Click to Listen to Interview - Hosted by CFI Founder Daniel Mogollon
How much has recruiting changed over the years?
Bowden: It’s changed. I’ve been in coaching now 55 years, and you can imagine the changes that I’ve seen in five decades. When I first started coaching boys played both ways, you’d only need about 33 kids; that would be three teams (with today's rosters). Also, back in those days you didn’t recruit specialists, you just asked your kids, “Hey boys can anybody punt? Can anybody kick off?” because you didn’t have scholarships to take care of specialists. Well now it’s the other way around, you got specialists for everything. You got specialist catchers, specialist throwers, specialist receivers, specialist kickers, specialist punters, specialist pass rushers, so it’s really gotten more sophisticated down through the years and it’s a lot more competitive.
Are we any better at it? With all the information that is now available, are we any better at identifying the top players coming out of high school?
Bowden: I don’t know, but that’s the key to it, just what you said - it’s the evaluation. I think the reason we’ve dropped off the last five or six years is we have not done as good a job evaluating talent. Here’s what I mean by that: if you start trying to recruit off of the newspapers or off of the press and you go after all of the five-star guys and four-stars and all that, you can get yourself in trouble. You better evaluate them and see who can do the best in your program. I think we're doing a better job right now, the last couple of years, of evaluating prospects because that is a key.
Are you talking about guys like Fred Rouse (five-star) and a player like Rodney Hudson (three-star)?
Bowden: Coach (Rick) Trickett, who coaches our offensive line, I remember the first year he came here we had a five-star offensive lineman committed and he came in and said “I just don’t want that kid. I don’t want him, he doesn’t play hard. Give me those three-stars and I’ll make five-stars out of them.” He wants a hungrier football player. That’s not to say that all five-stars are that way, but it can be misleading.
What do you dislike the most about the direction recruiting has headed?
Bowden: I think it’s the kids making verbal commitments and then changing their minds, and I don’t blame it on the kid. I really wish we didn’t have verbal commitments; you’re putting too much pressure on a 17-year old. He’s getting recruited by men who are 35, 40, 50, 60 years of age and they’re so much more mature than he is and they can talk him into anything. I just really wish we didn’t have verbal commitments, now they can make a quiet commitment but not announce it and then just get it out on signing day, but that’s one thing that kind of gets you.
Does it scare you when you hear of 15-year olds making verbal commitments and all-star games for junior high kids before they even get to high school?
Bowden: Boy isn’t that something? That is something. In my generation we can’t understand that, we don’t believe that’s good.
Bowden: What does a kid know when he’s 15? He’s going to know a lot more when he’s 17 or 18, and he might change his mind completely. I think the later you can put it off, the better.
How do you feel about your 2009 recruiting class, ranked sixth by Rivals.com?
Bowden: Well, I kid about that. Have you ever heard a coach say they had a bad recruiting year? Have you ever heard a coach say 'boy, we had a terrible recruiting year'? I feel we had a good year and you do because you’re picking up anywhere from 20-25 new guys and it’s got to be good. The question is - what are they going to do two years from now? You nearly have to wait two years before you can really say, “Oh man they were as good as they said they were or they were better than they said they were.”
What can you tell us about defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel and cornerback Greg Reid – a pair of five-star recruits – are they expected to contribute right away?
Bowden: Yes I do. In fact, we’re going to ask them to contribute right away. They are deserving to be named a five-star, whatever that means. As long they come in and work hard and give it everything they’ve got, we definitely think they have the talent to play for us next year, but we got some three stars and whatever else they star down there that we think can play too.
Who is the one that got away?
Bowden: As long as I’ve been coaching I can name a whole bunch of them. Nobody gets everybody they want, what you hope to do is get your share. Now you take down here in the state of Florida, you’ve got 150 kids signing 1A scholarships. That’s 150; I can’t sign but 20, Florida cant sign but 20, Miami cant sign but 20, that’s 60 kids so where are the other 90 going to go? So we select what we think is the best, that’s why I say evaluation is so important. But you don’t know; that kid that you turned down might end up greater because he’s only 17 years old. He might grow three more inches, he might gain 50 pounds and end up faster and stronger and beat you. Do you remember Tony Dorsett?
