Figuring Out Matt Wells’ Recruiting Philosophy

We take a dive into what Matt Wells’ brings to recruiting and what impact he might have at Texas Tech.

Over the past six years, we saw the ups and downs from Kliff Kingsbury’s recruiting classes. We saw classes range from the early 30’s to the as low as the early 70’s, from it’s peak in 2015 to it’s lowest point last season. We also saw a change on what types of players he recruits as far as stars, size and location.

Now it’s a new era. Matt Wells of Utah State has taken over the reigns as the next head coach of Texas Tech. With him comes new recruiting philosophies, new assistants and new ways to get recruits. Keith and Brian talked a little about recruiting last Friday, but were going to go more in depth on it today.

Before a dive deep into Matt Wells’ recruiting, let’s take a look at what Kingsbury accomplished here at Texas Tech. I listed 247sports’, then Rivals’ info:

2014 (8-5 in 2013) 2015 (4-8 in 2014) 2016 (7-6 in 2015) 2017 (5-7 in 2016) 2018 (6-7 in 2017) 2019 (5-7 in 2018) Overall
Commits 24 19 25 19 22 19 21.33
Avg Rating 0.8408 / 2.81 0.8579 / 2.7 0.8400 / 2.96 0.8484 / 2.64 0.8376 / 2.76 0.8482 / 2.84 0.8455 / 2.79
Class Rank 40 / 43 32 / 40 44 / 44 49 / 47 72 / 73 42 / 37 46.5 / 47.33
Big 12 Rank 6 / 5 3 / 6 6 / 5 6 / 7 10 / 10 6 / 5 6.16 / 6.33

Now here’s Matt Wells’ accomplishments at Utah State. Should also be noted Air Force is in the Mountain West, and their recruiting class is inflated because they always have an extremely large class:

2014 (9-5 in 2013) 2015 (10-4 in 2014) 2016 (6-7 in 2015) 2017 (3-9 in 2016) 2018 (6-7 in 2017) 2019 (10-2 in 2018) Overall
Commits 26 17 19 / 27 19 / 23 21 / 21 14 / 13 19.33 / 21
Avg Rating 0.7553 0.7966 0.8006 / 1.81 0.7899 / 2.04 0.7880 / 2.14 0.8098 / 2.06 0.7900 / 2.01
Class Rank 111 96 92 104 109 82 / 92 99 / 92
MWC Rank (12 teams) 9 5 8 / 11 9 / 7 9 / 7 2 / 3 7 / 7

Noticing Trends

Looking at the recruiting classes both head coaches had the past six years. you start to see some notable trends regarding their overall records and recruiting classes. Kingsbury got off to a hot start, but started to regress after the 4-8 season before finally seeing an upward trend before being dismissed.

Matt Wells actually saw a similar pattern at Utah State. He didn’t start off well his first year, but saw increases in classes in 2015 and 2016. Then came his first losing season and the recruiting started to regress like his record. However, in the middle of a 10-2 season, he had his highest class despite the least amount of recruits.

Of course this makes sense, because there’s no question that recruiting and winning almost always correlate with programs that don’t quite have the prestige of a Michigan or Alabama. Both also finished around the middle of the pack in their conference as far as recruiting goes.

Here’s the difference. Texas Tech has seen some successful recruiting class among the national ranks during the Leach era, along with the first couple years in the Tuberville era and early in the Kingsbury era. Matt Wells did something no one at Utah State has ever done.

His last recruiting class was the highest in 247sports history according to Brian Phillips of 247sports. Now given the site hasn’t been around terribly long, Utah State historically has been a hard place to recruit and Wells has turned them to an average recruiting school in the Mountain West.

So I don’t think he’s a bad recruiter like maybe some people think, he just has a tough place to recruit at. He’ll have an easier time at Texas Tech with top facilities, playing in a major conference and tapping into the Texas High School Football scene. Speaking of which…

Location Of Recruits

At Utah State, Matt Wells had only a handful of recruits from the state of Texas. But don’t worry about that. First off all, if you were a recruit in the Austin, Dallas or Houston area, would you want to go to a small school in Utah? No offense to them, but I don’t know many kids that would want to go to a state far away in the Mountain West area.

Secondly, he is a well respected coach who has recruited in Texas (despite not winning a ton of battles) and does it the right way. The high school football coaches in Texas will respect that. In fact, Rivals released a story on quotes about his recruiting and there were a lot of good things said.

Not only that, but there are going to be some Texas ties on the staff despite Wells himself not being from Texas. Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson was an assistant at Texas powerhouse Allen High School about four years. Special Teams Coach Mark Tommerdahl coached at TCU and Texas A&M for seven years.

Wells had plenty of commits from Utah when he was coaching at Utah State, and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing with the state of Texas. He said he’s going to bring in coaches with Texas ties and will recruit the state hard.

Recruiting Quotes From Media Outlets

Here’s from the previous story above about how Wells is as a recruiter. Basically saying if his assistants can get them on campus, he can convince them to commit:

He is a pretty good closer. Coach Wells has always said that if he can get a recruits parents on campus on an official visit, to see his program, how he runs his program and see what the school has to offer, he feels like he can sign just about anyone. Parents seem to like his nonsense approach to their child’s education and what he can provide them in terms of athletic opportunities as well.

