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RECRUITING WITH RIVALS' JEREMY CRABTREE

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Last Friday, we thought we might actually get off our ass and talk to someone who may know what they’re talking about in the brutal, Darwinian landscape of recruiting. Jeremy Crabtree of Rivals.com talked with us for a while about the time and a half hours recruitniks put in, the programs cleaning up on the road this year, and which programs seem to be losing a step in the handshake wars.

OS: How much have you been on the road lately?

JC: Let me put it this way: my little girl is five and a half months old, and for the first eight weeks of her life I was on the road for four of them. So, yes, a lot.

OS: Who’s whiffing in recruiting this year, or at least not getting their usual results?

JC: Lots at teams with a record of prior success. Virginia Tech’s not in our top 25 and they’ve always been there. They recruit a great state, they’re a great program, and I’m surprised they’re not there. Oregon’s usually big in southern California but this year it’s hard to discern what they’re doing there. Both NC State and UNC’s lack of presence in North Carolina—a state with loads of talent—is odd to me. For NC State the loss of Doc Holliday to Florida probably has something to do with that. He’s a great recruiter.

Tubercular, but effective.

OS: Who’s making a great debut?

JC: Well, you can’t exactly call it a debut, since he was such a good recruiter at Southern Cal, but Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss has surprised a lot of people. He’s an established recruiter, but he’s building a very good class there despite not having a lot of wins coming out of the season.

Arizona and Mike Stoops have had two back to back top 25 classes with the same thing: not a lot of wins, but plenty of buzz around the program. They’re getting kids who are being recruited by USC, and are becoming something to deal with.

The Pitt Panthers are the third team I wanted to mention. They’ve gone top 25 despite struggling this season on the field. Bob Junko deserves a lot of credit here; he’s a fine recruiter.

OS: You’ve got three coaches to pick to run your recruiting ops. Who do you pick.

JC: Rob Ianello, ND. Rodney Garner at UGA. Joseph Forrest at Oklahoma State.

OS: What’s up with C.J. Spiller? Please tell us you know.

JC: I really can’t say. That’s tough. That’s what happens when the best come after you. It happens every single day, and that’s a tough decision. He’ll be branded with it for the rest of his life, and that’s not an easy choice. It’ll be difficult.

OS: Meyer—what kind of voodoo is going on there with recruits?

JC: It’s not a total surprise. He was a good recruiter at Utah—very good. He had a good scheme, he was young, he was energetic. These same things are still true, they’re just doubled now that he’s at Florida. Throw in the SEC. Throw in rabid fans. It’s the perfect storm. They should finish at number one. I love their class.

OS: Any last minute surprised you’re suspecting?

JC: Most of the kids in play are in the southeast, particularly in Alabama. It’s like waiting for the Electoral College to come in.

OS: Why the southeast?

JC: Nowhere else in the country do you have as many schools as close together. So many kids are so heavily recruited by the ACC, the SEC…it makes it tough for kids. That’s why it takes longer in the south.

OS: What do make of Arkansas’s hiring of Mitch Mustain’s high school coach as a OC? Is that beyond the pale of what you’ve seen coaches do—

JC: I don’t know if there’s anything dirty about that. If someone’s saying that they haven’t done a lot of research about the job Malzahn’s done at Springdale High. Was it the deciding factor? No. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think he’ll do a fine job there.

Malzahn: nothing fishy, according to Crabtree.

OS: Is the process of recruiting more transparent now than in the past with the advent of the internet?

JC: It levels the playing field more for recruits. He has to figure out whether coaches are telling the truth or not. Ten or twenty years ago, you’d get to camp and find out that two or three other qbs were signed. On the flip side, it helps the coaches and school scout kids more accurately, too.

OS: It’s a full time gig now, right?

JC: Absolutely. We have our first Junior Day February 1st. Notre Dame already had theirs. It’s the lifeblood of college football. You can’t put it on the backburner and go drink margaritas on the beach for a month anymore and expect it to work out.

OS: What are the emerging trends in recruiting?

JC: More kids enrolling early, which is better for academics. You’ll see more and more of that as time goes on. Also: no more combines on college campuses anymore. That’ll change the way people get information about players, for sure.

OS: Thanks for talking with us. Rest up!

JC: Thanks.