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May 8, 2013

Recruits react to Fleck's approach

Reaction to P.J. Fleck's recruiting approach, which is decidedly different than what has been seen in Kalamazoo in recent years, has been somewhat mixed thus far in his short tenure.

While it's certainly difficult to deny his effectiveness so far in putting together an impressive class of 2014, the first-year head coach took some flak in the Indianapolis Star for declining to honor all the scholarships offered by the previous coaching staff, a practice that is not uncommon.

A major problem with the Star story was the presence of a couple of glaring inaccuracies dealing with the recruitment of eventual Eastern Michigan signees Deshai Powell and Derrick Dunlap, both of whom were already committed to EMU weeks before P.J. Fleck was even hired at WMU. The mistakes were later removed from the story.

Nonetheless, some fans have levied criticism towards Fleck following the article. To get a better idea of how recruits view the new Bronco head man, BroncoBlitz.com went straight to the source: current WMU targets.

RB Aaron Duckworth (Orange Park, Fla.)

Duckworth was one of the first to hear from Fleck when the current contact period began, getting a call at around 12:30am on April 15.

"I was asleep when he called. I saw the caller ID said 'Coach Fleck' and I thought I was dreaming," Duckworth said.

Although the 5-foot-9, 200 pound back is from far-away Florida, he still has paid plenty of attention to Fleck's sometimes unorthodox techniques back in Kalamazoo.

"He started making duck sounds because of my last name," Duckworth laughed, recalling his first conversation with Fleck. He's very outgoing. I saw pictures of him jumping in a lake."

ATH Ladarian Smiley (Monticello, Fla.)

Another Florida prospect, Smiley verbally committed to WMU shortly after four-star prospect Chance Stewart came on board. While Stewart had a lot to do with Smiley's decision, it wouldn't have been possible without his relationship with Fleck, either.

"He coached in the NFL, he's got connections. He really loves football, that's the main thing. I put my trust in him. I haven't even met the guy yet," Smiley said.

OL Kirk Barron (Mishawaka, Ind.)

Barron is a three-star lineman, and while he doesn't yet have an offer from WMU, the way he talks about Fleck and the program makes it sound like the Broncos would be very much in the running as soon as the offer was extended.

"Wow. Those are my thoughts on Coach Fleck. I think the most impressive thing about Coach Fleck is his confidence in himself and his personal beliefs and his belief in the Kalamazoo Community. He is an impressive guy period. [Fleck] is a great guy and I really love his approach," Barron said.

OL Chukwuma Okorafor (Southfield, Mich.)

The 6-foot-5, 270 pound Okorafor committed much earlier than he expected to when he pledged to WMU in early April. While he says he still may look at a couple of other schools, his main reason for choosing the Broncos was the attitude of the coaching staff.

"They have a good coaching staff who will really care about you. I've been in contact with coach [Vinson] Reynolds, coach Fleck and coach [Brian] Callahan. I really like coach Fleck," Okorafor told BroncoBlitz shortly after committing.

OL Jordan Van Dort (Zeeland, Mich.)

One of six 2014 commitments already from the state of Michigan, Van Dort was recently given a 5.4 (high two star) Rivals Rating.

As many recruits have said of late, Van Dort named the coaching staff as his main reason for thinking so highly of the WMU program.

"The enthusiasm the coaches all share for the team and the game of football is what really made my decision to play at Western easy," Van Dort told BroncoBlitz. "Coach Fleck is the easiest guy to talk to and the most fun guy you will ever be around, his passion and love for the game and the coaches and players around him are like none other I've seen, I'm very excited to be playing for him someday."

WR Maurice Ways (Beverly Hills, Mich.)

Ways is now a Michigan commit, but before pledging to play in the Big Ten he had a lot of good things to say about what he saw going on in Kalamazoo.

"Coach Fleck said he came from Tampa Bay where he coached all-pro receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson. Things like that are great to hear. It's more appealing when you've got somebody who has done it, and knows the hard work and dedication it takes to help you reach your goals. It's an added plus to WMU because he's been where I'm trying to get and knows what it takes to get there," Ways said.

OL Josh Bass (Battle Creek, Mich.)

Bass made some waves shortly after Fleck's hiring when he flipped his commitment from Eastern Michigan to the Broncos. With the way he talked about the WMU staff, it's easy to see why he not only signed at WMU, but has become one of their top recruiters since committing.

"The coaches are like nothing I've ever seen before. The energy, the excitement they show is unreal and it makes you want to pad up regardless of what time of year it is. After meeting with [them] and seeing the campus it was an easy decision and I knew it was the place I want to be the next four or five years," Bass explained.

RB Austin Guido (Aurora, Ill.)

Guido, along with Bass, was among the most outspoken 2013 signees. Among many other things, he expressed his belief that Fleck would win championships down the line.

"Most importantly, I know, as do my parents, that Coach Fleck first cares about me as a person before who I am as a player. This is something that's very unique and unlike any other staff I've met," Guido said. "Additionally, being a part of Coach Fleck's first class is very, very cool because I believe he will be a National Champion coach someday. Our entire family was inspired by Coach Fleck and the staff and we cannot wait to get in the boat."

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