When it comes to college football recruiting, producing creative and attractive graphics has become just as important as evaluating players for the University of New Mexico.
Yet as for the graphics, the Lobos’ recruiting staff has a little more fun with it.
Recently, on a collaborative effort, a graphic was produced featuring a theme of “The Last Dance,” the 10-part documentary series featuring Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Instead of the elite NBA team of the 1990s, the graphic put the spotlight on (or rather heavily insinuated) the first 10 recruits who verbally committed to the Lobos for the 2021 class. Since then, the Lobos added three more commits to make it to 13.
The Lobos hope the graphics catch fire on Twitter with retweets and congratulatory type comments.
Jordan Somerville, UNM’s recruiting director, calls it branding, and it’s become even more important in these days of staying at home and the uncertainty of a college football season during the coronavirus pandemic.
The work on the graphics is an example of how meticulous the Lobos are with nearly everything they do. Many of the graphics come from Matt Steele, who specializes in graphics for various athletic teams, Somerville said.
“It’s like you’re a little kid and your teacher says here’s your hour of art,” said Somerville, who is also UNM’s running back coach. “You create your art. You take it home and you want to show mom and dad. You want them to put it on the fridge. You look at it and you have a big smile. That’s how we feel about it. … We want to be competitive in everything we do. That’s something that comes from coach (Danny) Gonzales. We can’t leave any stone unturned. Even the artwork has to be great. … It’s our mentality that we don’t want to be satisfied or complacent.”
Somerville says he hasn’t come up with a nickname for the three point men of the Lobos’ recruiting efforts that includes himself, director of player personnel Tim Roschmann and assistant director of recruiting Greg Svarczkopf.
Somerville jokingly called the group, “The Three Amigos.” Another appropriate moniker, that also refers to a 1980s comedy, could be “Three Men and A Baby.”
The baby would be the UNM recruiting department.
The Lobos’ new recruiting model is similar to what is used at Arizona State, where Gonzales, Somerville and Roschmann worked before coming to UNM.
Roschmann and Somerville learned about recruiting under Al Luginbill, the director of player of personnel at ASU.
The branding and graphics is only part of their recruiting game. They also have an extensive filing system for grouping players. Gonzales, Somerville, Roschmann and others on the UNM coaching and support staff contribute to the research. It helps when coaches study potential recruits, watching film at least three times a week.
“We have a wealth of information,” Gonzales said. “In a matter of two minutes I can tell you every kid that’s 6-foot-4 west of the Mississippi; every kid that’s 6-foot-4 east of the Mississippi; what camps have they been to; what measurements we have on them.”
Gonzales knew he had myriad challenges when he took the job at UNM. In addition to a rebuild of a program that went 8-28 over the past three seasons, the Lobos had to put an emphasis on the future with 36 seniors set to play in their last season of eligibility in 2020.
UNM has attacked the challenge with great ambition even during the coronavirus pandemic that has relegated college football programs to Zoom calls and virtual visits.
“I feel that we’ve been competitive with Power 5 schools,” Somerville said. “We don’t see it as just beating the Mountain West-type deal. We want to be the most competitive in the country during this time. Everyone has an even playing field when it comes to that. Zoom is affordable right now. Text messages are affordable. Phone calls are affordable. That has been our way of adapting.”
Roschmann came up with hashtag that has identified the Lobos’ 2021 class and recruiting efforts: #UNMatched21.
Roschmann believes it helps the recruits who commit to UNM become part of a group.
So far, 13 have committed to the Lobos for 2021. The UNM coaches and staff are not allowed to talk about the specific players or other potential recruits per NCAA rules.
It’s safe to say, the Lobos want to add to the group. That can be seen in their recruiting efforts on social media. They’re going after high-profile players and athletes who have gotten few offers.
Their reach has gotten to Dyson McCutcheon, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound defensive back from Bishop Amat High in La Puente, California. He has offers from USC, Notre Dame, Cal, Arizona and Boise State.
McCutcheon tweeted that he recently took a virtual visit at UNM. His father, Daylon, who starred at USC and went on to play seven seasons for the Cleveland Browns, also tweeted about the virtual visit.
The tweets included graphics of an itinerary and another of a lanyard that had a VIP pass attached to it.
“Branding is such a big part of recruiting,” Roschmann said. “You have to build a brand for a coaching staff, for a university. Kids want to go somewhere they recognize. A lot of the kids we recruit in Texas and California, they don’t know a lot about the university. They don’t know a lot about us. So it’s all about building a unified brand.”
A lot of recruiting, especially in these times, is about salesmanship.
It doesn’t hurt to have a defensive guru like Rocky Long on staff. Long, the former San Diego State and UNM coach, is the Lobos’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. His protege, Gonzales, is in charge.
Some of Gonzales’ assistants have been on staff at UNM before, including offensive coordinator Derek Warehime, offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier and cornerbacks coach Troy Reffett.
They know about the Albuquerque culture and can provide insight to recruits.
Svarczkopf is the lone holdover from the previous staff. He also knows a lot about Albuquerque.
During the virtual visits he talks about all that Albuquerque has to offer. The virtual visit, a Zoom call, also includes position coaches. The recruit’s family members are also invited to to find out about UNM.
The virtual visit includes information about the facilities and academic program.
Gonzales also enters for the virtual visit and talks about his grand plans for the team, conference titles and a schedule that includes Power 5 teams.
He talks about his time at San Diego State and how the Aztecs went 5-1 against Power 5 programs when he had a hand in SDSU.
“We’re building a team that’s going to be as competitive as anyone in the country,” Gonzales said. “We’re not afraid to play anyone, anywhere … The opportunity they have to be those guys is why we want them to be here.”