Bowden: Well, I remember trying to recruit him when I was at West Virginia. Instead, he went to Pitt and we had to play against him every year and he was just unstoppable.
That’s funny that you mention him going to a rival cause when I spoke to your former coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Richt, his guy was actually Danny Wuerffel. He went to Florida and played against you guys...
Bowden: We tried to recruit Danny. That year there were three quarterbacks we had pin-pointed and we knew we would only get but one. One was Wuerffel, one was , and the other was a kid up in Minnesota who was real good, I forget his name right now. But anyway, we got Kannel because he committed to us first, then Wuerffel committed to Florida, the other kid I think went to Miami. Kannel did a great job for us, but Wuerffel did a super job in Florida.
Does luck ever play into this? You lose a kid you really want, but the kid you replace him with actually turns out better...
Bowden: Oh yeah there’s no doubt about it. You get surprises. Let me tell you a pretty good surprise. I don’t if you’re familiar with Gregg Carr.
Yes, the wide receiver who’s a senior, just graduated.
Bowden: Yes he’s a senior this year. Greg came from North Marion High School and he was kind of a late pick-up for us. We kind of took a chance on him; I don’t know how many other offers he had, I’m sure he had others. So we got him and then when we got him we just thought he would be a down-the-liner, but he came in and started his first year; he started every year for us. That’s why I say you’re just not sure how much they’re going to grow, how fast they’re going to get, or how big they’re going to get, or how bad they want it and all those things factor in.
Brett Favre, whose most famous college victory was probably against Florida St., wasn’t a highly touted player coming out of high school. Do you have any thoughts on Favre and his place in the history of the game now that he’s officially retired?
Bowden: There’s a great example right there. There’s a great example of a young man that probably wasn’t highly recruited. He didn’t go to Ole Miss, he didn’t go to Mississippi State, he didn’t go to Alabama, Auburn, LSU; he went to Southern Mississippi, which is an excellent school, but not in the SEC or ACC or the big conferences. We played against him as a freshman, I'll never forget that. He started as a freshman against us and we beat him pretty good, I think we might have beaten him by 40 points or something like that. The next year we didn’t play them; then the next year we opened the season with them over in Jacksonville and they beat us. We would have won the national championship that year because we beat Miami that year and Miami ended up winning the national championship. If we would have beat Southern Miss. we probably would have won the national championship, but Brett Favre just cut us to pieces. But don’t forget he also beat Alabama and he also beat Auburn that year, he was just a great quarterback.
How does Everette Brown compare to guys like Andre Wadsworth and Peter Boulware?
Bowden: I think he’d be close to those guys. Andre was so much bigger. Andre was about 6’5’’ 285 lbs. and ran a 4.6 40 and I think he was about the 5th or 6th guy taken in the draft. Brown would be very much like Boulware, very quick and very fast. It will be interesting to see because Boulware was rookie of the year when he came out. The thing about Brown is he has already graduated and if you can go that high and you already got your degree, you nearly have to come out.
Where do you think he will play at the next level? Could he move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme like Boulware did?
Bowden: That remains to be seen. I do believe this: with Brown’s character — he's very dependable, very honest, just a good kid with a great desire - he’s probably got those intangibles that will somehow make it.
Was Deion Sanders the best player you ever coached?
Bowden: I think he’s the best athlete I ever coached, but you throw in Charlie Ward and Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks and they played great too. But I definitely think Deion is the best athlete we’ve ever had.
Was Myron Rolle the brightest player you’ve ever coached?
Bowden: I don’t know anybody you’d put ahead on him, but we’ve had quite a few academic All-Americans here. Myron graduated in two and a half years and won the Rhodes Scholar and what a great thing that was. Our quarterback (Christian Ponder) this year graduated in two and a half years, he was only a sophomore and he had already graduated so he’s got pretty good academic potential also. But Myron was exceptional.
Which player made you say dag-gummet the most?
Bowden: Maybe Sammy Smith that we had back in the late 80’s. Great football player, but every now and then he’d lay that ball down and I’m sure I’d say dag-gummet.
Photo Credit: Florida St. University