LSU running backs coach Larry Porter has a simple approach for recruiting success: Instead of the fast talk and half-truths that come out of many recruiters' mouths, Porter believes in a much more straightforward approach.
He tells the truth.
"The first thing you have to do is build trust," Porter said. "I think you do that by whatever you tell a kid, you show them. For one, they can see that it's real, and the communication between you and that kid starts to grow. You can't lie or sugarcoat things. You have to be up front and honest with them, and that helps build that trust from the get-go."
That approach helped Porter rack up the most impressive recruiting resume in this year's class.
Porter, 36, signed eight prospects in LSU's 2009 recruiting class, including five-star prospects Chris Davenport, Craig Loston and Russell Shepard. He also landed two four-star recruits, and finished with an average of four stars per prospect. For his efforts, he is Rivals.com's national recruiter of the year for the second time in three years.
"I'm very honored to be recognized for the hard work and many sleepless nights while out on the road recruiting," said Porter, who also won the award in 2007. "But I'll be the first to say that this award is not all about me. We have a great product to sell at LSU. We firmly believe in everything we do. Therefore, when you walk into a home, you go in with a purpose and a passion. People can sense the sincerity and genuineness in you, and I think they start to buy in because they know we're very honest about what we're selling at LSU."
Recruits throughout Louisiana and Texas were sold. Porter landed four players from the Lone Star State and was effective in the Houston area.
5 head coaches who mattered
Rivals.com recognizes the top 25 assistants who dominated the recruiting front this season, but there are some head coaches who are ace recruiters. Here are five who made a big impact for their programs in the Class of 2009:
TIM BREWSTER, MINNESOTA When he was an assistant at Texas, he was known as the Longhorns' top recruiter, and he still has that mentality as a head coach. His efforts helped Minnesota land back-to-back high-quality classes, and recruits talk glowingly how about how relentless and passionate he is about the recruiting process.
JIM HARBAUGH, STANFORD The Cardinal's national recruiting ranking average the past three years was 51st, but this year, Harbaugh reeled in the school's first top-25 class since 2003. The Cardinal did a tremendous job in California and nationally, and the big reason was the never-say-no attitude of the coach.
RICK NEUHEISEL, UCLA Neuheisel said his goal was to return the Bruins to the forefront in recruiting in Los Angeles, and he took a big step with this year's class. People still talk about the night last fall he climbed in a helicopter and flew around L.A., hopping from high school to high school.
NICK SABAN, ALABAMA There's a reason the Tide have won back-to-back recruiting national championships. No head coach demands more from himself in the recruiting process, and nobody is more involved with every detail than Saban.
CHARLIE WEIS, NOTRE DAME Name a prospect, any prospect, and Weis is able to quickly give you his evaluation. While Weis has surrounded himself with great recruiters, nobody on the staff is more of a recruiting guru than Weis. He understands that recruiting is his program's lifeblood, and he is as active in that as any head coach in the country.
"I think there is a great LSU spirit in the Houston area," Porter said. "There really is. I drive around in the city of Houston a lot, and I see a lot of LSU bumper stickers and car tags. So the spirit is alive and well in Houston. When you talk about the brand of football we play in the SEC and you talk about the state of Texas, a lot of kids see that the SEC is the best conference in the country and they want to experience it because they're used to playing at a high level there at their high school.
"I think LSU is recognized in the state of Texas, and it's always a battle to go over there and get kids out of Texas away from Texas and from A&M. But when you talk about the proximity, LSU, as opposed to some of the other schools like Texas Tech, is closer. A lot of these kids, when they look at that, along with the great product we have over here – it's hard to turn down."
Shepard was one who couldn't resist the opportunity to play for LSU, and he said Porter's influence made the decision to head to Baton Rouge much easier.
"Coach Porter was one of the big reasons I picked LSU," Shepard said. "He made me and everybody in my family comfortable with everything he talked about. He talked about how they've sent kids back to Texas with degrees in their hands and also how there are a lot of kids from Texas that have made the jump to the NFL.
"It made it easier knowing I've seen some of my peers and friends from Texas on television playing in an LSU uniform. I wanted to be a part of that."
Dominique Allen, a three-star fullback from Paris (Tenn.) Henry County, isn't one of Porter's higher-ranked recruits, but Porter says he thinks Allen will have both an immediate and lasting impact. Allen originally was headed to Tennessee, but Porter convinced him to switch in early November.
"There is one guy that I signed who's going to have to be a great player for us next year, and that's Dominique Allen," Porter said. "Fullback was a position that was a void on our offense. He's a young kid that's 6-foot and 250 pounds, and we're very excited about him. We're expecting him to come in and do some good things for us. We're very, very excited about him and his talent."
Porter, who was a running back at Memphis, has been a college assistant for 11 seasons and has had an opportunity to watch how the recruiting process has evolved. He said there's one big revolution that has affected everything that everybody does in the recruiting process.
"There's one change and one change only, and that's the Internet," Porter said. "It's a global deal now. You have to make sure you stay in touch from a technology standpoint to win every battle that you can. I think once you're in position to do that, then the rest will take care of itself.
"It can be both good and bad. For one, it gives you a lot of information. Sometimes, it gives you too much information."
Porter said too much information sometimes can create a lot of headaches for coaches. He believes one solution is an early signing period. Despite support from more than 70 percent of the Division I coaches in the American Football Coaches Association, conference commissioners at the NCAA Convention in mid-January voted 17-4 against an early signing day proposal.
"Every kid is different. Every kid has a different home life and structure, and some have the support and some of them don't," Porter said. "You have a lot of kids that make their commitments and they are firm and solid, and that's because they have a good foundation around them. They know exactly what they want to do. At times you have people that don't have the right support around them, are not ready to make a decision mentally and then be able to stand by it. That can hurt you.
"So I think it would cut down on the amount of early committing and then kids changing their minds at the last minute. And then it would allow the kids who do know what they want to do and are secure in it to move on and put it behind them and focus on finishing their high school career."
Porter hopes to finish his career as a head coach, but he admits his name hasn't surfaced as a hot candidate when jobs come open.
"In terms of being a head coach, the more I look at it, you really have to get to know these guys on these search firms because so many schools look toward those guys to present them with quality head coaches," Porter said. "The thing I've noticed is that I have done a poor job of selling myself. I've never been a guy who's thought it's all about me. I'm hoping over time my body of work will speak for itself. But I do take a lot of pride in coaching my guys.
"I love being out there on the grass getting it going. I think as time goes on, people will recognize my body of work, my actions on the recruiting front and how I go about doing things with an honest, hard-working and truthful approach."