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Attracting recruits has become much easier than one year ago

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: October 26, 2008
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Oct. 26, 2008

If today's open scrimmage is anything like the one Old Dominion held a month ago for its fledgling football team, the Monarchs will run onto Powhatan Field with more than 3,000 fans in the stands.

And about three dozen of them will be potential recruits.

The recruiting targets will be making unofficial visits, meaning they are paying for the trip themselves. For them, it's a bit of a fact-finding mission.

What those players will experience is tangible, real. That's a long way from the hypothetical and theoretical elements Monarch coaches were selling in 2007.

The Monarchs might be scrimmaging tonight on a high school field, but they will do it in the shadow of a sparkling new $17 million practice facility located half a mile's walk from where 20,000-seat Foreman Field is undergoing a $26 million renovation for the 2009 season.

A year ago, ground had just been broken on the practice facility and Foreman Field's renovation was in the planning stages. Not one bit of football equipment had been delivered and the idea of having a recruit talk with the team's strength coach was just that, a really good idea.

Today, should any of the potential recruits stroll over to catch a glimpse of the renovation, they will likely pass members of the on-campus fan club, the Monarch Maniacs, who plan to be painting Monarchs paws all over campus, weather permitting.

Naturally, ODU coach Bobby Wilder and staff are finding this season's sell to be slightly easier.

"Last year, we were selling a vision and some were able to buy into it," Wilder said. "Some weren't. We told them what our practice facility would look like when it was finished, but we couldn't show them. They had to use their imagination."

Last year, a recruit visiting campus often would begin his trip in a cramped Athletics Administration building conference room that had been converted to house eight coaches and a secretary. Coaches in hard hats would walk prospects to the construction site that would be the future home of the Monarchs.

"We had to put together a power point presentation to give recruits a visual of what the practice facility and Foreman Field would look like," Wilder said. "This year, the vision is 50 percent complete."

The hurdles didn't stop ODU from pursuing some of the best players around.

"I was always taught to go after the best players," recruiting coordinator Chip West said. "If a kid doesn't tell you no, then you operate under the belief that he might consider saying yes."

A little more than two dozen said yes to the Monarchs, and ODU ended up with a first recruiting class thick with skill position players but thin along the front line.

This year's recruiting emphasis is on linemen and linebackers, and Wilder trusts that a phenomenon new programs tend to go through, referred to as "the second-year wave," will happen.

Shortly after taking the job 20 months ago, Wilder visited Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett and South Florida coach Jim Leavitt, two guys who had started programs from scratch.

"They both had the same message: 'You will outrecruit your first class with your second class,' " Wilder said. "That's what we're aiming to do, even though we were very happy with our first class."

So far, two linemen have committed to sign with ODU in February: 6-foot-5½, 265-pounder Alex Bell from Milford, Del., and 6-6, 304-pound Danzel Manley from Greenbelt, Md. Both attended the first open scrimmage and committed shortly thereafter.

Notes: Unlike September's scrimmage, the Monarchs intend to take the field at 6 ready to play. They will warm up on their practice field before arriving at the game site. ... A handful of players will play for both the blue and white teams as the Monarchs have only 10 healthy offensive linemen.

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