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USF linebackers coach Raymond Woodie was named top recruiter in the American Athletic Conference by Rivals.com, but he's not one to get caught up an individual accolades. Woodie would be the first to tell you that his success is all dependent on the people around him on the USF coaching staff and in the recruiting office.
We'll tell you about the personal success he had on the recruiting front though. Woodie, nicknamed by the Runningthebulls staff as "The Closer", was the lead recruiter for (give or take) 8 of the 28 USF signees for the 2014 class.
Two of those recruits were four star prospects, and this isn't the first time Woodie has been the lead recruiter for four-star prospects that have signed with USF. Derrick Calloway was a four-star in the 2013 class that flipped from Louisville to USF late in his recruitment.
Runningthebulls.com talked to Woodie about the 2014 class in this exclusive story.
Woodie primarily recruits the Fort Myers area, which is a talent-rich area that the Bulls have had success recruiting for years. Four of USF's signees are from that area.
"With Nate Allen (USF alum) and several other people that played in the Fort Myers area, you kind of want to steadily recruit the areas that when the program was very successful they had guys from," said Woodie. "When you go down there, they love South Florida. There are several guys (from USF) that lived in that area. Basically, I think they whole key is building relationships with the coach. They trust the program, trust you, and have great things to say about the head coach (Willie Taggart). That area is rich in talent and just being able to have success there when I was at Western Kentucky - now we're at South Florida and Coach Taggart said he wanted to recruit that area as well as the I-4 corridor. We recruit our home, and then we go out in different areas in the state of Florida and recruit the best student-athletes we possibly can recruit."
Woodie's relationships with Rivals250 running back D'Ernest Johnson and four-star athlete Jimmy Bayes was a main proponent that the Bulls landed the Immokalee duo.
"I love both of those kids, but Jimmy Bayes - he has a special love because he stayed committed ever since his junior year. People say about Immokalee how guys commit and decommit, but I can't say that's true with what Coach (Rich) Dombroski has brought to that program in so little time. He told me, 'hey coach you got a commitment from Jimmy and he's going to stay'."
"I think the key was staying on the committed kids. When they're committed, you have to stay on the even more - especially these four star players, in the All-American games, and had other schools recruiting him. It helped too that I'm the linebackers coach and that's the position that Jimmy plays. And like I said, just staying in contact with him though Facebook, Twitter - I think he really fell in love with the staff as well and we held on to him."
"His teammate, D'Ernest, he was committed to North Carolina for a long time. I knew him like I knew Jimmy when they were juniors. I had an opportunity to really talk with him and asked him if he would come up and visit (while he was still committed to UNC) and he actually came up and visited the campus. The next thing I knew, a week later, he decommitted from North Carolina. One thing is, you have to know all of the demographics - whether it's the mom, dad, grandmother, auntie, head coach, or the counselor. You have to know every single person that's involved in those kid's lives. It's a tight community down there at Immokalee - if you know one person, you know them all. I think Jimmy helped out as well, but when D'Ernest came up here he felt the loving atmosphere from the coaches. He said 'hey coach I'm going to make a decision on signing day' and he told us we were the leading school. That's how we pretty much landed D'ernest, because our staff was family oriented and I felt that as long as Jimmy was going stay committed, we were going to have a good shot at D'Ernest once he decommitted from North Carolina."
Bayes is projected to play outside linebacker at USF. Along with him, the Bulls are bringing in four more linebackers.
"Obviously Legrande Harley is a seasoned player because he's already played two years on a collegiate level and had some success. We're looking for him to come in and compete right away. Hopefully he can fill the void for our all-conference linebacker Dede Lattimore. We're expecting him to come in and play."
"Nick Holman, also a real solid linebacker. He's another one that can compete and play early as a freshman. I look at him as a guy like Nigel Harris who came in and started for us as a freshman. He's football savvy, smart, and he'll be able to make the calls. We went out and recruited guys who we felt that could come in and play right away - especially at the linebacker position."
"With Josh Black, a great defense player, an MVP in the Tampa Bay area - to do that, it says a lot about his ability."
"Juwuan Brown played on a winning program. He has so much ability. We don't even know where we're going to play him yet. He can play will, mike, and possibly at the sam. He looks like a man already. Hopefully he makes the transition easily from high school."
With the Bulls finishing with one of the best recruiting classes in school history after a 2-10, it puts the Bulls in great position for success in the future.
"That was huge. Coach Taggart always says 'it's not how you start, it's how you finish.' We wanted to finish on a great note going into the spring. We wanted to be able to feel really good about our chance to turn this program around. Coach Taggart knows what he wants and he knows how he's going to get there. For him to bring in a number one recruiting class in the conference - that doesn't surprise me. He's a blue collar worker."