Head coach Todd Berry has one signing class under his belt at ULM but the 2011 crop will be the first that he and his staff cultivated for an entire recruiting season.
ULM coaches have fanned out primarily across Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi to find the next wave of Warhawks.
“That’s going to be our footprint,” Berry said in an exclusive conversation with Warhawk Nation. “If we do well in those states, we’ll be competitive. Certainly we’re looking for kids who are a good fit. When players from those states come to ULM, they can see themselves as a good fit at the university and the community. You want kids who are happy with your offer and who will stay with you to build a team.”
Warhawk Nation has tracked down and interviewed 13 commitments and Berry said there are a few more that have not been reported. As for ULM’s remaining needs, Berry said offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers are at the top of the list. ULM needs to build quality depth at those positions.
“You need to have 16 or 17 offensive linemen on scholarship,” Berry said. “Last year we didn’t have nearly enough.”
While ULM has only a handful of known commitments from Louisiana, Berry said that isn’t from a lack of effort at home.
“We’ve been in every high school in the state of Louisiana,” he said. “We need to continue to build relationships and have that credibility.”
ULM targets players it wants to fill positions, makes the offers and accepts those that commit first.
“If we’ve got five offers for a position, we’d be happy with any one of the five,” Berry said. “But if there’s only one scholarship, the first guy who takes it gets it. We’ve had more kids out of state take those. But I think you’ll see those Louisiana numbers come up.”
Berry applies strict standards to any prospect that he invites to join the program, with an emphasis on talent, academics and character.
“Obviously, we want guys who are good players who have an opportunity to make an impact – hopefully early,” Berry said. “We try to find guys who have an opportunity to compete right away.”
That doesn’t mean ULM will opt for the quick fix of junior college players. In fact, Berry said he doubts ULM will sign any juco players this year.
“We want players who will grow up together and play for each other,” Berry said.
The finest athlete can’t contribute if he’s not qualified academically. Berry weeds out plenty of potential players simply because they aren’t serious about school.
“The first attribute we have to look at is for all our kids to be qualified,” Berry said. “We’re not going to go the other route for a number of reasons. We’re not in a position from a team standpoint to roll the dice.”
Even players who meet minimum NCAA or ULM standards may not make the cut. Those taking remedial courses that don’t count toward their percentages in college are already at risk with less room for error.
“For the long term health of the team,” Berry said, “we need guys to be successful.”
Recruiting is a two-way courtship under Berry.
“We want kids who want to be at ULM – all in,” Berry said. “If we’re the only scholarship offer they had or everybody fell off, my experience in those situations is not good. Their eye is always somewhere else. We want guys who will be a good fit. I tell kids, ‘show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.’”
Team culture is important and Berry likes the brewing chemistry he witnessed in 2010. Berry said he’s already walked out of the home of one recruit after seeing him disrespect his parents. It’s not the first time he’s done that either.
“I’m proud of this group,” he said. “I like this group and I like this team. I want to make sure we respect this team and bring in people who are a good fit.”