By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
David Ash was one of the easy ones.
He knew what college he wanted to play football for - Texas - and they wanted him, too.
As a junior, he committed to the Longhorns and over the next year he stayed true to his word and eventually enrolled early at the university.
But it isn't always that easy.
Whether it a low-tier college prospect or a high-tier prospect, problems can arise no matter the circumstances.
ESPN reported Friday that NCAA officials are taking a closer look at Oregon's recruitment of running back Lache Sestrunk a redshirt freshman from Temple. Specifically, the NCAA is asking what role Texas-based trainer Willie Lyles played in Seastrunk's decision to attend Oregon, the sources said. Documents show the Ducks paid $25,000 to Lyles through his Complete Scouting Services in Houston.
Now the NCAA is delving deeper into the roles of recruiting "agents" or third-party facilitators like Lyles.
It is problems like these that both Copperas Cove coach Jack Welch and Belton coach Rodney Southern do their best to avoid.
"With the internet like it is, it seems as though people can get them a website and then act like they are a broker, so to speak, in getting kids recruited, which is totally false. It's a total farce," Welch said. "We don't mess with that - we make some people mad because we don't give our stuff out or talk to them because we take care of our own kids."
Parents need to understand
Both Welch and Southern agree that at the heart of the matter is getting the parents involved in the recruiting process.
And the best way to do that is to simply talk with them.
After Ash's sophomore season at Belton, Southern sat down with his quarterback's parents and discussed their son's future. He asked them what they wanted for their son, what Ash himself wanted and how they could get it done.
"I try to keep that communication with parents, because if they don't get it from me they are going to get it from somewhere … sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not," Southern said. "If the parents don't trust us and don't communicate, it makes it a real difficult process."
With Seastrunk's recruitment, the involvement of Lyles literally took former Temple coach Bryce Monsen completely out of the equation.
"I was told to stay away from Lache and his mother, as far as recruiting," Monsen told ESPN. "Lyles and Lache became good friends and Lache had a lot of trust in him."
To prevent this from happening, Southern not only sits down with his top recruits like Ash, but all of his prospective seniors and asks them if they want to play college football.
If they say yes, the recruiting process begins.
The first step has nothing to do with them, though, it's educating the parents.
"The more you communicate and the more you help them the better things are because there are a lot of things they don't know," Southern said, adding that the many NCAA regulations regarding visits, commitments and contact with institutions can be overwhelming and confusing.
Also, parents' expectations for their children don't always meet reality.
"Parents hold the high school coaches way too much in line with the recruiting process. The high school coach can't get your kid recruited. High school coaches can give good recommendations, they can make film available, they can send out information and all those kinds of things.
"But it's going to come down to how well your son or your daughter performs and if they have the right attributes."
Everyone has a place
Everyone knew Ash and Seastrunk could play.
But the process to get recruits to college is getting faster and more competitive as institutions try to lock up recruits as early as possible.
In order to expedite the process on his end, Southern assigned his associate athletic director and assistant coach David Brewer to be in charge of the process.
Brewer compiles a list of recruits for Belton that includes every senior-to-be that indicated he wants to play at the next level and anyone Southern and his staff feel has a chance of playing in college, whether it is an incoming freshman or a standout wide receiver like Adrian Henderson.
From there the legwork begins of contacting college coaches they know, contacting coaches who contact them and keeping the lines of communication always open.
The effort isn't just for the Ashes of the world, though. The hard work, Southern said, is getting exposure for the athlete that wants to compete at the next level, but isn't a Division-I talent.
Regardless, both Welch and Southern agreed that there is almost always a fit for anyone who wants to play college football.
"They're going to find you - the world is too small. If you are a Division-I football player, very seldom do those kids go overlooked," Welch said. "Sometimes they do, but they're going to get a chance to play college football somewhere."
The challenge, though, is keeping the wrong people away from them.
On the straight and narrow
The first thing Southern wants to know when he is contacted by a service is not who they are interested in, but who the service represents.
"A lot of times, a lot of different people try to get involved in the recruiting process and a lot of them don't know what they are talking about," Southern said, citing that some services represent 20 or 60 major schools while with others you're never quite sure what they are doing.
And for that reason, he said he not only needs to be careful, but parents do, too.
"Sometimes they are getting video to (colleges), but what video are they sending? There may be a video and it may not be a good game," Southern said. "Now, a school has video that may not be good video to be watching on a guy.
"With what has surfaced, you just have to ask why this person at this time and why this amount of money and remember these people are trying to make a living."
Welch has tried his hardest to keep facilitators and recruiting services completely out of his program.
But that doesn't always stop the problem.
"You'll have people send you information because they charge kids or charge their parent pretty big bucks, and they'll say that they're going to get their information out and that they'll get them recruited.
"There's none of that, but they take their money," Welch said.
Welch's best advice to recruits and parents?
"Stay away from that stuff," Welch said. "Don't get involved with recruiting services and involved with people that are acting like they're an agent … or this (Oregon investigation) is the kind of stuff that's going to happen."