FSU recruiting coordinator talks spring, scholarships, sanctions

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The spring recruiting period began April 15, and Florida State recruiting coordinator James Coley is getting ready to hit the road. He'll start in Connecticut and end in California, and the Noles' staff will hit the state of Florida hardest in between. They're not allowed any contact with the players.

Things have been a little different for the Seminoles' staff since the university's athletic department was slapped with the NCAA sanctions, which included a loss of scholarships. Coley addressed that, along with other topics related to recruiting in this Q&A:

First, can you just tell me what you're going to do, and what you can do this spring.

James Coley: Here's our process. Here's what I'm going to do this spring and what our coaches are going to do. We can't have any contact with any players. So what we do is we try to profile these kids when we go out in spring. We know the kids we want to see. We have a selected group targeted.

When we go in these schools, we talk to the head coaches and they give us an athletic profile of the kid -- who is this kid on his team. Is he going to be a captain for you? We already know he's a good player. That's why we're at that school. We've seen film on him. As an athlete, we want that player. What we're trying to find out is, what is he character-wise? Is he a leader? Is he a team morale guy? Maybe he's not. We get that through the coaches. Then we move on up.

We either hit that athlete's counselor, or an assistant principal, somebody from the academic department so we can take that transcript and bring it back with us so we can start tracking this kid with regards to academics early. If there's no practice, that will be it for that athlete. Unless everything we get from that particular institution is so positive we can come back out and have an athletic evaluation. If they're running a track meet or playing in a baseball game, we can come back out and watch him perform.

So how long will you guys be on the road?

JC: From the last week of April all the way through the last week of May, the entire month.

Do you tend to stay in the state of Florida or do you go elsewhere?

JC: Here's what we do: Our strategy is we leave outside the state, especially kids that are national recruits, Northeast, out West, Southwest, Midwest, if they're a big-time football player we'll go because those kids, especially in the Northeast, don't have any practices. May 1, we're going to try to have all the big dogs out in Florida. We're going to try hit every kid, starting May 1, in the state of Florida. We are wearing it out between May 1 and May 21.

At this point, right now, with the team you've got, can you tell me what some of your goals are position-wise, what you're looking for, how many kids you can bring in, specifics like that?

JC: We don't have an actual number yet on how many kids we can bring in. We've got to see where we're at with the scholarships. I'm figuring somewhere around 22, in that range. But what we're trying to get in this class, we need to sign linebackers, defensive linemen, corners, and I gotta have me a tight end, and running backs. Numbers-wise, we probably want to sign at least one or two running backs, we definitely want to sign one tight end, we want to sign about three wide receivers, I want to say four defensive linemen -- mix it up d-tackles and d-ends, whichever way we can get four. And four linebackers and about four DBs.

How difficult is it for you guys to measure and gauge -- I know Butch Davis over-recruited, but his reasoning was guys get hurt, guys go to the NFL, there are so many other factors -- how do you whittle it down and factor in those things that are out of your control?

JC: If we're going to sign three wide receivers, if there are 15 wide receivers we've offered, they should know that once we've got three committed ... we're not going to oversign. We're not going to do that to kids. Some schools do that. We're not going to oversign. When a kid commits to us, we're going to be committed to him. We're still going to recruit the other kids, but if they don't get on the train early, and some of the kids choose to, those are the kids we're going to promise at the end they're going to be at Florida State. If we lose them, we should have done a good job recruiting the other guys. But you're not guaranteed unless you commit.

Last I talked to Jimbo, a while ago, he told me you guys had planned for loss of the scholarships from the NCAA.

JC: Correct.

Is it safe to assume then you are prepared for it going into this spring and could you just talk a little about how those sanctions might not affect you like some fans might think?

JC: We're actually in Year 2 of the three-year probation. Even though we got the ruling from the NCAA a few months ago, we're actually in Year 2, so next year will be our last year. We've done a good job with putting everything together. Our president and our university did an outstanding job when it happened, and corrected the situation and prescribed the correct penalty. The NCAA did a great job also. Everybody worked together on this. We're pretty much on the ball.

Can you tell me how many you won't have for this particular recruiting class you're trying to sign?

JC: I think we'll sign about 22 ... It's probably more than some of the teams that are not on probation. We'll sign more than they will.

That's what I was wondering, it seemed like a high number.

JC: What happened was the first year we were at 83 instead of 85. Last year we subtracted two scholarships. This year we're going to be at 82. We've already recruited for 82. The last recruiting class was for 82. Next year, we're recruiting for 84.

Thanks for clearing that up. Is there a general recruiting philosophy you have?

JC: Yes. My thing is, we love the kids from the state of Florida. We're a Florida school. Florida is part of our identity. We're going to do a great job in our backyard and we're going to expose kids who are outside the state of Florida, to the greatness of Florida State University. If they're attracted by it, then they're going to be put in the mix. Florida is going to be key.

When I say Florida, I include South Alabama and South Georgia. That's our boundary. We'll probably take it all the way to Atlanta. The biggest thing is you recruit great athletes who have high character and you're going to have a championship team.

How much has recruiting in the state changed with the success of other schools? Mario has done a great job. ...

JC: Mario is phenomenal. Mario Cristobal is incredible.

Yeah, he's done a great job. Have you seen other schools like that make a bigger push in the state?

JC: Absolutely. FIU is a force down there in Miami. You think you're recruiting against the University of Miami, but I tell you what, you see more FIU guys on the road than you see any other school. They do a phenomenal job, they really do. It shows. You see a kid and all of a sudden he's offered by FIU. You think you're the first one to spot this talent, and you'
re like, 'Oh, they got him!' I know Mario very well. You see other schools, they do a good job.

Everybody in the state of Florida, we're all recruiting the same athlete. At the end of the day, how good is the school you're at, and the people who make up those institutions. Bricks are bricks, walls are walls, it's the people in the hallways that define you.

Have you noticed when you're going into homes and talking into players and their parents, have you had to calm some fears about the penalties and probation?

JC: It was early because a lot of schools put out the wrong information on us. A lot of schools tried to use that to their advantage, which, one thing, I promise you this -- you're never going to hear Florida State talk about another school. I promise you. We're not going to get involved in that. Our guys do a good job. We sell Florida State. We don't sell any other school. I don't care what they've done in the last year or what they haven't done. It's not in our business to talk about them. But some of these schools feel we're a threat to them. They took their shots at us. It's kind of worked reverse. They tell these kids they're not going to play on TV. Well, psych, we're playing Miami the first game of the year on TV -- you haven't heard that word in a while -- it makes them look like liars. And once you lie to a kid, how credible are you?