AIKEN - Recruiting is never an easy task. It's a cutthroat business full of fierce competition, the travel required is tough on the coaches, and figuring out what it will take to impress a 17- or 18-year-old is an inexact science.
Speaking at this week's Aiken County Gamecock Club meeting, South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing explained a new hurdle has made the job even tougher: the Internet.
Recruiting services such as Scout.com and Rivals.com have put recruiting in the spotlight, and team sites such as GamecockAnthem.com, GamecockCentral.com and TheBigSpur.com give fans a place to discuss their opinions on every aspect of Gamecock athletics.
Although the websites are great at helping to generate buzz, they can also play a negative role when fans use the forums to vent their frustrations.
"We don't read it as coaches, but recruits do," Lawing said. "You can really damage our chances with recruiting when you start bashing a kid on the Internet."
Lawing, who has been at USC for 15 years, went back to this past recruiting class for an example. He said when a potential recruit mentioned Clemson as a possible destination, USC fans criticized the prospect and the recruit was offended by their comments.
"He went the other way in about two days," Lawing said. "We spend probably half our time in recruiting doing damage control because of what our Internet people do."
Sometimes the information can be accurate, Lawing remembered an occasion where he was driving to Spartanburg. About halfway through his journey, a report came over the radio stating that a USC assistant was almost to Clinton on his way to Spartanburg.
"I was looking to see if there was a dang helicopter above me or something," said Lawing, who is in the fifth year of his second stint in Columbia.
Other times, the information is completely fabricated. Lawing relayed an incident this past winter while the USC staff was recruiting Byrnes running back Marcus Lattimore.
With about two weeks left before Signing Day, Lattimore and his family stopped communication with the media. Lawing was in the Lattimore home with USC running backs coach Jay Graham when Lattimore's mother, Yolanda, heard her phone ring. She did not answer the call and went on visiting with the coaches.
A few minutes later, the group saw an online report from a writer who claimed he had spoken to Mrs. Lattimore and gave the details of what was said in that conversation.
"Somebody just made it up," Lawing said. "A lot of times that's how that stuff goes."