By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor
Johnson C. Smith University (N.C.) linebackers coach Robert Cross has established a robust social media following by tweeting recruiting advice to high school prospects. The recruiter for the Charlotte-based HBCU currently has more than 11,200 followers, with the majority of his posts directed to high school athletes who want to play at the next level.
More recently, he has offered advice specifically relevant to the current situation in which players are not playing football, and scholarships offers are not being extended as readily.
FNF Coaches connected with Coach Cross to find out how the recruiting landscape has changed.
How has recruiting been impacted by the stoppage in play over the last month?
“Basically, it’s definitely slowed up. It’s forced a lot of coaches to stretch themselves and get more creative about how we reach coaches and student-athletes while staying within the rules of the NCAA guidelines.”
How are you communicating with coaches and players?
“We call and text, maybe a few Zoom meetings. One thing that’s been different is coaches have been doing virtual campus tours. At some schools, coaches are taking the initiative with recruits and walking around campus with cell phones and trying to appeal to parents and players.”
The recruiting doesn’t stop, though, does it? You still have to go after players during this time?
“Kids are still getting offers, but it’s slowed us down. There’s no spring practice or football. Nobody’s playing. Our school has gone virtual with students doing assignments online. They have their own virtual meetings with professors. But the NCAA has shut down, and we’re in a dead period until May 31. Hopefully it doesn’t extend past that. There are no visitations or campus visits. Most schools in the country are completely shut down. We’ve all moved our recruiting plan to a virtual platform.”
Now that coaches aren’t at school or in offices, are you reaching out directly to players? Are you reaching out to them on social media?
“I do a little bit of both. These past 30 to 45 days have been all about utilizing social media. I’m doing that now more than I ever have. It’s a great universal tool to reach coaches and get info from players. I tell players to put game film in their social media bio if they want to be reviewed. This is the perfect time to watch game film. We’re watching into the wee hours of the morning. It’s a perfect time to get evaluated and get that ‘look’ that most athletes are looking for. Utilize the power of the internet.”
What recruiting advice would you give high school coaches for this period? What more can they be doing?
“Most coaches already have a good idea. They do a good job of maintaining communication with their players. I know some use apps to communicate with parents and players. This is no time to freak out about recruiting. If a college is interested in an athlete, they’ll find a way to reach out to the kid. Continue to call and encourage athletes to post film. It’s a great time to fire your prospect list to coaches. Put your ’21s, ’22s and ’23s in a spreadsheet format and email it out to coaches. Shoot over the transcript and film as well. That expedites a lot of things. School is shut down, but we have to give information to the kids. I wouldn’t alter too much what high school coaches are doing. Everybody’s stretching themselves and being creative with what they’re getting out of there. It’s a time to sit back and play chess. Be patient, and when it’s your kids’ time, it’s their time. The offers will be there. Keep working and doing the same thing you do as a high school coach. Stay on top of kids and make sure everybody’s healthy and has what they need.”