From his start at Kansas State, to his time at Oklahoma that included a national championship and a number of top-five recruiting classes, to his move across the country to become Clemson’s defensive coordinator in 2012, Brent Venables has long been thought of as one of the best recruiters in college football. Now in his fourth recruiting class at Clemson, Venables has played a large role in the Tigers’ top-five start to the 2015 cycle. Venables visited with RecruitingNation about what holes the Tigers still need to fill, what it’s like to recruit in the ACC instead of the Big 12 and other national recruiting issues.
Clemson’s 2015 class has already generated a lot of national attention, but what key needs do you still need to fill before signing day?
Brent Venables: It's such a critical year for us. We need to re-establish our depth on our offensive line and defensive lines. We have to do well there to help us determine our future success. As the old cliché goes, games are won on the line of scrimmage, and we're losing six D-linemen after this season. That's a bunch. Filling those needs are going to be absolutely critical for us to have future success, but we're off to a pretty strong start.
How is recruiting in the ACC different than your time in the Big 12?
BV: Kids on the East Coast are little more willing to relocate, all the way up from New York and all the way down to Florida. There's a little more theme-based approach of family and having them included in the recruiting process. They're willing to go to out of state schools more than in the Big 12, but they're still going to stay within arm's reach of home. The family unit is so important in the Southeast. It also seems like there are a lot more big guys with length that can run in this part of the country. It's also a lot more competitive. There are just more big-name schools that are involved with the same kids you're going after. From a numbers standpoint, there's more competition for recruits than in the Big 12.
Do you see more negative recruiting in the Southeast than you did in the Big 12?
BV: I'm just going to say it is more competitive (laughing). You have to be a lot more resourceful and creative recruiting in the Southeast because of that competition. There's just a lot more people with the financial and staff resources in the Southeast. There's a lot more of a commitment, so you have to really consistently work hard through all the proper channels, get information and get your brand in front of kids. There are also no days off in the Southeast. If you have a top-20 list of kids that are your top targets, if you go two days without having some form of communication it feels like it might as well have been two months. If you're not always recruiting, somebody else is.
How much has Twitter become a tool you use in recruiting?
BV: You have such instant access to these kids. Finding their film and finding them is so much easier. You do it sometimes by accident because they're friends or following somebody else you're recruiting. Or it’s the other way around. 'I'm in love with Clemson, here's a Clemson coach.' The access to each other and the lines of communication happen so much faster. You have to be careful to make sure you're not excluding the high school coach. I still think the coach at the end of the day, more often or not, can be the X-factor in a kid's recruitment. And it's the respectful way to treat the recruiting process. I hate that the coach sometimes is circumvented in the process. I think that just hurts relationships.
You’ve been around recruiting now for more than 20 years, and the process has become earlier and earlier each year. Now we’re at the point where schools are offering eighth graders. Is that a good or a bad thing?
BV: It is a joke, an absolute joke. I don't know what you can do to really do to manage it. It's unfortunate. None of us really like it, but you don't want to be left out. Then you think, ‘He's really talented for his age, so I can offer him now and it won't stick because there's plenty of time to get out of it.’ So what does it really mean? All it does is continues to feed the self-indulged monster, which is what we all hate.
I hear it from about 70 percent of the high school coaches. They say offering these kids at an earlier age really causes a lot of problems with the coach and the kid, the coach and the kid's parents and then even the other parents. Parents are like 'Why aren't you doing that for my kid?' It seems more and more like the basketball issues that we're trying to avoid in football. I've talked to three coaches this week with kids that have top 15, top 10 BCS offers that don't even start on their high school team.