I’ve known coaches who will confide that their favorite aspect of moving from college football to the NFL is that they no longer have to deal with recruiting.
Recruiting is a necessary fact of life for college football coaches, including assistants. If you don’t recruit well, all the coaching in the world will get you nowhere.
It’s a tough part of the business, trying to sell your program to a 17-year-old. It requires persistence and patience and not everyone embraces the process.
But Bill Musgrave, back coaching in college at Cal this year after spending the past 17 seasons in the NFL, says he's fully onboard.
“I really enjoy recruiting,” said Musgrave, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, whose only other college experience was at Virginia in 2001 and ’02. His resume, otherwise, is dominated by stops in the NFL — with the Raiders, Eagles, Panthers, Jaguars, Washington, Falcons, Vikings and Broncos.
Musgrave, who will turn 53 in a couple weeks, said he learned a lot about recruiting on Al Groh’s staff at Virginia, and he’s learning some of it all over again at Cal.
“I had to get back in the (recruiting) mode, as I have been,” he said. “I enjoy the balance. I always enjoyed the draft when I coached in the NFL. I enjoy the balance of evaluating personnel, watching their tape, a little bit like the draft.”
Rather than viewing the process as a chore, Musgrave sees it as getting the chance to engage young men at a critical time in their development.
“Recruiting’s a real positive time for a young man in their lives,” he said. “It’s an honor to be part of that process and part of that experience when they do commit and they decide this is the place for them. It’s a lot like when a young man gets drafted and they realize one of their goals in life.”
Although it’s been nearly two decades since he last coached in college — or recruited high school prospects — Musgrave said he doesn’t think kids have changed that much. “I haven’t noticed that,” he said.
Instead, what he sees are young men who have dedicated themselves to a goal and are willing to do what’s necessary to achieve it. He appreciates the energy and focus he sees in many college prospects.
“These young men are driven, they’ve taken care of their grades, they’re outstanding athletes, their families have supported them,” Musgrave explained. “Whether you deal with their coaches, their counselors, their teachers, their basketball coaches, whoever their champions are, just a great experience because the slice of humanity is just top notch.
“I enjoy that element of coaching, whether it’s at the pro or the college level. The Xs and Os are great, but I also enjoy the balance of the personnel and recruiting part, too. It kind of rounds out the day in the correct way.”
Musgrave's time at Virginia was five years before the first iPhone was released, he said he never ruled out returning to college. A former standout quarterback at Oregon, he said he simply enjoys the craft of coaching football.
“I look forward to coaching at all levels — high school, college or pro. So I’m good anywhere,” he said.
While there are plenty of similarities to coaching college and pro players, there is one significant difference.
“There’s not as many hours in the day that you get to spend with your players,” he said, “so you have to be a lot more efficient and be creative in making sure they’re prepared when they get out there on the field.”
Musgrave is among four new members of coach Justin Wilcox’s staff, joining Angus McClure (offensive line), Aristotle Thompson (running backs) and Marcel Yates (defensive backs). He likes the makeup of the staff and the roster.
“We’ve got a great group of coaches that I work with. They help me every day,” he said. “I’m really enjoying the quarterback room when I get to be with them, and really the entire offense. It’s a terrific group.”