Justin Fuente is in the middle of putting together his third recruiting class at the University of Memphis.
So far the Tigers have eight players committed for the class of 2014, none of which are from the junior college ranks. However, over the last two classes, Memphis has taken 14 JUCO players. Of course, Fuente didn’t have many options based on the roster he was handed in December of 2011.
“We didn’t have any choice when we first got here,” Fuente said. “In order to fill out a football team, we had to go to junior college. We’ve filled it with some good players. Antonio Foster has been a two-year starter for us, Anthony Brown has been a two-year starter and a very good player, so we’ll never wholesale the junior college ranks. But I think it is important that we do a good job and make sure that we evaluate everything we can in those areas and see if we can help our team. We’re not going to wholesale it, but we will continue to recruit the junior college ranks.”
The Tigers have had one of the strangest schedules in college football, playing just seven games in the first nine weeks, including a Wednesday night battle with Cincinnati last week. Despite the season ending late, Fuente believes that the schedule has actually helped them overall with recruiting.
Obviously recruiting gets all of the headlines in February, but there is plenty that goes on behind the scenes in preparation for the main signing period. The staff is hard at work 365 days a year.
“You better do it every day,” Fuente explained. “We have some sort of meeting or focus on it every single day. Recruiting never stops and never takes a break.”
Even though things haven’t gone their way so far in 2013, Fuente believes that recruits aren’t wavering due to the Tigers’ record. In his mind, players aren’t committed to Memphis because of what they have seen on the field in the past. For most recruits, it’s all about the future and the direction the program is headed.
“Is it easier if you are 10-0? Yeah, probably, but it’s up to us to sell where we are going and what we are doing,” Fuente said. “The opportunity here on the field with great support and an administration that is going to build us facilities and do things the right way, so we have a lot of things to sell.”
“There is an opportunity to play here early and a vision of what we are going to be offensively and defensively. There are a lot of good things out there for us to sell.”