One of the first items on Kevin Sumlin's to-do list when he arrived at Texas A&M was to hire a staff of what he calls "two-dimensional" coaches.
He didn't want some of his guys to be considered just good recruiters while others were considered just good coaches. He wanted each of the assistant coaches he hired to be both.
"And that’s harder to do than you think," Sumlin said. "Football has gotten so competitive, particularly in this league, that I just felt like we needed nine guys that could recruit and nine guys that could coach. That would seem easy to do because that’s the job description, but the pool of people out there like that is very limited. And it’s a highly competitive market for those people."
Sumlin felt like he got that in his group. If the 2013 recruiting class is any indication, he succeeded in his objective. The Aggies have piled up recruit after recruit, scoring 27 verbal commitments and they haven't even hit two-a-days.
There are several factors at play -- Texas A&M's strong tradition, the quality of facilities, the chance to play in college football's premier league, the Southeastern Conference, among those factors. But ultimately, recruiting often goes back to two basics: evaluation and building relationships, and Sumlin and his staff appear to be doing well at both.
“One thing about Sumlin ... that I think that he does well is that he puts the right people in the right places as far as his staff and where they recruit the area they’re recruiting," said Houston/Sharpstown High School coach Dallas Blacklock, coach of Texas A&M commit Reggie Chevis. "And they have a great relaxed environment. That’s very attractive to kids. It’s relaxed but it’s business. The kids know they’re going to come and bust their behinds, but it’s not to the point where it becomes work and it’s not fun."
That dynamic has apparently made an impression on recruits. Athlete Cameron Echols-Luper (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), who took an unofficial visit to Texas A&M on Thursday, said he got a positive vibe from the Texas A&M coaches with whom he has been in contact.
"The type of coach I’m looking for is that father-figure type of coach," said Echols-Luper, the stepson of Auburn assistant coach Curtis Luper. "Coach Sumlin, Coach [David] Beaty, Coach [Kliff] Kingsbury, are all great guys."
Echols-Luper said he could sense the relaxed atmosphere when he visited. Recent Texas A&M commitment Shaan Washington (Alexandria, La./Alexandria) also got that feeling when he sat in Sumlin's office during an unofficial visit this spring.
Rather than a hard sell to get a commitment right then and there, Sumlin took a less aggressive approach.
"He's a nice guy," Washington said. "Me and my dad went into his office and he didn't try to rush me to make my decision ... That made me feel good. I didn't want anybody calling me and pressuring me."
Recruits have echoed positive comments about the many of the assistant coaches, a sign of Texas A&M's success in a short time.
Current coaches on the staff say the atmosphere harbored by Sumlin has been a positive one, so it seems apparent that the vibe is trickling down from the staff to recruits.
"He gets it," Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said of Sumlin. "He sees the big picture. That's very evident to me."