‘Football is football.’ How these two Division II programs find success in recruiting.

Saint Augustine’s Tim Chavous and Shaw’s Adrian Jones both rave about the recruiting success they had this spring.

The two Raleigh private schools are 1.8 miles apart, both are just outside the main downtown area and neither have recruiting budgets like the ACC schools that dominate the Triangle. But their recruiting formula has worked lately, especially when it comes to bringing in players from Wake, Orange, Franklin and Johnston counties.

For Chavous, entering his fifth season as head coach of the Falcons, it means building or mending relationships with as many local high school coaches as possible. Especially those who think St. Aug’s has overlooked their players.

For Jones, recruiting comes down to getting kids on campus for visits and letting the school sell itself.

Not intimidated by Division I

Both coaches go after athletes who don’t get picked up by Division I schools or those they think they can sway to play Division II.

“Just letting the kids know that everybody who has DI dreams and can’t go DI,” Chavous told The News & Observer Saturday at the BOXTOROW Countdown to Kickoff event in Durham. “You don’t have to go to junior college. So it’s a situation, having that relationship with that kid letting him know you can start for me right now, or you can go to N.C. State and be a seventh string running back.”

Building relationships is important, and Jones says he isn’t intimidated by offers from Division I programs. A player can have offers from other programs, but Jones says if he likes the player, he’ll make an offer, too.

Often, Jones won’t land a player until later in the recruiting process when that player’s other offers don’t work out. A lot of times, Jones said, the player remembers Shaw showing early interest, and will decide to go there so they can play right away.

It worked that way this summer with Southern Durham running back Taron Beauford. The three-star prospect had committed to Scottie Montgomery and East Carolina, but decided to look for another school when Montgomery was fired late last season. Beauford ended up committing to Shaw and Jones, who is from Durham and led Southern Durham to a state title as head coach in 2013.

“In Division II football it’s all about bringing in guys who don’t belong in your program,” Jones said. “That’s what makes your program successful.”

A simple pitch

In his second season, Jones led the Bears to a 4-3 record in league play, and came one game shy of making it to the CIAA title game. That success hasn’t gone unnoticed with local recruits.

Jones said when he was hired in 2016, he focused on recruiting out of state because CIAA foes like Fayetteville State and Winston-Salem State were winning the in-state recruiting battles. Those schools have more to show off - including on-campus stadiums - so players were flocking to those programs.

But that’s not the case anymore. Jones recruits in the surrounding areas and is able to compete with other CIAA school for players. He has a strong grip on Durham County, where he grew up, and played college football, then coached at N.C. Central. Jones, a strong recruiter for the Eagles, says his favorite part of the job is being on the road recruiting players.

Jones admits Shaw doesn’t have the “bells and whistles” of other programs, but he said once players get on campus and meet the coaches and current players, they fall in love with the place. Plus, he has a simple pitch.

“Football is football all the way across America,” Jones said. “They (bigger programs) put their shoes on just like we do, they have a little bit more stuff but at the end of the day we care. It’s a smaller classroom, it’s a lot easier to sit in a room where the teacher actually knows you. If you’re at a bigger school, you’re a social security number, that’s big. When the kids get here they love it and we love the kids.”

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Building relationships

When Chavous was an assistant coach at St. Aug’s, he urged that staff to focus on recruiting in Wake County, but other coaches insisted on recruiting outside the state. When he was hired as head coach, he hired assistants who had coached high school football in North Carolina as a way to create a relationship with local high schools.

“That helped tremendously from having the trust from those coaches and their parents,” Chavous said. “They’ve built a trust, so it’s easier to recruit.”

Chavous has host free camps and 7-on-7 leagues at St. Aug’s, as a way to show local high school players and coaches what their program is about. Jones said this spring was one of his best when it came to bringing in local players.

“The last five years I’ve been head coach we’ve added 10-20 Wake County kids on our team and they are making All-CIAA,” Chavous said. “That’s helping recruit right in my backyard.”

Of course that means Jones and Chavous will go head-to-head when it comes to tracking local talent, but both coaches agree there is more than enough talent to go around.

“I tell you what, I’m from Florida” Chavous, who played football at Bethune-Cookman said. “North Carolina is known as a basketball state, but there is some great talent here. I’ve been here 17 years and there is some great talent.”

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.