In his seven seasons as Georgia Tech's football coach, Bill Curry talked to recruits about restoring a tradition. In his three seasons at Alabama, Curry's pitch was about building on tradition.
Now, seven months into his job as the first coach in Georgia State history, he is seeking players who want to start a tradition.
Curry's collection of inaugural Georgia State signees next month will be his first since quarterback Tim Couch headlined his seventh and final class at Kentucky in 1996. The Panthers do not play until 2010, when they will be an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) independent for two years before joining the Colonial Athletic Association.
"The thing that I thought would be the biggest problem of all is the fact we're not going to be playing a game this year," Curry said. "I'm thinking, 'Who wants to practice football for a year without playing a game?' But my staff pointed out that if they go to another program right now, they're almost certain to be redshirted, and if they're redshirted, they're either going to be holding a dummy or they're going to be a dummy - I was both of those at Georgia Tech for three years.
"If they come to Georgia State, they will be with the varsity coaches being coached every day. They're going to improve so much over this next year, because they're going to be getting individual attention every day. They have bought into that."
Georgia State's strategy to blanket the Peach State and target spots in Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee has yielded 26 commitments (none from the Chattanooga area) with three weeks remaining until National Signing Day.
Curry, 66, was hired last June to a five-year contract and was named interim athletic director earlier this month. He had worked as an ESPN analyst the previous 11 years, with the last two overlapping with his developing the Leadership Baylor program at Baylor School.
Returning to the recruiting aspect of coaching has been a pleasant surprise.
"What hasn't changed in recruiting is that the most important component is the personal relationships that you form," Curry said. "I've always enjoyed that part, and with the assistant coaches that we have, many of us have been able to build on relationships that many of us already had. It is my home territory, and I have never gotten out of football. I've been in it every year since junior high."
Staff hires made by Curry include offensive coordinator John Bond, who had the same job with Georgia Tech in 2007, and defensive coordinator John Thompson, the former East Carolina head coach who also had stints as defensive coordinator at Arkansas, Florida and Ole Miss. George Pugh, who played tight end at Alabama in 1972-75 and coached receivers at UTC in '78-79, is the recruiting coordinator.
Drew Little, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback from McDonough, Ga., received the first scholarship offer from GSU and committed in November. Travis Evans, a 5-10, 180-pound tailback from Williston, Fla., who rushed for 1,662 yards this past season, committed in December.
Mark Hogan, a 5-11, 190-pound receiver from Matthews, N.C., became GSU's first enrollee earlier this month. Hogan is the son of Mark Hogan Sr., who was a starting safety for Curry's Yellow Jackets in 1985, when they went 9-2-1 and defeated Michigan State in the All-American Bowl.
"I had heard a lot of stories from my father about what a great coach and great person he is," Hogan said. "My father was fortunate to be part of a special team at Georgia Tech, and now I have a chance to do that at Georgia State. This is a unique situation."