The walls in Patrick Suddes’ new office are still mostly blank, save for a whiteboard filled with plans for where Texas’ coaches will go recruiting during the bye weekend. He has a few magazines on his desk, and a replica BCS championship trophy from his Alabama days, but that’s about it.
He doesn’t have time to decorate his new digs. Since being hired on March 7, the Longhorns’ director of player personnel hasn’t taken many days off. He’s been hard at work organizing and innovating the program’s recruiting efforts.
We sat down with Suddes last week to discuss his recruiting philosophies and what he’s achieved in his brief time on the job.
You already have commitments for the classes of 2015 and 2016. How do you feel about this process going a couple years down the road, and how does that change the way you evaluate?
In the past couple years, it’s hard to get rising seniors to your camp to evaluate them. Camp is the best evaluation tool we have. You can do the tape and go see them in person, but until you can get them in your drills and how you want it done and how they take to your coaching, you don’t know. It’s been hard, the past couple years, to even get rising juniors.
We had a good turnout this past camp, but there were still some juniors who wouldn’t come work. To me, that’s a telltale sign that I want the guys who will come in and bust their butts. I want the guys that compete. You play football because you’re competitive. You not coming shows me a lack of confidence in yourself. Look, for some of them it’s a money issue and I completely understand that. But these kids now, you’ve got ’16 kids and ’17 and it’s just so much easier for these kids to get exposure now because of you guys and everybody else.
What have you learned so far in your seven months on the job?
You learn that there are a ton of players in Texas, which I already knew, but I didn’t know how many schools. I’ve also learned the areas where guys are pumped up and the areas that they are still just as good of players and they’re not pumped up. Just as many good players are coming out of East Texas. I understand why, because the big-time schools that are flying in here can’t get into East Texas. They’ll fly into Dallas and Houston. These kids aren’t going to have the offers. Now with Twitter and all that stuff, though, these guys are blowing up.
San Antonio has good players. Below San Antonio, I’m told there’s never any players. You still have to recruit down there and do your research, because if there’s one good player, that’s enough to go down there. I think that’s the toughest thing: allocating your time, but also knowing that even if you have to go out to West Texas and there’s only one guy out there, you’ve got to go out there.
With so many in-state kids, how do you allocate your time wisely when it comes to national recruiting?
I’m used to recruiting Georgia and Florida and Louisiana. I think Louisiana, it’s not that long of a drive so you can recruit those kids like they’re in-state. I think everywhere else, you have to find some sort of Texas connection, or we’re looking for those kids that like Stanford or Notre Dame. I feel like we fit into that profile better than if a kid is from Ohio and he likes Florida and Georgia. We fit the kids that want the education on top of the athletics. I think that’s what we have to go after, or the guys who are just wide open.
How do you think you have influenced the process or changed the way Texas recruits?
I think it’s just from an organizational standpoint, in that everybody can go to one person for information or I can give them a plan. Everyone was like independent contractors in the past, and Mack [Brown] has to deal with the team and recruiting and going all over the place. It’s just making sure everybody is on the same page. Mack knows what we’re doing, Mack knows who we’re offering, who we’re going after, what the plan is. Information is the biggest thing. For me, it’s being tied in with all these kids on Twitter and Facebook. These coaches don’t have time to sit on Twitter and Facebook.
Fans have made you a bit of a legend already and think you’re reinventing recruiting. How much is that you and how much is it Mack Brown?
It’s been funny, but for me, I don’t read a lot of that stuff and nothing I’ve done is mind-blowing. It’s just getting a structure in place. They had one, but there was no common person to go to besides Mack, and Mack has a ton of his plate. He’s the final decision maker and the guy whose head is on the line. There’s more we can do. A lot of that is Mack. It’s not me. Mack is very open to change. For a guy being here 16 years, he gets it. He really does. He’s up for doing anything to make this place as good as it can possibly be.