Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Q&A with Trooper Taylor

Here is the bulk of an interview I had with receivers coach Trooper Taylor about the recently announced Big Cat Weekend:

The Star: What was the impact of Big Cat Weekend, 2009?
TT: I think what it did is it kind of carried over momentum-wise because it was something different. It was something where we weren’t testing them in the 40, we weren’t asking them their vertical and all that stuff. We want them to come and build relationships because we really emphasize the family side of it and the people part of it. All those things are important for us.

Now we’ve got kids asking ‘When is it?’ and ‘Am I invited?’ and ‘Can I get there?’ and all that kind of stuff. It’s still carrying over into this year.

The Star: What does that say about last year’s player response?
TT: That they had a great time. The great ones want to be around other great ones. This guy wants to know what that guy’s thinking. If you think that those guys don’t read the internet and check the web sites, they’re all over all those things. The best way for them to communicate is through those things.

Then they start asking each other, ‘Well, are you going to Big Cat Weekend?’ ‘I’m going to Big Cat.’ When that spreads throughout the top players, it just grows. It lets you know that: 1) They had a good time and 2) They were excited about what they saw and they enjoyed it enough to where they wanted to tell more people about it. The best advertisement you can get as a coach or a school or a place is word of mouth. It’s not the billboards. It’s not the emails. It’s the word of mouth from other players because they respect that – because here’s a five-star talking to another five-star or a three-star talking to a five-star. We think that’s the biggest advertisement they can get.

The Star: How important is it for the big prospects to get to know each other at Auburn as opposed to elsewhere?
TT: The more the better. The reason why is we want them to see what we have to offer. We want them to understand that Auburn’s more than just the verticals and the 40-yards dashes and the football side of it. Come see us as people, not just as coaches, and develop relationships.

Then, if it doesn’t work for you, that’s OK. We also want you to come here and be able to leave with that ability to make that judgment on Auburn based on the things that you saw – not the things that you heard from someone else or, in the recruiting battles, all this negative stuff.

That’s one thing we pride ourselves on: We’re never going to go into a home and bash another school. That’s not our deal. Our deal is to go into a home and sell what we’ve got because that’s what we know and that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Star: How do you mix keeping the prestige of a Big Cat Weekend invitation for highly rated prospects with not offending other prospects?
TT: It’s not really an invite when we say it’s select. It’s the top guys start talking and they want to come. We don’t turn anybody away. We don’t take a guy and say, ‘No, you’re not allowed to come to Big Cat Weekend,’ because, say he’s a two-star but we’ve looked at him on tape and think he can play. It doesn’t matter to us. If we think he can play, we’re going to go after him.

You look at Shaun Kitchens. He was one of our earlier commitments and he was just a two- or three-star at the time and then he kept on going. Shon Coleman: His teammate was a five-star and we recruited Shon based on tape and we wanted him here.

We don’t give out a select deal where we say, ‘You’re the only one that can come.’ We evaluate you on tape and if we think you are what we’re looking for, we’re going to bring you. Most of them that are on the fence and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know about that,’ or ‘I didn’t get that,’ – we’re always going to have our doors open.

They kind of invite each other. We put the dates out there and then they start snowballing. ‘I heard about Big Cat last year and I’m not missing it.’ I’ve got kids that are calling me already and saying, ‘Hey coach, I’m coming to Big Cat Weekend.’ I’ve got coaches across Florida, Georgia, even Louisiana that are calling about Big Cat Weekend. I think that’s big. Obviously those things do nothing but open up doors for us.

The Star: With so many players interested, how do you keep it at a personal level?
TT: Even if 200 came, we make sure that we break the groups up into small enough groups. If it takes 10 groups or 20 groups, whatever it takes, we do that. Here’s what we’re not afraid of – spending time. We’ll go from 7 in the morning until midnight. That’s the thing you’d be amazed at is that we’ll work all the way up until that fine line where it says we can’t go any more.

To get it done, we’ll make sure that we do that. We don’t put a time limit on it. We say recruiting’s like shaving – if you don’t do it every day, it will show. We want to make sure that not only are we doing it, but we’re doing it right.

The Star: How do you stay cutting-edge without pushing the envelope?
Intentions. If you go out and say, ‘I know this rule is this way,’ and try to break that rule, that’s when you’re wrong. If you’re going out there and you’re not intentionally trying to break a rule or you’re just trying to get outside your box, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

I think there are a lot of companies out there doing that right now – that are brainstorming and trying to do things different because it’s really marketing. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to market the product that we have, which is Auburn. The good thing about it is it’s not something that’s hard to sell.

We love it. We all believe in it. We believe in the people that are here. That’s not a hard thing for us to do – go out and sell Auburn.

The Star: Based on last year, do you guys have to be more cognizant of the rules during Big Cat Weekend?
No, what we have to do is – now we understand the parameters. Those are the ones that we will work with because there’s a precedent that’s been set that these things can happen, these things can’t and that’s what we’ll abide by.

Before there wasn’t a precedent (referring to Toomer’s Corner).

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