KSU recruiting: Process starts with slips of paper, ends with new class of Golden Flashes
By Stepanie Storm, Akron Beacon Journal
KENT: It started nearly seven months ago with about 220 strips of yellow paper with the names, stats and photos of potential recruits from across the United States.
It will end when Kent State announces its 2012 football recruiting class on Feb. 1.
“This board was filled with guys we watched and/or evaluated at every position,” said KSU coach Darrell Hazell as he swept an arm across the expanse of a meeting room wall in the football office in which several large sliding dry erase boards are mounted. “Each position had a numerical value attached to it for how many guys we want to take in that class based on what’s currently on the team.”
With the aid of magnets, these soon-to-be color-coded and information-filled strips of paper were first organized by position. As the months went on, the strips were moved around and manipulated by further interest in particular players. Strips were removed from the board as interest in the player waned.
Hazell, an assistant at Ohio State for seven years, just completed his first season as coach of the Golden Flashes. He and his staff meet several times a week in the staff meeting room at a large oval table surrounded by 13 black leather chairs.
“Each [staff member] takes his area and goes through all the players in his area,” Hazell said. “If the area coach likes him, then they’re passed on to their position coach. If the position coach likes him, then he comes to me.”
Once a potential player has been passed on for Hazell’s final approval, he decides whether or not to make a scholarship offer or put the player on hold. If the player’s strip gets a red dot, it means there are academic issues to take into consideration.
“So, we go from all-yellow board, which means a player is being evaluated, to a blue board, meaning he’s been offered,” said Hazell, sliding one dry erase board over to reveal another with a different color-coded scheme behind it. “Then, the blue guys become green once they commit.”
The process might sound easy, but a lot more goes into the evaluation process. A majority of the players on the board have been scouted by at least one staff member, many by three. Some others were recommended, sent with statistics and YouTube videos.
Of the initial 220 candidates, only 24 or 25 will make the final cut and be announced as future Flashes on signing day. With less than a month to go, Hazell and his staff have 19 commitments.
“I feel really good where we’re at now,” he said. “This time last year, we were just getting together as a staff and had zero [commits]. So we are way ahead this season.”
Hazell’s ability to recruit proved to be a key factor in his hiring on Dec. 20, 2010, after former coach Doug Martin resigned after seven seasons.
“During the process of looking for a head coach, we felt we needed someone who was known for his recruiting,” KSU Athletic Director Joel Nielsen said. “Darrell was known at Ohio State, and even before that, as one of the top assistant coaches for recruiting.”
Hazell wasn’t on the Kent State campus very long when he began reaching out to local high school coaches through clinics, many of whom had felt snubbed under the former coaching staff.
“The other thing we looked really strong at was his ties to Ohio and his ability to recruit the state. With him playing in Ohio [Hazell was a receiver at Muskingum College before getting right into coaching after graduating in 1986] and working in Columbus for seven years, we were very confident he could bring those contacts immediately with him and also hire people to his staff with similar contacts. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen these last 13 months, his ability to not only rework some of the contacts that maybe we didn’t have in the past, but also strengthen those we did have.”
But Hazell’s genuine charisma reaches far beyond his fellow coaches.
“He’s got a personality that’s filled with integrity,” Nielsen said. “He comes across that way because it’s the only way he knows. He’s sincere, and that really resonates with not only the young men he’s recruiting, but also their parents. I’ve seen him with recruits and their families, and he’s really good. The best part is it’s not an act. It’s just the way Darrell is naturally.”