‘Big people beat up little people’: How USC measures recruits
South Carolina football moved into a new operations building this month. The Gamecocks and much of the rest of the Power 5 in college football have been moving into a new era for years now.
As college programs take the next step toward mimicking NFL teams, Matt Lindsey is the face of a new era at USC. Lindsey, a 27-year-old who was born the same year USC head coach Will Muschamp was a freshman in college, is the Gamecocks’ director of player personnel.
Lindsey is the first player personnel director in South Carolina football history.
In fact, this month he was named the national player personnel director of the year by FootballScoop.com. The award has only existed for six years. The position itself has only really existed in college football for a little longer than that. It is akin to the NFL’s general manager position. Georgia Tech even calls their position “general manager” under new head coach Geoff Collins.
“It’s a thing that has come about in the last five, 10 years. It’s really started growing here recently,” Lindsey said. “It’s come a long way for sure and college personnel departments are trending more toward getting more synonymous with NFL teams. It’s not going to be tit for tat, but it’s going to be close here in the future.”
The role Lindsey fills, which primarily includes identifying and tracking high school players the Gamecocks should recruit, previously was handled almost exclusively by the team’s coaching staff. A job that didn’t exist in college football a decade ago, it now is the reality in most Top 25 and SEC programs. In August of last year, almost 200 college football personnel staffers gathered in Nashville for the first Personnel Symposium.
“That seems like it’s kind of the trend is having kind of a right hand person for the coach to defer to in personnel-related matters,” Lindsey said. “I think it’s good the industry is headed that way a little bit because you have so much you have to keep up with.”
Lindsey got to South Carolina the same way most people in the SEC got their jobs — by starting at Alabama. A “decent high school player but not a great high school player” in Tuscaloosa, Ala., he volunteered in the Crimson Tide’s recruiting office starting in his freshman year and spent four seasons helping Alabama start the type of personnel department that now is sweeping college football.
After college, Lindsey followed another Alabama wunderkind, Ed Marynowitz, to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he started as a scouting assistant and moved up to college scouting coordinator.
In 2017, Lindsey interviewed with Muschamp, who spoke the same recruiting language because of their shared background with Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.
“When I first met with Coach Muschamp that’s one of the things we talked about was having ideals for each position, having what we call critical factors that are position specific,” Lindsey said. “It’s what we are looking for at each spot and that’s something that Coach Saban had had and that the NFL highly covets.”
That’s why at all of their offseason camps, the Gamecocks measure a prospect’s height, weight, hand size and arm length and test them in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump and agility drills.
There are certain physical criteria at each position the Gamecocks are looking for, and those numbers are based on the average for the players at the same position on active NFL rosters.
“We have that split up by position so we know, ‘This is what a Will linebacker runs, this is what his hand size is, this is what his arm size is,’ ” Lindsey said. “We know those things, and that’s what we base our guys off of. We don’t want to fall below too many of these thresholds.”
When Muschamp says, as he does often, that he can tell South Carolina’s roster is better than it was when he inherited the program, it’s Lindsey’s numbers on which he’s basing that belief.
The players “have gotten bigger, but not only that, faster, longer, more explosive,” Lindsey said. “You look at a lot of our freshmen and sophomores right now, they are a lot bigger than a lot of their predecessors were. The way they are built, their arm length, you see a difference in guys like Jaycee Horn and Israel (Mukuamu). That’s where I think we are going to get better and more competitive is getting to be a bigger and more explosive team.
“Philosophically I think Coach Muschamp sees it the same way Coach Saban does: ‘Big people beat up little people.’ ”