Warriors' 2010 class two years in making
BY Stephen Tsai
The Hawai'i football team is on the clock.
And the calculator.
And, mostly, on the cell phone.
The Warriors are preparing for Feb. 3, the first day recruits may sign binding national letters of intent.
While the Warriors have secured several verbal commitments, UH head coach Greg McMackin noted, "nothing is official until it's in writing on signing day."
The NCAA limits a Division I-A school to offering 25 "initial" scholarships each academic year. Because three players from last year's UH team will count as initials, the Warriors have 22 new scholarships to offer for the 2010 recruiting class.
But that is a fluid number. Some prospects might not qualify; some may be counted toward the 2011 class.
McMackin took some time to explain the Warriors' general recruiting philosophy.
On the recruiting process:
"We've been preparing for this class for two years. It's a two-year process of evaluating the talent.
"We counted up the tapes, and from the start of the year (in 2009), we were contacted by 3,000 guys. We also talked to every (Hawai'i) high school (football) coach to find out who they think are the top players in the state. It's quite a process. You have to go over every tape. You talk to coaches. You watch games. You watch more tapes. You have to find out if you think they'll meet the academic requirements (to play as freshmen). Then you have to rank them because you want to get the best players possible for the University of Hawai'i.
"We'll have meetings and rankings and arguments — no, I mean, discussions — between coaches. There are a lot of discussions and evaluations. Recruiting is our lifeblood. It's the most important thing you do in the program. If you have the players, you're going to be a good coach."
On evaluating prospects:
"I've never been a guy who goes on (scouting) Web sites, and tries to recruit players based on how many stars they have next to their names. We want to go out and see for ourselves, and watch videos, and make our own evaluations. We know there are some schools who went after players because they had four- or five-star ratings. And they didn't always play very well, because, maybe, a five-star has some problems in other areas. We're looking for great players with passion who make plays. It's important to have the basic measurables, but the biggest measurables are a player's heart and brain, and whether he can make plays.
"Maybe a player is an inch or two shorter. What difference does that make? Look at Davone (Bess, a former UH slotback who led the Miami Dolphins in receiving in 2009). He goes as a free agent, but you know he can play."
On the main ingredient:
"Speed is our most important thing. You can use Paipai (Falemalu) as an example. We recruited him (in 2008) as a linebacker. Now he's 250, and still runs like a deer. But now we move him to defensive end. We recruited him because he could run and make plays. He'll start for us for the next three years.
"When you recruit a high school player, you have to project that he will grow. And he can get faster. That's why character is important. Look at (safety) Richard Torres. He joined us as a walk-on. He's probably a little short for most Division I schools, but he worked hard. He improved his speed, from 4.7 (in the 40-yard dash) to probably 4.4. He's one of our best football players. And now he's on scholarship."
On offering scholarships:
"When we decide on who we want to give a scholarship to, we send a letter to the player and his family, and a letter to his coach. The letter is important. It assures a player he received an offer. It tells him what he needs to do, like meeting the academic requirements. It lets him know he has to accept (the offer) within a timely manner. In one situation, we had only one scholarship for a position. We had three excellent players (at that position). Because we couldn't take more than one (recruit) at that position, we said we would give it to the first player who accepted the offer. One of the players (did not accept). We liked him a lot. We told him: 'If you don't get a scholarship offer (from another school), we would be glad to borrow from the next year and gray shirt you (in 2010).'
"I wish we could offer 100 scholarships. I wish we could give every top player from Hawai'i a football scholarship. But we can't, and we have to make tough decisions. That's why it's important for players to get back to us in a timely manner. It's spelled out in the letter. We only have so many scholarships. We have to have enough players in our pool so we can get a good recruiting class. If we offer too few (scholarships), we'll scramble later. If we offer too many, we can get in trouble."
On Hawai'i talent:
"Our goal is to keep every good Hawai'i player in Hawai'i. You can't get everybody. That's the reality. All universities aren't for everybody. We have a lot of great things to offer a local player. He has an opportunity to play in front of his family, his friends and his fans. ... There are enough good players here, to complement some guys from the Mainland and Samoa, for us to be a football power and a constant top-25 team."
Visit Tsai's blog at http://warriorbeat.honadvblogs.com.