes to learning about players outside of the football field. Still, the goal is to ask as many questions as possible to paint a picture of each prospect.
“What has he been accustomed to or what are some family traditions that are really important? What kind of neighborhood or who are the people in town?” Brown said. “You try to ask as many questions as you can but not physically being there, you don’t replace that.”
One final fallout from the changes, is that Brown, although with the rest of his coaching staff won’t be able to partake in the home meals that are prepared for them by prospect’s families. While it doesn’t compare to the other items listed above, it certainly does hold its place in the recruiting process.
“This is usually growing season for coaches. You’re usually expanding. You go from recruiting into bowl into vacation. That’s usually not a good mix, so hopefully I’m managing a little bit better,” he said.
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