I hope you took some time to check out our story on Texas Tech's historic recruiting class from yesterday.
Before Tuberville introduced the class to the Dallas boosters and alums, he took an hour or so with ESPN.com to discuss a variety of topics surrounding his recruiting class, recruiting philosophy, his program and plenty of other topics around the Big 12 and college football.
Of course, all of that can't fit in one story. Here's a few of the other highlights:
Tuberville emphasizes exactly what he wants regarding communication between players and his recruits when recruits visit campuses. "It’s not going to do us any good for [our players] to try and sell [recruits] a false brand. Tell them exactly what it’s like," he said. "Tell them how we treat you. We treat you fair, but we’re going to push you. We’re going to make you go to class. We’re going to work your butt off. We’re going to try and make you better. We’re not going to cuss you and all that stuff, but we’re going to try and get the most out of you."
On the other side, he tells incoming prospects to make sure and spend a large amount of time asking questions about the program to current players. "I’m going to make it hard. You’re going to earn your scholarship," Tuberville said. "It’s the only time in your life you’ll have two full-time jobs. The academic part, and when you get done with that and you think it’s time to come home, you gotta come work for me. And I’m going to work the heck out of you. You treat them like that, you tell them that up front, and when they get to campus, you treat them like men and you hold them accountable, it sells itself."
My take: All valid points. There's certainly a type of player that responds to "this is going to be easy" treatment, but there's no question that to the best players, there's a certain attractiveness to a challenge like that. It's easy to see how that sounds counterintuitive on the surface, but those are the types of players you want in your program.
You read how Texas Tech swiped defensive end Cooper Washington, a longtime OU commit, from the Sooners on signing day, but even when cases like Washington's end up immediately fruitless, there's plenty of value in maintaining that relationship after a player commits to another school. Even if he carries that commitment through signing day and ends up at another program. "It's huge," Tuberville said. He won three national titles at Miami, and like South Florida, Tuberville wants to emphasize the importance of keeping West Texas talent in West Texas. Granted, there's nowhere near as much there as there is in the Miami area, but even if Washington hadn't switched to the Red Raiders, those relationships could carry on to recruits that follow him in the 2012 classes and beyond.
Last year, when Tuberville was on the recruiting trail at first, he spent as much time selling his assistants to high school coaches as he did anything else. Most coaches knew who he was, of course, but he put a big emphasis on making sure the high school coaches he encountered knew what to expect from his staff.
One of the toughest parts of the transition from the, "Run the ball and play big-time defense" SEC to the "outscore the other guys" Big 12 is knowing exactly the type of player he was recruiting, and making sure his entire staff knew exactly who they needed to show interest in. In short, he wants taller, wider wingspans in his linemen. "Don't bother with the short, squatty bodies," he said. Different speeds and body types are necessary for inside and outside receivers. And if a running back can't catch the ball, he need not bother with the Red Raiders. Tuberville won't take him. "We’re not just going to hand it to him. If he can run for 150 a game but can’t catch the football, that’s not going to do us any good," he said. "We throw a lot of screens. And they’ve got to be good pass blockers."
Additionally, the makeup of his team has to be different to compensate for the difference in the Big 12 from the SEC. Tuberville wants to keep 16 scholarship defensive backs on his team at all times. At Ole Miss or Auburn, that number was usually around 12. "We can’t take an extra linebacker like we could before," he said. "We need an extra defensive lineman or an extra defensive back. Those are the most valuable positions."
Obviously, the hardest part of football for freshmen to grasp, which prevents them from playing right away, is the mental aspect: Doing what you know how to do without having to think about it. How can you know which freshmen will make the adjustment the best? "You can't. It just depends on how mature they are, and when they come in, what they can take," Tuberville said. "Some come in and I've seen them they think they're ready to go and they get into practice, see how fast everybody else is moving and they kind of go into a shell. You see right then, he knows. He's not ready. He wants to redshirt. ... It just depends on them, more than anything."
On signing day theatrics (i.e., picking hats and showing off puppies)
"It ain't nothin' but entertainment. If he does all that, but at the end, he puts your hat on, you feel good about it."
Early favorite for quote of 2011:
"Somebody said to me earlier today, 'Hey, did you see that kid on ESPN? He walked up there with a Texas Tech hat on and he threw it off and put a Georgia hat on!' I said, 'Hey, we're making progress. I'm just fired up he was throwing one off. He usually wouldn't have one up there to begin with in the past.'"
- Tommy Tuberville