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Monday, March 11, 2013
Five issues facing Suddes, Longhorns

By Max Olson

Mack Brown was eager to answer the question Friday morning as he introduced the man charged with running Texas’ entire recruiting operations going forward.

How quickly will Texas benefit from the hiring of Patrick Suddes?

“Today, very honesty,” Brown said. “We are already starting to fix things today. And the staff gave Patrick a list of 10 things this morning that we all discussed yesterday as a staff and that we want him to do immediately.”

Some steps will take time. The strongest video department in college football won’t be built in a day. Nor will a staff of expert scouts and evaluators.

But the Longhorns’ newly hired director of player personnel does have a lot on his plate now, and in only a few days he already is starting to make an impact on UT recruiting. We don’t know what’s on that list of 10 immediate fixes, but here’s a look at five issues Suddes faces now that he’s running the show.

1. Class of 2015

Texas already is making a significant move in this area with its decision to host its first “Sophomore Day” on March 23. Expect a handful of big-time 2015 recruits to make the trip to campus, where they’ll take in a spring scrimmage alongside the Longhorns’ 2013 signees and 2014 commits.

The big question is, when will Texas begin offering scholarships to those sophomore prospects? Mack Brown already broke from longstanding tradition by offering top junior targets a full six months earlier than he ever had. Could the staff begin offering prospects 22 months before they’ll sign letters of intent?

Don’t rule it out. Suddes comes from an Alabama program that already has accepted a commitment -- from a Texan, no less -- for its 2015 class.

Getting prospects on Texas’ campus as early as possible is the new necessity. Rival schools are recruiting and offering prospects earlier and earlier, but visits still go a long way, and few can match Texas’ facilities. That advantage must be played up.

“When the kid gets to campus, that's my job -- to make sure they come to the University of Texas, they fall in love with it and they don't want to leave,” Suddes said.

2. Evaluation

Suddes helped run an Alabama recruiting machine that is unlike any other in the country. The Tide have easily the largest football staff in college football and have changed the way prospects are targeted and evaluated.

At Alabama, a staff of evaluators do all the grading of prospect film. They do all the prep work, then tell the assistant coaches which guys to go out and recruit. It’s a remarkable system: Bama casts a wider net, gets better evals on prospects and gives its recruiters more time to actually recruit.

At Texas and practically everywhere else, the 10-member coaching staff has been responsible for all of that. It’ll be fascinating to see how Suddes implements Bama’s philosophies in a way that meshes with what Texas already does, especially considering UT has a far stronger in-state talent base than Alabama.

Suddes will not do any evaluating of prospects himself, but how many experts will he bring in to take on that responsibility?

3. Summer camp

One of the biggest feathers in Suddes’ cap is four years of running Alabama’s wildly successful summer camps. Getting kids to Tuscaloosa isn’t exactly easy, yet Bama has brought in the nation’s best year after year -- including the big names in Texas.

If Texas doesn’t invest in satellite camps like its rivals have -- and right now, that’s not looking likely -- it will need to raise the prestige and success of its on-campus summer camps. Suddes can deliver on that front.

Texas’ 2013 one-day summer camps already have been scheduled for June 2 and June 9. Will Suddes establish multi-day camps? Will dates be moved around to better ensure top recruits will be in attendance? Are new camp events necessary? These are big questions that should be answered in the near future.

4. War room

Now that Suddes is on board, the next step is surrounding him with a talented staff. Those job postings go up this week, though Brown declined to say how many he hopes to hire.

One thing is certain: Texas needs recruiting and scouting experts with strong ties to the Metroplex, greater Houston area and East Texas. That must be a major priority, and it could mean going after some of the state’s best high school coaches.

One factor to keep in mind: Continuity. For Suddes to implement far-reaching change, he can’t leave after a year or two when a big job comes around. Neither can the top members of his new staff.

5. The rulebook

What remains to be seen is what the NCAA rulebook will look like by August, when its reforms are scheduled to be implemented. Suddes is skeptical the proposed new rulebook will be passed. Brown is confident limits will be established for the size of these non-coaching football departments.

You’ll notice we didn’t mention texting and communication on this list. That’s going to a major aspect of Suddes’ job, but the impending deregulation still could endure plenty of change in the next few months.

Texas is doing its best to take advantage of the new rules, even if their future is an unpredictable one. It will be on Suddes to make sure the Longhorns are doing everything they can within the rules to get and remain ahead of the game.