OU coach weighs in on early offer dilemma

NORMAN, Okla. -- It’s a no-win scenario that college coaches are finding themselves facing more and more in recent years. Scholarship offers are going out earlier than ever, forcing coaches to make decisions on who they’re going to offer with much less information than they have had in the past.

“With all these early offers it’s hard to really get a true feel for a kid,” Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said last week.

Waiting to offer, however, is not a viable option. Since Bedenbaugh joined the OU program in February, he has offered five offensive linemen in the Class of 2015 -- Jalin Barnett (Lawton, Okla./Lawton), Martez Ivey (Apopka, Fla/Apopka), Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), Zach Rogers (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron) and Josh Wariboko (Oklahoma City/Casady). Undoubtedly it has been tough to make a thorough evaluation of those recruits, who have only been in high school two years. But when deciding when to send out early offers to various prospects, Bedenbaugh leans on his core beliefs to point him in the right direction.

"You just have to do what you believe in,” said Bedenbaugh, who can't comment about prospective recruits until they sign their National Letters of Intent. “You have to do research and you have to feel comfortable when you offer a kid that you’re going to take him. It doesn’t matter who else has offered him; if he has 100 offers but you don’t feel like he fits in then I wouldn’t offer him."

As the early offers pile up and the accolades come in for a recruit, college coaches such as Bedenbaugh have to deal with those outside forces impacting their pursuit of a player. The recruit could get frustrated by the lack of an offer or expect more attention because he’s highly regarded by recruiting experts.

Thus, Bedenbaugh focuses on putting together a class of offensive linemen that fit his system.

“In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter who goes somewhere else,” Bedenbaugh said. “It matters the three to five that you get. You’re not taking the 30 top guys in the country, you’re taking the top three to five guys you think can fit into your system, can handle your coaching, can fit in your university and understand the beliefs of your head coach and position coach and what he stands for."

And those answers tend to emerge during thorough evaluations. But with the NCAA bylaws limiting interaction coaches and recruits, what can coaches like Bedenbaugh do to improve their evaluations? This is where social media -- which can be a blessing and a curse -- comes in handy.

“You can tell a lot about their personality,” Bedenbaugh said of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. “You can tell what’s important to them, you can tell the character he has, how he’s been brought up, what he’s thinking about, all those things. You can follow them and everything they post is there forever.”

Horror stories of recruits losing scholarships and opportunities due to their decisions on social media have become disturbingly common in recent years, yet those same sites can be a valuable asset to college coaches yearning for information about prospects with whom they’ve had minimal contact.

“That’s been the biggest change over the past few years,” Bedenbaugh said. “You can see what they’re tweeting about, what they’re putting on Facebook and get a feel for where their mind is.”