Today’s question comes from Mark (“ms”) a frequent commenter and a friend of the blog. He sent his question in via e-mail.
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When we were in the FCS, recruiting seemed much simpler and more regional in the team’s scope. Now, however, the recruiting efforts are expansive and far-reaching. With so many offers being made to prospective recruits and so early in the process, how exactly does the staff figure on yield as opposed to the number of offers made? Is there a statistical model teams use to predict yield?
Of course, most of the offers made, I’m assuming, are more wishful in nature (at least for present time), and will not result in signing an athlete, how does the staff go about determining the great number of offers made and what can reasonably be expected come signing day in April?
UMass’ recruiting strategy fluctuated a bit while it was an FCS school. During the days of Mark Whipple and Don Brown, the program would reach down the East Coast and approach prospects from the usual areas: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida. UMass also did its best to grab a good amount of Bay State guys and would fill in the gaps with FBS transfers. That strategy yielded positive results, and the program was consistently one of the top 25 FCS programs in the nation.
When Kevin Morris took over, there were plenty of rumors regarding a shrinking recruiting budget. While the program still reached down the East Coast, there was more of an emphasis on staying regional. For example: In Morris’ first recruiting class, nine of the 19 signees were from New England, and another three were from the Northeast.
After making the decision to upgrade to FBS football, UMass athletics began pouring more money into the recruiting budget, which meant reopening recruiting pipelines while cautiously venturing into a new, heavily recruited area: the Rust Belt. Charley Molnar and his staff – which during this two-year run have been pretty geographically diverse – revisited the recruiting strategies of Brown and Whipple while simultaneously grabbing an occasional outlier. That’s how guys like Cameron Mock (New Mexico), Matt Sparks (Hawaii), Josh Bruns (Arizona) and Fabian Hoeller (Germany) ended up in Amherst.
In short: When UMass was at its height as an FCS program, it recruited a similar geographic area as it does now. There are, of course major differences. Nowadays, UMass can no longer get a second-year FBS transfer to come in and contribute right away. The only method to do that is the fifth-year transfer, which Molnar has used efficiently during his time as head coach. On the other hand, UMass never picked up as many verbal commitments as early as it did during the 2013 cycle. It’s difficult to say what that’s attributed to, but I assume it’s a combination of good recruiting and the school’s new FBS status.
Regarding a statistical model, my understanding is that prospects typically fall into three categories: 1) long shots, 2) reasonable possibilities, and 3) slam dunks. (NOTE: I have NOT been told that this is what UMass uses. This extremely simplified categorical analysis comes from conversations I’ve had with recruiting experts and folks that cover this stuff closer than me). Bigger schools like Michigan, Alabama and Florida State have very short “long shot” lists, longer reasonable possibility lists, and very, very long slam-dunk lists. For a school like UMass, the columns are tilted in a different direction.
When I spoke to Molnar about this year’s recruiting strategy and how it differs from last year, he said: “I think we’ve committed to higher quality guys early. … Not that we haven’t talked to quality guys before, but now we are reaching out to really high quality recruits.” If you look at the list of guys that the Minutemen have offered, it’s hard to argue. UMass is consistently on the same offer lists as SEC, Big 10 and ACC programs.
Of course, the yield for these long-shot prospects is going to be low, but in a way, it’s a type of free advertising.
Nearly every time UMass extends a verbal offer, that recruit will then tweet something about it. His teammates then tend to re-tweet that information, and so on. At some point during the process, the national recruiting sites will pick up on the information and will either write an article, tweet out the news or both. The UMass name, on a micro level, goes viral. For example: UMass was one of the most-talked-about schools in the Tampa area last year due to how many prospects picked up offers.
While the long-shot prospects won’t be coming to Amherst in droves, there will be one or two that head to UMass. For example, Lorenzo Woodley, by all accounts, was a long-shot. However, after a number of higher-level programs left him standing at the alter, he had UMass on his short list. The Minutemen took a shot, and because of it landed its top-rated recruit from the 2013 cycle.
On the other side of the equation is a list of slam-dunk recruits. There are literally dozens of athletes out there who would commit to UMass on the spot if it were to offer. For one reason or another, the football staff has not yet determined that these guys are worthy of a scholarship. Some they want to see in camp, while others are simply not good enough to warrant a scholarship spot on an FBS program. It’s entirely possible that some of these guys earn a spot in the future, join as a walk-on or simply go elsewhere.
The middle, the reasonable possibilities, are the guys UMass fans are most interested in. My guess is that after a few more camps – including one this weekend – an image of the 2014 class will start to come into focus. I’m not exactly in a position to make any guesses, but UMass still has 24 spots and plenty of verbal offers out there.
This is when the offseason starts to get fun.
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