Anyhow, here are some of my comments from the football press conference...
Hats off to the university's media folks, because they put together a killer Signing Day blog. When the people with all the information choose to share all the information in a fan-friendly format, it really makes people like me useless. I mean that as a compliment.
The team signed 21 players today, and there might be one or two more. But if that's all, "I'd be comfortable," Terry Bowden said.
There were also five players who came in January, on top of the 21. These players are Malachi Freeman, DeAndre Scott, Albert Presley, Benny Cunningham and Rodney Carroll. Another addition is Tyrone Goodman, who grayshirted last year. Grayshirting means you're on campus, but your five-year clock does not begin to run.
Noticeably absent from the list are junior college players. At his introductory press conference, Bowden wavered on whether he would pursue them. It turned out that the difference between the JUCOs and local high school kids was too slight to make it worth losing two years of eligibility. "If it's close, let's get a high school guy," Bowden explained.
This class puts Akron about two or three scholarship players over the program's limit. But that's normal. In fact, the rule of thumb is to over-recruit by about four scholarships because of the normal attrition.
It was hard for Bowden to describe which recruits were most likely to see playing time as true freshman. You could tell, Bowden honestly had no idea what sort of depth and talent he had on the team.
Bowden treated the crowd to some inside baseball talk about recruiting. In the South, recruiting is simpler because college coaches can travel to high schools and watch the kids practice outdoors during the spring. In Ohio, coaches rely on camps. Akron coaches can generally attend Ohio State's camps, but this doesn't give the Zips coaches a chance to build relationships with players as if they were the ones on the field conducting the drills, etc. So it's important for non-BCS schools in the midwest to hold their own camps, and if possible, on their own campus. Bowden alluded to holding some satellite camps in other parts of the state to attract more kids.
Four Zips signees were from the Cincinnati area. This is due largely to John Pont, the inside receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, who most recently served at Miami (Ohio).
Bowden was candid about the struggle in starting the recruiting process so late. "When some of the schools in the MAC Conference have been on these guys since their sophomore years, it's hard to change their minds," Bowden said. "It's hard to break down those relationships."
Bowden also addressed the difficulty in recruiting locally when Akron football has had such a lousy reputation the past few years. In fact, he said it makes it easier to recruit from other states, as opposed to locally. "It's easier from a distance to sell them," Bowden said. "As far as the local guys, you have to sell them on a vision. That's a little harder." Bowden suggested that perhaps in prior years the coaching staff recruited from afar too much for that reason.
The coach really stressed the importance of building trust and relationships with high school coaches. He said that he wants his staff to be contacting coaches in the four-county area daily, "like brushing our teeth."
Between four and five recruits committed before Bowden was hired. Bowden kept the school's commitment to those players, and there was not really a problem doing so. "There was some good evaluation going on," Bowden said.
Two of the local kids are Curtis Black (Kent) and Andrew Pratt (North Canton). Neither were recruited heavily, and Bowden attributed that in part to their basketball careers.
Next up for the coaching staff is the Ohio High School Coaches Association convention in Columbus this week. They will attempt to meet as many high school coaches as they can. The staff has already started to plan for the next two recruiting classes, as well. Spring football will begin before we know it. The spring game is scheduled for April 21.
Bowden tried to be diplomatic when asked why Rob Ianello was not successful in his two years: "I don't know why things didn't go well. You had everything in place. I don't want to point fingers. Sometimes things just don't go well."
For those of you who religiously follow the recruiting Web sites (I used to be one of them), you won't like what you see. The Zips don't have a single three-star player on Rivals.com. On Scout.com, only quarterback Steve Franco gets three stars.