Ray McCartney has been Wake Forest's recruiting coordinator since 2001, and was instrumental in luring in the most talented class the program had seen in 2004. Of those 14 players, five were eventually drafted by NFL clubs and three others signed as free agents. Nobody gave that class much respect when it was signed, but that's how Wake rolls -- these guys go for potential, not stars. Wake fans, though, want to know what kind of potential is lurking on the sidelines and in the incoming recruiting classes. Is it enough to get the struggling Deacs back to the postseason?
I know you can’t talk specifically about players, but can you address in general terms how recruiting is going moving forward, and do you think you guys are bringing in the kind of talent Wake needs to get back to the postseason?
Ray McCartney: Yes. Recruiting is going great. We’re not allowed to mention specifics, but we’re addressing our needs.
What do you think the biggest needs are?
RM: At this point, as we try and complete our class for this year, the linebacker position, quarterback and running back would be major areas of emphasis at this point. As we look at the overall class, offensive line and secondary have also been addressed, but as we try and close out this class, we’re still looking at every position.
How has recruiting changed at Wake Forest since you guys brought in the class that had Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry?
RM: I think the biggest thing is that everything is happening so much earlier in the recruiting process. If you’re not locked on kids really late in their sophomore year, early in their junior year as far as identifying the top prospects as early as possible, that’s a major, major thing. The other thing that’s happening is recruiting is becoming so much more Internet-based. The plethora of information that exists on the Internet is incredible and sorting through it is a very demanding task that takes time, but you have to do it. With the onset of Facebook, Twitter, the incredible number of recruiting sites, those are some of the major things that have changed. It used to be the personal relationships with the high school coaches in your respective recruiting areas that was the key to everything. With the process being sped up tremendously, that’s changed dramatically.
Do you guys think the success of your ACC championship and Orange Bowl appearance has paid off yet in recruiting?
RM: I think our fifth-year senior class at that time was the last class we took the year before the Orange Bowl. That class was not recruited with success having occurred in our program. We’re hoping in the next year or two that the young players who are now working our way through our system will continue to grow and flourish and help us return to consistent bowl contention.
You guys played an unusual amount of freshmen this year. What was different that you weren’t able to redshirt like you usually do?
RM: As I alluded to, the senior class this year was a small class. But here at Wake Forest, the biggest thing you have to realize is we have very little attrition. Our average recruiting class is only going to be 15 to 18 kids. We’re very fortunate to recruit kids who are good students, who very rarely don’t make it in school academically, usually keep their nose clean, do the right things, are not disenchanted or wanting to transfer. With small recruiting classes, that’s an issue there. If you have a class like our fifth-year senior class that was small already and then it was a class that was taken off a lack of success on the field at that point, then you can have issues at the top of the class, so you have to play some of your younger players because you don’t have that large senior class. If you look carefully at the 2004 recruiting class, of the 16 kids we took, eight of them went to the NFL, all 16 graduated. That was a cornerstone class for our program. Right now we’re facing the younger kids getting their feet wet, getting experience, really probably before they’re ready to play, but they are the best athletes we have in our program at this juncture, so we’re getting their feet wet right now. The biggest reason is the small size of the senior class that was recruited before we went to the Orange Bowl, and the fact that in the last few recruiting classes, all of our three bowl teams and our ACC championship, those are the kids who are really starting to play, especially some redshirt freshmen.
You mentioned that cornerstone class. Can you guys recruit a class like that again?
RM: We sure hope so. That was one of the 10 greatest classes is FBS history. There were some stats on that that are incredible. The bottom line is, that’s not going to happen every year, obviously, but if we could get one of those classes every three to four years, that would be tremendous. So, to answer your question, I think so, but you just never know. We’re going to continue to try and recruit the high character kids that do all the right things, who are a good fit for our program, a developmental player. You’ll very rarely see the “four or five-star recruit” coming to Wake Forest. We’re much more in the business of trying to find the developmental player that in his third, fourth, fifth year who will really shine and help us win games.
Is there anything else you want Wake fans to know about the direction of the program?
RM: With Jim Grobe at the helm, everything will be fine.