Also mentioned above, Matt Clare of Rivals did a good job collecting (anonymous) quotes on the respect Wells gets around Texas. You should click on the link to see them all, but here’s two good ones:

He has always been great, his brother (Luke) is awesome. He has done a tremendous job of recruiting Texas, particularly the DFW area. He is very well respected in DFW by coaches. They create a very great family atmosphere and he should do very well at Texas Tech.

Wells is damn good. He did not have many resources at Utah State and he found ways to win and get players there. A bunch of coaches that I know on that level respect him and said it’s a good fit for everyone involved. Coach and other Athletic Directors know that Kirby made a damn good hire!

Recruiting Quotes From Press Conferences

When I was writing this, I had yet to listen to the introduction press conference from Wells and his new assistants, so I’m going off the transcript from Well’s press conference.

First we have quotes from Kirby Hocutt’s announcement of Coach Wells, starting with a question about Texas recruiting:

He is putting together a staff that has tremendous Texas ties. He understands Texas, how important Texas HS football is, how important it is to have men on this staff that know Texas HS football and has those relationships. He’s recruited the state of Texas. He told me this afternoon that he’s been getting text messages from HS coaches around the state, congratulating him and welcoming him

Then, from the man himself, we have Matt Wells on hiring guys with Texas recruiting backgrounds:

It’s just rekindling those relationships. A lot of guys on the staff that I’m going to hire have extensive Texas recruiting backgrounds. I can’t wait to strengthen and restrengthen really those relationships because that’s the lifeblood of this program, is recruiting. Whether it’s Texas high schools, junior colleges, I’m going to say those guys listen and thank you, texts and calls, like some of our coaches have already had. This is a special group of high schools and coaches that coach them up, they coach them hard, love them hard, what we do, and they strain. Usually when they get to a big-time college program, they already get it. I can’t wait to dive right in.

Next, we have Wells talking about his key to recruiting success:

You know what, recruiting is about relationships. It’s not the hometown you grew up in. Trust me on that one. It’s time spent. These guys want to know that you care first, then they want to know are you going to offer my kid, are you going to recruit my kid. Just like players, people are like that. They don’t care what you know till they know how much you care.

Recruiting is about relationships. Trust me, I’ve already had a lot of people reach out. That’s what fires me up, is because the opportunity to recruit this state, the respect that I have for this state, for the Texas high school coaches and the junior college coaches. Honestly, it’s second to none here.

Wells on when he plans to hit the recruiting trail:

Quick. But I’m not going to rush it. The number one most important thing right here at the very beginning is these guys, the ones in your locker room. They’re the most important ones. We’ll always take care of in-house. Our guys in our locker room are most important. The ones that are committed are absolutely probably 1B, all right? We’ll get going quick, but we’re not going to rush it. The high school coaches that I’ve talked to, they know we’ll be out by mid to a week or so.

Matt Wells on how he plans to retain commits:

I think the biggest thing is you’re going to have to — first of all, we’re going to have to get to know them, they’re going to have to get to know us. If that’s a relationship that wants to continue once we figure each other out, then absolutely let’s roll.

I just think it’s about getting out and knowing them. Obviously I’ve already taken a peek at them. There’s some guys we already know about, some guys that we already tried to recruit. There’s some relationships actually that some of my guys on my staff already have with those guys.

My Take On The Hire

I want this is be a recruiting post, but I feel like I should share my two cents since I’ve only had one post in the past three weeks or so.

Seth was on top of this like he always has, Keith and Brian did just an absolutely amazing job on breaking it down, and your 23 Personnel Podcast crew of Spencer and Michael did a full recap episode of the hire. Meanwhile DanSwany has gone full basketball mode (and partially anarchist in our staff chats).

So when I first heard that Wells was hired, I wasn’t terribly excited. I was by no means upset about the hire, but he wasn’t my first choice. A lot excited me, like his successful offenses, his three winning records at Utah State and his two time MWC coach of the year awards.

However, a lot also conference me, like the fact he had three straight losing season in a non-Power 5 conference, the fact he wasn’t a defensive coach (I like defense) and the lack of presumed Texas recruiting knowledge.

But then I started to think and come around the hire hire. First off, Kirby Hocutt didn’t just pick the most popular guy like North Carolina or Kansas seemed to do. He’s been successful with other sports and is highly paid for a reason. He did his research and found the guy he thought was the best for the position.

Secondly, the more I head about Wells, the more I started to like. It started with his speeches he gave to the team and the little bit I heard during the press conference. He is a smart individual who also cares and is invested in whatever he’s doing, who preaches a team first mentality, but also cares about his players well being. Not only that, but he’s bringing to two damn good assistants.

Finally, we sold me over was the offense he’s bringing over with the use of the tight end. I absolutely love tight ends and thought for the longest time (until Gronkowski, Kelce and Graham took over the NFL) that they were under utilized. They can bring so many problems for opposing defenses.

If you have a good tight end, which I’m sure they’ll find, there will be a lot of problems for the defense. Have five defensive back? But him in the backfield and pound the rock. Got multiple linebackers? Spread him out and create an instant mismatch. Looks like they’re bringing the heat? Move him inside to help protect the quarterback.

It allows you to not only be able to move at a face paced offense when needed, but also allows to be able to slow down and wear out the opponent as well. It’s hard to tell what the opposing offense is thinking when a talented tight end is on the field.

I came to Texas Tech in August 2013. Not much will beat my excitement when Chris Beard was hired, but looking at the hire almost a week later, I’m pretty excited to see this next era of Texas Tech football (of course after basketball and baseball light up the NCAA once again). I’m pumped. Let’s do this.



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