Coaches get closer as Twitter followers

For all the talk about Twitter being a recruiting tool for college coaches, it's still difficult to figure out which tweets are directed at which recruits, or if that's even happening at all.

Sure, generic ones might appeal to any kid who might happen upon a coach's stream -- we've seen tweets about guys getting drafted in the pros, and how weight lifting is important to a program in the offseason -- but how do we know if this Gary Williams update about hanging out with Tiger Woods is directed specifically at a recruit Williams is targeting who loves Tiger, or if he's just tweeting for the heck of it?

That's the beauty of the service for coaches, though: public transparency. Maryland fans could enjoy it, Woods fans could find it interesting, and that specific recruit Williams is just dying to have could love it as well. We might never really know the whole story.

Further, coaches openly following recruits are extremely hard to come by on Twitter. On the basketball side, top-flight guys such as Bruce Pearl, Jeff Capel, John Calipari, Jamie Dixon, the aforementioned Williams and Ben Howland aren't following any up-and-coming recruits. Football follows suit as well: Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin, Les Miles and Urban Meyer haven't chosen to follow a single high school kid on Twitter.

This could simply be because their targets aren't on Twitter. Data about teenagers using the service are scarce, and a recent report (not based upon solid numbers) stating teens don't use it has been highly debated. Also, perhaps coaches believe there's no reason to draw any more attention to their specific recruiting efforts. Remember, coaches are free to follow recruits, they just can't reply or communicate with them publicity on Twitter -- only direct messaging (a private conversion) is permissible, because the NCAA views that as e-mail, which is legal.

One man bucking this trend is Indiana's Tom Crean. It's no secret he and his staff have been going hard after Kyrie Irving, a point guard out of St. Patrick's in Elizabeth, N.J. The ESPNU100 rankings have him as the No. 9 recruit in the 2010 class. Not only does Crean follow Irving, there's been at least one instance of Crean directly pandering to Irving. After Irving tweeted "hungry and humble for more," Crean later followed with: "We need CONSISTENT TOUGHNESS AND CONFIDENDT COMPETITORS! We need HUNGRY and HUMBLE WARRIORS!"

Notice the use of hungry and humble in both of those? It's likely not a coincidence. If other coaches are being mostly covert or generic in their recruiting efforts on Twitter, this Crean example is anything but. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. There are no rules against it; that tweet exists in the gray area of recruiting efforts on Twitter.

It's clear Irving is rather active on the service. He's been updating nearly every day during his summer basketball regimen. If Crean is going to peek his head in on Irving, why wouldn't he do it on Twitter, a service Irving is obviously engaged on?

If the Hoosiers land Irving, score one for micro-blogging at least having some influence. If not? Crean, and Irving, will continue to tweet away.