P.J. Fleck, Tom Herman Proving Players Commit To Coaches

P.J. Fleck and Tom Herman are proving that recruits commit to coaches more often than they commit to schools. 

I hate to burst your bubble, but your school isn’t as special as you think it is.

Yes, that is a blanket statement. And, yes, it goes for all schools.

It’s convenient to believe that when a high school football player commits to a team, it’s because of the program’s rich tradition or recent run of success. Because the university is held to an elite academic standard, and is well-represented in the NFL.

Tweeting at a recruit to join DBU, LBU, WRU never works. Recruits don’t commit to acronyms. Their decisions don’t hinge on jersey combinations, conference prestige or a team’s current record.

The stone-cold truth is the most important factor in a player’s recruitment is the coach who is recruiting him.

P.J. Fleck is not so subtly proving this theory. His seat at the University of Minnesota isn’t yet broken in, and he has already flipped eight recruits from Western Michigan’s 2017 class. The most recent of them came on Sunday when 3-star defensive end Nate Umlor and 3-star offensive tackle Kyle Sassack spurned the Broncos for the Gophers.

Fleck is not alone.

Look at Tom Herman. He flipped 3-star running back Daniel Young and 3-star outside linebacker Marqez Bimage from Houston, and the Cougars have had six prospects decommit since Herman left for the Longhorns.

And it can be seen throughout college football down through the years.

Byron Cowart didn’t choose Auburn. He chose Will Muschamp. Ronald Powell didn’t choose Florida. He chose Urban Meyer. Patrick Peterson chose Les Miles, not LSU.

It’s happened, and it will continue to happen.

DeeJay Dallas is set to be a Miami Hurricane, but he would have been preparing for life as a Georgia Bulldog if Mark Richt were still in Athens. If Miles were still at LSU, it’s extremely difficult to imagine Dylan Moses not playing for his hometown Tigers.

Countless recruits have signed their National Letters of Intent and faxed them to Tuscaloosa. But they might as well have all picked up a hat with Nick Saban’s face on it instead of the Alabama logo.

A product is only as great as its salesman.

And that’s what recruiting is: sales. Assistant coaches go door to door, asking blue-chip prospects and their families if they’ve “heard the good word” about how Florida, Penn State, Texas and USC are back.

There is a reason why professors, teaching assistants and the university president don’t make in-home visits. It’s the same reason why recruits commit so early in their process and then end up decomitting later on. They get swept away in the moment with the pitch a coach is selling.

When 5-star defensive tackle Donovan Jeter, now a Michigan commit, decommitted from Notre Dame, he mentioned how he got caught up in the feeling he had while on his official visit to South Bend.

It’s like getting behind the wheel of a car for a test drive. There’s a voice in the passenger seat pushing the sale. In the moment, it’s easy to picture cruising down the coast or playing for national championships in a particular jersey. But when you come back down to Earth, if you ever do, you realize that life might not always be as perfect as in that singular moment. There’s more to consider.

Some coaches are better at completing the sale than others. Look at Saban. He’s one of the best to ever do it, and yet there are still those who realize they signed on the dotted line for something they shouldn’t have. It’s mainly why Blake Barnett is now a Sun Devil and why Cooper Bateman followed suit.

It’s mainly why Max Browne, Ricky Town, Jalen Hurd and plenty others end up transferring from their respective programs.

They take the keys to that brand new car, start the engine and then realize 50 other people just bought into the same pitch. Now everyone is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic wishing they could make it to the coast.

Academics, lineage, an NFL pipeline and jerseys are all nice, and part of the pitch, but at the end of the day only one thing matters: the coach selling them.

That’s recruiting.

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