BY DARREN REESE
SUN SPORTS EDITOR
Many things have changed in the 17 years head football coach Frankie DeBusk has been recruiting student athletes to Tusculum College.
No longer does he have to pour through stacks and stacks of VHS tapes that contained hours upon hours of game film.
Heck, this year he barely received any DVD's.
"I remember when I first started, we would get hundreds upon hundreds of VHS tapes," DeBusk said. "Then we went to DVDs. And to be honest, out of the thousands and thousands of videos we watched this year, I can't say we got more than 15-20 DVDs."
"It used to be where you would have to spend time developing a relationship with a high school coach before he would give you film on a player. And even though, he may not have time to make you copies right when you wanted them. Everything is so internet based now. We can put a kid's name in there and pull up video in no time."
The fast pace at which the world operates now has also changed the recruiting process.
Social media has changed the way both recruits and schools market themselves. Websites provide hyper-coverage of recruiting on a 24-7-365 basis. Type in the name of basically any college prospect on YouTube or Hudl and you will have a wealth of visual evidence at your fingertips.
Coaches can now compile target lists much larger than they could before the days of the internet.
It's a lot for the NCAA to keep up with.
"Everything just moves at a much faster pace," DeBusk said. "It's the world we live in, and recruiting is no different."
"It used to be, as a coach, you didn't want highlight films. You wanted game film so you could sit and study everything about a particular recruit. Now a days, you better have a highlight film, and you better be able to catch a coach's eye within five or six snaps so he'll keep on looking at it. Some of the highlight films we see, kids have made their own. We just have a chance to watch so many more kids this way."
But one thing that hasn't changed over the past two decades is the excitement DeBusk gets every first week of February when he and his coaching staff watch the signatures roll in and a new class of future Pioneers begins to take shape.
Tusculum announced its initial list of 41 commitments late Wednesday as football players across the country signed their letters of intent to signify where they would continue their playing careers at the next level.
"You put a lot into this, especially the assistant coaches, and when it's all over, you feel good about what you have accomplished," DeBusk said.
"Our coaches spend so many nights on the road, sleeping in hotel rooms, visiting high schools. When you get those kids to sign, you just celebrate. It's jubilation."
Almost every football coach in the country is optimistic after National Signing Day and DeBusk is no different.
"No one is going to tell you they don't feel good about it," DeBusk said. "That's the nature of the beast."
"We lost some guys at the end, we got some guys at the end, but overall we feel good about our class. There is always room for another special player here and there, but we are excited about the guys we brought in."
Two areas DeBusk and his staff wanted to specifically address with this year's class was the linebacker position and overall team speed.
They brought in no less than 10 players who played linebacker in high school.
One of the ones that DeBusk is most excited about is Greeneville High School senior D.J. Haney.
Haney transferred to GHS from Cocke County prior to the 2013 season. At 6-feet, 240 lbs, he figured to be a bruising power back for the Devils.
His season was cut drastically short, though, when he suffered a knee injury in the first half of Greeneville's season opener at Morristown West.
"People will think I'm just saying this because I'm from Greeneville, but I am looking forward to having D.J. Haney on our team," DeBusk said. "We took a chance on him with his injury."
"You sign high school kids and they're just not physically ready to play college football. You want to get them in your weight program and get them bigger, stronger, faster. D.J. is physically gifted enough to play college football right now."
"I only had fall camp footage on him, but I'm telling you, I really think he can be a special football player in time. We are leaning more toward playing him at linebacker, just because our numbers are down there, where as running back we have a lot of talented young guys coming back."
One of the most glaring holes on the Pioneers' depth chart entering 2014 is the quarterback position, as gone will be Bo Cordell, who graduated as the NCAA Division II career record holder for passing yards.
DeBusk has a couple of talented signal callers returning from last year's roster, but he added a couple of newcomers to the mix, including Sevier County product Luke Manning.
Manning threw for 5,719 yards and 63 touchdowns during his prep career while earning 2013 All-State honors at the Class 6A level.
"He's done nothing but win," DeBusk said.
Tusculum is coming off a 4-7 season and hasn't had a winning record since 2010.
DeBusk is hoping this new crop of talent can mix with what will be a senior-laden roster next year to get the Pioneers back on track.
"There's no question, the last three years haven't been anywhere near where I expect us to be," the coach said.
"I'm always a glass-half-full kind of guy. We've got 25 seniors right now in our offseason program, and the last time we had anywhere close to that was our 2008 team that made it to the second round of the playoffs."
"I'm really banking on those guys stepping up and being the leaders we need them to be. We have to be better than we have been, bottom line."