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HBCU Coaches Are Masters in 'The Art of Flipping Recruits'

HBCU coaches had to contend with recruits committing to "big time" programs for years — today, the tables have turned.

HBCU coaches had to contend with recruits committing to "big time" programs for years — today, the tables have turned. 

In the past, they needed to become master recruiters and strategically employed "common sense tactics" in attracting top-ranked student-athletes.  

Unfortunately the previous three to four decades haven't been kind to HBCU coaches and they fell on the losing side.  In a large part, the reasons fell under the lack of resources, facilities, medical care, limited broadcasting, and sponsorship deals.  

Although, today is a new era.

Riding off the backs of talented young men from urban communities may never fade, but Power 5 coaches comprehend they will face competition from HBCUs.

On the other hand, today's crop of new-style head coaches in the SWAC and MEAC are landing the prized recruits at a blistering rate in 2021.

Deion Sanders, Buddy Pough, Hue Jackson, Willie Simmons, Dawson Odums, Eddie George, Connell Maynor, and Eddie Robinson Jr. are a few names that will concern the Sabans, Kiffines, and Swinneys of college football.

Think how different the Zoom and conference calls will be and take place with the "five- and four-star" recruits, parents, and guardians over the next several years.

Having a Hall of Fame player or a previous NFL coach sitting at the proverbial "dinner tables and living rooms" of recruits and families levels the playing field.

Coach Prime has "provoked change" in collegiate ranks and can recruit toe-to-toe with the nation's best D1 coaches.

The shockwaves of recruiting Travis Hunter have been disturbing those in the Power 5 coaching circles.




Deion Sanders has done unto D1 programs what they have done unto HBCU schools for years.

He has plans to "dominate" today before looking into the future, as he alluded to Rich Eisen. Echoing our recruiting class conversation when Sanders told me that "we're trying to be dominate."

Most people missed this part of his conversation with Eisen in how JSU's current team matches with Power 5's. "If I know I had the team, Rich [Eisen], that the interior line, defensively and offensively. As well as a nice rotation and substitution can withstand that, I'll do it. Because I know the skill positions, they're already suitable. They could do it. But that's where the difference lies is the offensive and defensive lines. That's where there's the difference."

The offensive line was problematic for Jackson State the entire season, and South Carolina State illuminated their issues in the Celebration Bowl defeat.

Eddie Robinson and John Merritt

The University of Alabama usually has a dominant offensive and defensive line talent - even from the days of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Coaches Eddie Robinson (Grambling) and John Merritt (Tennessee State) manned Hall of Fame-level talent with offensive and defensive linemen during their heydays. 

Even as I covered the New Orleans Saints for the past fifteen seasons, Sean Payton made it a point to have All-Madden team players on his offensive lines to keep his 6-foot tall quarterback, Drew Brees, upright and breaking records. One player is former Arkansas-Pine Bluff's and Saints offensive linemen Terron Armstead. HBCU football teams will remain a step behind until they focus on recruiting blue-chip linemen as a priority. Still, the assault on assembling said talent is real, and D1 coaches and ADs recognize the threat.


The art of flipping prospective recruits is not a new concept because, for years, the collegiate "Big Boys" have done it to smaller programs. The lure of money and fame has always been the same.

Reports have former UCLA linebacker Myles Jackson visiting Jackson State and No. 1 rated five-star running back Richard Young is meeting with FAMU. These are signs that young student-athletes are seeing value in attending HBCU schools.

In 1970, Bama's Coach Bryant saw USC's running back Sam Cunningham turnout and destroy his defense for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the classic showdown at Legion Field. He changed his position on actively recruiting African American players and positively impacted Alabama's football fortunes.

Danders and Travis Hunter

As Coach Sanders mentioned, "he [Travis Hunter] never belonged to them." The proposals that he "was turned to the Darkside" with the lure of "promises" [said Lane Kiffin] and alleged NIL contracts are preposterous. Power 5's were "out-recruited" regarding the intangible value HBCU schools provide for student-athletes.

Division I schools like Alabama, Florida State, and Ole Miss will fight against the notion of high-level talent flocking to HBCU programs, yet, can it be stopped in this era?

Nonetheless, it's a practice with deep roots, especially in the Deep South, and will continue the growth of HBCU football in the next several years.

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