NCF On The Trail: Mark Mangino

College football’s second season begins in earnest Sunday.

With the regular season all but wrapped up, Dec. 1 marks the opening of the contact period for the Class of 2014. By rule, six in-person off-campus contacts per prospective student-athlete are allowed by assistant coaches from Dec. 1 through Feb. 1, 2014. There is a dead period from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15, 2014 when no face-to-face contact is allowed, but during the contact period coaches will flock to prospects’ schools and homes for visits with players, their coaches and most importantly their families.

“It’s when recruiting gets real,” former Kansas head coach and Youngstown State assistant head coach Mark Mangino said. “There is no more vital period in the recruiting process than when you can sit in their home and talk to their families about why they should come to your school.”

For many recruits, the in-home visit is when they can ask detailed questions to coaches they’ve not been able to ask over the phone or on unofficial visits. Coaches will tell you prospects and their families often feel uncomfortable while on a visit or simply won’t ask the difficult questions on the phone, but when they’re sitting in their living rooms the gloves come off.

“You have to really be on your game and anticipate what questions might come next,” one Big 12 assistant said. “Hopefully you’ve done your research and know the prospect well enough to know what questions are going to be the important ones his mom and dad want answers to.

“I’ve had situations where everything went perfect on an in-home visit and we knew every question before it was even asked. But I’ve also run into situations where a parent suddenly comes at you with something you didn’t anticipate and you feel like you’re on the witness stand.”

Some of these visits are hour-long meetings and coaches are in-and-out and on their way to the next prospect’s home. Others become an all-day affair that start at the recruit’s high school and carry over to an entire evening at their home with a home-cooked meal included. Coaches will tell you when you break bread with a recruit and his family is when you know you’re in good shape.

Also during the contact period, head coaches can make one in-person, off-campus contact with a prospect or the prospect’s relatives. It is permissible for this contact to occur both at the site of the prospect’s educational institution and away from the institutional grounds and there is no time limit.

In most situations, schools will strategically plan on when to use the head coach’s in-home visit. Bring the head coach in too early and no real momentum is gained. Bring him in too late, and well, it’ll be too late to salvage the situation.

“It’s key to find the sweet spot,” one SEC assistant said. “You want to bring the head coach in to seal the deal. You want the head coach to walk out the door with a big smile after he’s gotten a commitment.”

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