Commentary | USF's Raymond Woodie earns respect as best in AAC

February 12, 2014 

TAMPA

They call him the closer.

Ray Woodie has proven when it comes to recruiting he knows how to finish what he started.

The USF assistant football coach was named American Athletic Conference recruiter of the year by Rivals.com. He was the Sun Belt Conference recruiter of the year in 2012.

Woodie primarily works the Tampa Bay area south through Manatee and Sarasota counties. Some would say he has a hometown advantage because he played for Palmetto and was its head coach after starting off his career as the Bayshore head coach.

All of that would be meaningless if Woodie wasn't being Woodie.

He says there is no magic. Honesty is the best policy in recruiting. If you don't believe in what you are selling, get out of the business.

Woodie is an energetic, high-intensity person who loves going into homes and sitting down for that all-important family dinner.

He is transparent and doesn't criticize other programs.

"You can't fool anybody these days. If you tell a kid and his parent something, it better be true because with social media they are going to find out," Woodie says. "We try to sell them on our program. We don't badmouth other programs. And we don't worry about other programs. Let them worry about us."

USF has the consensus best recruiting class in the AAC, and one major publication had the Bulls with the 39th-best class in the country. Some recruiting evaluation sites say this is the best class in USF's 17-year history.

"The bottom line is he is a closer. He is a type of guy who works hard and is very well-respected among the coaches in the 239 and 941 area code," said Rivals.com publisher Steve Berry. "He is the guy USF sent out to get the signature on the line. He has shown he has the ability to make things happen."

Woodie signed 12 players, including some he stole from the so-called

major powers and some who flipped at the last minute and came to the Bulls.

Two of his top recruits were ESPN four-star guys Immokalee linebacker Jimmy Bayes -- who was offered by Michigan, Missouri, Georgia Tech and Miami -- and receiver Ryeshene Bronson from Fort Myers Dunbar, who was offered by Florida, Auburn, FSU and Miami.

Some of his other 4-star recruits were Tampa Jesuit defensive end Vincent Jackson (ESPN) and Immokalee running back D'Ernest Johnson (Rivals).

He also signed Booker running back Marlon Mack (ESPN four stars), who originally committed to UCLA and was offered by Louisville, Nebraska and Purdue.

For the most part, the recruits want to know how fast they can get playing time, and parents want to know about their son getting a degree, Woodie says.

"I tell the parents we graduate 100 percent of the kids who want to graduate," Woodie says. "I tell the players that we recruit kids to come in and take the positions of the guys already there. You have to relate to all different levels. Before you go into a home, you should know the demographics of the people in there. If I go into a home I want it to be hard for the parent or guardian to say no."

Woodie never knows how long he will be in a home, but during some visits he stays more than four hours.

"Coming off a 2-10 season is hard because there are a lot of naysayers out there, but I don't worry about other colleges. They are going to say anything they can against you, but I don't say bad things about them," Woodie says. "At Western Kentucky, we were recruiting off an 0-26 season (streak) our first year, and two years later we had winning seasons and were bowl eligible. I say get on the bus. We are changing tires and not looking back."

Assistant coaches are allowed multiple visits, but head coaches get only one.

Willie Taggart, coming off his first year as USF head coach, wants to know everything about the recruit and his family before he enters the home. The former Manatee High quarterback doesn't believe in leaving anything to chance.

"Coach Taggart has to make every visit count and wants to know everything, like who is the deciding factor (in a family). We try to bring all the information to him and then he might say he wants more information," Woodie says.

A major coup for Woodie's was getting Kendall Stewart, a cornerback out of East Lee County High, who was offered by FSU, Miami and Louisville.

Homeless at 14, Sawyer had good reason not to believe in mankind. His mother died in a car accident when he was 18 months old, and his father was incarcerated.

Kendall lived anywhere he could find a place to bed down for the night.

He was eventually taken in by Peter and Carolyn Gooden.

Carolyn Gooden told Rivals that Woodie won the Goodens and Kendall over with his honesty and concern for academics and things outside of football and made them feel like he was part of the family.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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