THE DAYS OF PENS ARE IN THE PAST; THE DAYS of 140 characters are in full swing. In the new world of college football recruiting, Twitter serves as the modernized handwritten letter.
In the past, coaches grabbed a pen and paper —which might
as well be a quill to today’s recruits — to write a personal
note to the program’s targets. Now, while that still happens
in some capacity, it’s nothing like it used to be. Instead, the
Twitter direct message has replaced it as perhaps the most
common and effective way for coaches to talk with recruits
during legal communication periods.
“It’s just staying with the time, keeping up with the
patterns and what these guys are into,” Ben Brandenburg,
University of Georgia director of football recruiting op-
erations, said. “You’re really able to speak their language
For recruits, Twitter has grown as another platform to pitch
themselves to top schools. Before, they relied on local scouts
to get the word out about their on-field skills. Now, they can
fire off 20-minute highlight tapes with the click of a mouse or
tap on a screen.
Social media has its cons as well. By now, virtually all top
recruits have heard the Twitter horror stories. A young man
sends out a tweet that doesn’t mesh well with the general
public’s political correctness. Word gets around to a few
schools, and the tweet raises red flags that might not have
been there before or maybe reaffirms a program’s previous
concerns. Before you know it, the recruit has been dropped
off recruiting boards. It’s happened at Georgia in the past.
“You want to see what’s a fit for the program,” Branden-
burg said, “And character is something measured pretty high
Jaleel Laguins, a linebacker out of Oconee County and one
of Georgia’s top targets, has seen the positives and nega-
tives that come along with social media and recruiting. In
May, Laguins took to Twitter to post his top 12 schools as he
prepared for a busy summer recruiting cycle. The screenshot
of his top schools included a couple of heads-up suggestions
for schools that hadn’t contacted him yet. The tweet spurred
Notre Dame, UCLA and Mississippi State into extending
offers to the four-star standout.
And while Twitter has helped Laguins, he’s seen it do the
opposite to some of his high school classmates, who aren’t
concerned with collegiate athletic futures. He sees some of
the things they post and knows he could never get away with
some of it, at least not if he wants to keep attracting colleges.
“We’re more up under a magnifying glass,” he said.
Laguins even had a brief scare of his own after posting
a questionable tweet, but the confusion was brushed away
“I kid you not, within five minutes, a coach DMed me
asking about that tweet,” Laguins said. “So even though you
don’t think they’re watching, they are.”
Recruits are watching too. Coaches have joined Twitter
in recent years to provide another outlet for universities to
communicate with recruits, whether it is directly or indirectly.
Some coaches still have yet to master the art.
“All these coaches getting into Twitter and all that other
stuff,” Laguins said. “It can help them, and it can harm them
the same way.”
Laguins has seen coaches, older ones typically, who might
seem more out of touch than others because of elementary
social media skills, which sometimes can be a turn off for
Brandenburg and the Georgia recruiting staff knew to
tackle this head on before social media became the go-to
method of 24/7 recruiting. They took program-wide efforts to
add unique elements: state-of-the-art personalized graphic
edits, the #Fam15 and #Squad16 hashtags designed to
unify their recruiting classes and more. But at the end of the
day, the key is coach interaction in a millennial environment.
But as Brandenburg points out, the best recruiters, even
the older ones, will find a way to learn the craft.
“If they’re going to be an elite recruiter, it’s something that
they’re going to have to take upon themselves to adjust with
the times and learn,” Brandenburg said. “A lot of these guys
would rather direct message than talk on the phone. You’ve
got to be willing to make that step to stay relevant.”
You Are What You Tweet
THE RISE OF SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENTS RECRUITING
PROS AND CONS FOR COACHES AND PLAYERS ALIKE
BY: BENJAMIN WOLK
Former Westover star
(standing) keeps his
phone in hand while
attending camp at the
University of Georgia.