TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Michigan felt it had the formula needed to sign Naseir Upshur, appealing to his sweet tooth and high school sweetheart.
In March, Upshur’s girlfriend received a letter from Michigan seeking assistance in landing a visit from the ESPN 300 tight end. Three months later with Upshur on campus, he bought ice cream with Jim Harbaugh. And a week before committing, Michigan baked him a birthday cake.
"It did have an impact ... [but] you don’t need the extra stuff," Upshur said. “It’s cool but you don’t need it. Let me be impressed by myself."
In September, Upshur committed to Florida State and the coaching staff that has virtually no public Twitter presence outside of one assistant coach, Tim Brewster. ("He’s probably the only one who’s figured it out," Jimbo Fisher said.)
With the exception of Brewster, no Florida State coach has tweeted since 2014. Seven have less than six tweets. One assistant takes it a step further and secured a private account. Fisher, entering his seventh season as head coach, says he doesn’t have a Twitter account. Other than posing for a picture or becoming the casualty of a sneak Snapchat video, Fisher’s recruiting presence on Twitter is nonexistent.
The Seminoles seem to have filed away a No. 1 class while attracting the fewest headlines, as social media has become recruiting’s petri dish. Tweets of Harbaugh’s recruiting conduct in January were so prevalent they fell a single-step short of purchased promotion. Brian Kelly shipped an equipment truck to a Georgia recruit’s doorstep. Even stoic Nick Saban saw an opportunity to flash some youth to future prospects with a well-rounded dance repertoire with the cameras on.
When Fisher realized he was poised for a big signing day with six new ESPN 300 commitments, he asked all to speak demurely into the camera. Thank coaches and supporters, pick a hat and give way to the next blue chip ready to announce for the Seminoles. No planes, please. They don’t need any more critical headlines.
Fisher is younger than Harbaugh, Brian Kelly, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, but the 50-year-old’s recruiting approach is considered a relic, albeit one working better than most everyone else’s.
"Yeah, it’s called personal relationships," Fisher said when asked about the old-school recruiting label. "... If [a coach] goes and stays the night or whatever you said, they still got to sit in the house and talk to them. It’s still about eye-to-eye contact, still a people-related, people-person game. Whatever gimmick you do, you eventually got to sit down and build a relationship."
He isn’t stumping for his method or stymying the creativity of others. There is no acrimony from Fisher toward the tree climbing and free-wheeling 18-wheeler pitches -- "More power to them" -- but Florida State’s shrewd recruiter isn’t lacking sway with players. Along with Alabama, the Seminoles set the recruiting pace. Since 2011, only Florida State has topped Alabama for the No. 1 class, and those two are the only programs with at least five top-three finishes in the past six classes.
"Some of recruiting is a little over the top," Florida State signee Logan Tyler said. "Florida State doesn’t do it. They just do their in-home visits without a big presentation. It’s straight forward, not out of the box, and I think it’s real nice."
Even as off-field issues battered Fisher’s public perception a third straight season, most recruits were unaffected. While some would guffaw when hearing Fisher described as genuine, Florida State signees said they sensed Fisher’s authenticity during visits. Pictures that emerged from the road in January usually showed Fisher in the same Seminoles fleece. His signing-day ensemble was differing degrees of disarray -- a buttoned-down button down, beige sleeves rolled up, jeans and boots stitched from a flightless bird’s hide.
Fisher’s style is his substance, and he pairs it with the best-dealt hand in recruiting: the NFL. This past spring, the Seminoles set the draft’s modern record with 29 picks over a three-year period.
The program and recruiting materials do a solid job selling itself while coaching staffs such as Michigan needed to flip momentum to make a Wolverines offer feel like a commodity again. Fisher has won 10 games in five of his six seasons and owns four rings, but when he took over in 2010 the Seminoles were coming off a four-year run that saw them go 38-27 and suffer the backlash of their public execution of iconic coach Bobby Bowden’s career.
Yet Fisher said that even if Twitter and social media were as widespread in 2010 as they are now, he would still have the same philosophy.
"We’re too social-media driven, and I think it’s one of the problems in this world," Fisher said. "You got to look people in their eyes. How they say things on an account doesn’t help build a bond."
It’s helped build recruiting classes lately, just not some of the nation’s best.
"You've got to sit down and have a conversation, hear a guy's voice, look him in the eye, shake his hand and ask him questions about what he wants and tell him where you're at," Fisher said. "At the end of the day, that's still what it's all about."