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Four of college football's leading on-campus recruiting directors share challenges, strategy

Heads from UNC, Ohio State, South Carolina & Tennessee lend insight

Leading an interactive panel at the 2022 Personnel and Recruiting Directors Symposium, four of college football’s brightest and most well-regarded female campus recruiting coordinators shed insight on their industry earlier this month in Nashville.

North Carolina’s Alex White, Ohio State’s Erin Dunston, South Carolina’s Jessica Jackson and Tennessee’s Angelia Brummett all discussed their collective and respective challenges as the on-campus recruiting gurus for a quartet of Football Bowls Subdivision powerhouse programs.

The group discussed everything from finding qualified – and properly informed volunteers – to guarding against burnout in an industry that perhaps only matches scholarship offers delivered with hours worked.

“If you’re at a university, and you can’t find students, you can’t get them to apply, you’re not in it alone,” said Dunston, the Buckeyes’ on-campus ace. “When you have maybe 20 to 30 females that apply out of 75 total candidates, and we are trying to get more females in this industry, then you’re looking for drive and ambition.

“You want them to be excited, but not too excited; I don’t want a fan. I want someone who is going to grind.”

Potential candidates, Jackson explained, also have to display their up-front resilience. It’s a common theme that many students believe they want to work in college football and football recruiting, the panel shares, but determination just might be the singular intangible.

“Anybody, you have to email me multiple times,” Jackson said. “The first email never registers in my head.

“Are you going to follow up? … It takes the right amount of passion, it’s not fun and glitz and glamour. It’s hard work every single day, day in and day out.”

Brummett, the former Central Florida recruiting stalwart who was headed to the University of Southern California before Josh Heupel and Brandon Lawson convinced her to return home to Rocky Top in January 2021, revealed the key traits she seeks in looking to add to her on-campus staff for the Vols, who have strong recruiting momentum with another consensus four-star defensive commitment on Sunday.

“I think you have to have somebody who is outgoing, because you’re always around families,” Brummett said. “The two things I look for is that, and I think something else is somebody who can be assertive. In our roles, you’ve got to do a lot of speaking, you’re around coaches a lot, talking to families. You want people that can stand up for themselves but also portray what [the vision is] and speak on my behalf.”

Chief amongst the panel’s concerns is the very real burnout-factor in college recruiting, particularly in these oftentimes-thankless, off-the-field and behind-the-scenes roles.

“I struggle with FOMO,” said White, referencing the ‘Feeling Of Missing Out.’ “I’ve got friends who are getting married, and I hope it’s like a wedding in July or else I’m not going to be able to be there. I really struggle with that, especially in spring. Because when recruiting opens in March, you’re basically on call from March through June. If Coach calls you on Friday and says ‘Johnny is coming in tomorrow,’ then guess what? You’ve got to be there.

“One thing my staff did, we each picked a couple weekends during that time this year and said individually ‘We’re not available this weekend.’ Maybe it was for a wedding or bachelorette party or whatever, we can deal with it. One person out is fine.

“We all have to be there for the big official visits days, all there for the junior days, but I think for our staff it is trying to find things they need to go to that’s important for them and let them go. That’s what is important. This job huge part of all of our lives but it’s not our life.”

Another crucial element is leadership, which Dunston does with a game-day method seemingly as old as football itself.

“I give a pep talk, every game day,” she told the panel and a near-capacity audience inside Nashville’s Omni ballroom. “I walk in, we’ve got music playing in the recruiting room, we’re ready to go. We’re going to do this today, and we’re going to be on our a game.

“We have five student-interns and around 50 students who work in football on gamedays. We want everyone being on the same page and we meet and meet and meet before gameday to make sure that it will run smoothly.”

Jackson utilizes another strategic element: the walk-through.

“A lot of students just work gameday, I think we have about 40 students to operate gamedays but not 40 in our office,” she said. “A Large amount just work gameday.

“One thing that I think is really nice is just being on the front end and trying to think of every possible thing someone could need. Having walk-throughs with your staff. We have student-orientation (coming up soon). We’ll pretend it’s gameday, have registration set up, go through every single piece of it.”