While many folks have struggled with wintry January weather, University of Central Arkansas football coach Clint Conque has been involved in a whirlwind.
Conque estimates he has been in about 50 homes or high schools in 10 states in January, trying to close the deal on what he expects to be possibly his best recruiting class, which will be introduced Wednesday.
The UCA assistants, the foot soldiers in the scrap for signatures, have traveled thousands of miles — by car.
“There’s a lot of miles just to get to January,” Conque said. “And it’s all by car. I’ve taken a couple of flights to cover a distance from Point A to Point B more quickly but it’s pretty much all by automobile, school visits and home visits.
“And there is constant movement by all the assistants. For example, Matt Williamson has the Greater Houston area as his territory, but as our defensive coordinator, he might also be sent to Tennessee or Oklahoma to meet with a prospective defensive player. We want potential recruits to meet face-to-face with their position coaches or coordinator. That’s important. So efen though a coach might have a certain territory, he could go anywhere.”
The key for Conque is the process, which requires painstaking evaluation of hundreds of prospects — according to an established academic, athletic, character and family profile.
That begins in May when the coaches do their spring evaluations on talent.
“Our summer camps are becoming more and more important in the process; we’re starting to get several prospects who we first identified in summer camps,” Conque said. “The camps give us hands-on evaluations.”
When the season starts, the coaching staff has a plan and a focus on recruiting for the next year. Then, the narrowing-down process begins for lthe potential recruits according to the rpfile and needs.
“There are Friday night evaluations, phone calls, scheduled visits and home visits,” Conque said.
During the season in allowed recruiting periods, UCA can have seven coaches out at one time, including the head coach.
UCA assistant Cody Moore coordinates the process.
After the assistants lay the groundwork and place potential recruits on the board, Conque reserves all of January for home visits. Every recruit UCA sign will have had a home visit by Conque.
He goes out on Sunday and returns on Thursday and Friday to help host a two-day recruiting weekend.
“The key is gettng prospects to campus and expose them to our campus and our community,” he said. “That gives us a chance to explain, one-on-one why our options, athletically and academically and with facilities, could be better options than another school or several schools.
“And our athletic staff, faculty and community leaders and other folks get a chance to explain and share the UCA experience.”
The players get involved by hosting recruits and in an open forum with parents — a staple of recruiting weekend for years.
“All the coaches leave the room and it’s just a the recruits, their families and their parents,” Conque said. “They can ask anything. The great job that our young men do is being honest about how we run the program, what our expectations are and what it takes to be Division I player play on a national level. The young men and their families leave with their eyes wide open about how our program is run.”
What will come to the forefront Wednesday is no accident. It requires as big of team effort and coordination among the entire staff as game-planning during the season.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or email@example.com)