Aligning the wall that faces Bryan Gasser’s desk in the University of Toledo football building is a book shelf containing hundreds of clear DVD cases. Inside exists an encyclopedia of footage featuring high school prospects of yesteryear.
The discs, many of them two or three years old, hold little value these days. DVDs, says Gasser — the behind-the-scenes architect of Toledo’s acclaimed recruiting class — are an outdated recruiting tool.
"They’re becoming a rare commodity anymore," Gasser said, noting the proliferation of Web sites allowing coaches to vet prospects with the click of a mouse.
Gasser, originally from Northwood and a Cardinal Stritch graduate, is a graduate assistant serving as Toledo’s acting director of high school relations. He assumes the role of gatekeeper, charged first among the coaches with viewing a player’s highlight footage. If the prospect shows potential, Gasser endorses him to a position coach. If the kid is a home run, Gasser bypasses all middle men and walks into the office of head coach Matt Campbell.
"Every kid in the state of Ohio has been watched by us," Gasser said.
About two weeks are left until the Feb. 6 signing day, and Toledo’s class of 18 sits atop the Mid-American Conference, according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com. If the Rockets maintain their edge, this will mark the fourth year in a row at least one of the sites recognizes Toledo’s haul as the best in the conference.
Gasser, who is in his second tour of duty at Toledo and coached the team’s tight ends last season, is responsible for multiple facets of recruiting, with the exception of, well, recruiting. Per NCAA rules, he and others around the country holding the title of director of high school relations are prohibited from hitting the road to visit prospects. He conducts his work in relative anonymity, reviewing high school transcripts, arranging eeeeeedinner plans for official visit weekends — recruits dined at Bruce Gradkowski’s new restaurant on Saturday — and inspecting more film than Roger Ebert. Gasser, 28, estimates between 150 and 200 emails containing links to highlight footage arrive in his inbox every day, and he watches all of them long enough to gauge the player’s ability.
The recruiting database Gasser built, which he stores on his computer, is color-coded to represent the team’s interest in a prospect. If Toledo has offered a scholarship, the player’s name will appear in yellow. Blue indicates a verbal commitment. Other colors used are green (potential mid-year enrollee), pink (academic concerns), red (film needs to be evaluated), and gray (a coveted prospect but a fallback option).
"He’s very organized," Ohio Northern coach Dean Paul said.
An all-state tight end at Cardinal Stritch, Gasser attended Ohio Northern, where he garnered All-Ohio Athletic Conference accolades for athletics and academics. Seared forever in his memory will be the day in October, 2005, that ONU ended Mount Union’s 110-game regular-season win streak. Campbell was Mount Union’s offensive coordinator, and Rockets offensive line coach Tom Manning was a senior for the Purple Raiders.
Gasser, who graduated with a business degree, stuck around the school for three seasons and coached the team’s tight ends and running backs. Among his biggest gets in recruiting was a defensive end from Indiana who received all-league accolades at ONU.
He left to enroll in a graduate program at ... "I’d care not to say," he said. Hint: The university’s initials are the same as Gasser’s.
"He could have done a number of things with the [grade-point average] he had, but he’s crazy enough to go into coaching," Paul said.
Campbell twice hired Gasser, in 2010 as an offensive graduate assistant, and again last year after Campbell was promoted to head coach. In between, Gasser spent one season as co-offensive coordinator at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio. The Falcons set program records in scoring, yards per game, and passing yards per game.
Gasser accepted his current role in August when former director of high school relations Chris Hauser left for the same position at Wisconsin. Gasser hopes to someday become a full-time coaching assistant, but in the meantime he is enjoying his involvement in the countdown to signing day.
"We’ve got a lot of special players in this class," he said.
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