Before discovering his passion, Darrick Yray experienced failure.
Fresno State’s football program offered Yray his first rejection, turning down his initial walk-on aspirations. He accepted an offer to join them as an offensive analyst instead, but his four years in that role eventually ended after the university fired head coach Pat Hill in 2011.
Then Yray received an opportunity that changed his trajectory.
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New head coach Tim DeRuyter retained Yray but shifted his coaching role to an off-field position – assistant director of football operations. After a four-year stint under DeRuyter, Yray left for another support staff job at Oregon State.
Now as Florida State’s new general manager of personnel, Yray knows his specialty. The Beavers promoted Yray multiple times after he showed a knack for handling recruiting operations and evaluating prospects.
And he can’t get enough of it.
“The biggest thing I enjoy is watching movie,” Yray said. “If it was up to me, I could lock myself in a room for 20 hours a day – I’m not kidding – just to be able to watch film and evaluate players. That’s the best part of the job for me.”
Darrick Yray expected to oversee all FSU football recruiting
Head coach Mike Norvell, recruiting coordinator David Johnson and the rest of the Seminole staff will work with Yray to shape the roster.
From evaluating prospects to handling official and unofficial visits to searching through the transfer portal, Yray is expected to oversee all aspects of FSU recruiting.
The Seminoles bringing on Yray earlier this month came amid their flurry of offseason support staff hires. They also added director of football operations Corey Fuller, assistant director of high school operations Keiwan Ratliff, senior offensive analyst Gabe Fertitta, defensive analyst Greg Moss and executive assistant Carol Moore.
What Yray accomplished with the Beavers gives FSU confidence that he can improve its recruiting operation. And Yray likes what he sees so far.
“Top notch, energetic, very driven, organized,” said Yray on the Seminole coaching staff. “I’m just very happy to be a part of it and help however I may be able to assist everyone here just to move things forward.
“But as far as the daily involvement in recruiting, I have not been around a better staff in that function as far as open communication and those things.”
Florida State offers more
Greg Biggins understands the impression Yray left on recruits while at Oregon State.
Biggins, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports on the West Coast, talked to many of the same high school football players Yray communicated with daily. When Biggins asked about the Beavers, their responses suggested that Yray did plenty of the recruiting legwork.
“You talk to kids and ask who they are talking to the most (at Oregon State), they would say Darrick,” Biggins told the Democrat. “Great people skills. Very, very relatable whether he’s talking to kids, coaches, handlers or parents.
“Great personality and easy to talk to. He makes you feel like you aren’t talking with a car salesman. Tireless worker. Obviously in that job, you’ve got to be a grinder. And that’s what he is.”
Being the lead recruiter on several targets is a responsibility Yray won’t have at FSU. Yray should be able to delegate those duties to assistant coaches and other support staff members. Doing so would give him enough time to help organize the Seminole recruiting structure. Which is how it should be.
That concept is part of the reason why more major programs have increasingly hired additional off-field staff members like Yray. Lighting the workload while increasing resources brings more eyes on everything. More eyes on the current roster. More eyes on recruiting evaluations. More eyes on the transfer portal.
The more the merrier has recently become a common approach in college football to handle today’s climate.
“It has changed so much in the landscape over the last 10 years with the evolving of social media, the access to film and more information out there,” Yray said. “Just with the contact, shoot, 15 years ago it was one call a week. And now if we are not talking to every single person that we can DM-wise and daily communication – it has just expanded exponentially.”
The results Yray helped Oregon State produce as its longest-tenured staff member should be measured on a different scale. Assessing his impact is not so simple. The Beavers have long struggled to compete with USC, Oregon and other top programs on the West Coast. They lack the resources, history and most of the other factors that tend to make programs elite.
So no, Oregon State never won more than seven games in Yray’s seven seasons there. And yes, the Beavers mostly remained at the bottom of the Pac-12. But there’s a reason several recruiting analysts like Biggins recognize Yray’s potential.
“I’ve always known him to be a very good evaluator. And at Oregon State and Fresno State, you have to be,” Biggins said. “You have to out-evaluate people. He’s always had a keen eye for talent.”
The way Yray helped rebuild Oregon State’s offensive line should be considered his most impressive accomplishment. Last season, the Beavers nearly became the first Pac-12 school to claim the Joe Moore Award. They finished as one of four finalists for the honor commemorating the nation’s best offensive line.
Hitting on evaluations were the key for Oregon State’s offensive line success. All five starters held a three-star rating or lower as high school recruits. And the Beavers landed right tackle Brandon Kipper as a transfer from the University of Hawaii.
If Yray could turn Oregon State’s offensive line into one of the nation’s best, imagine what he could accomplish at FSU.
“At Oregon State, they had a specific profile in mind,” Biggins said. “At Florida State, that will be expanded. The pool of talent will be much greater for him. I know that was something that he was super excited about.”
Yray’s upcoming objectives
Though his ties are largely to the West Coast, Yray had some familiarity with FSU.
Seminole defensive backs coach Mike Woodson worked with Yray while serving the same role for Fresno State in 2014. Yray said he met Norvell at his Mega Camp in 2016.
Still, Yray prodded for answers while dissecting FSU’s roster. What are the strengths? What are the position needs? What needs to change? Those are a just few out of many questions Yray addressed before being heavily involved in the personnel process.
Up next for Yray will be assessing the Seminoles across 15 spring football practices, which begins on March 5 and ends with the Garnet & Gold Spring Game on April 9. FSU welcomed a staggering 22 additions this semester – 12 early-enrolled freshmen and 10 transfers .
“Anytime that we’re doing a team-required activity, I plan to be out there just to observe,” Yray said. “Before I got out here, I watched the whole season of last year just studying different players on our team and everything in between. So as much information as I can collect, I’m going to try to collect.”
FSU is also expected to host one of its biggest recruiting weekends of the offseason on March 5. The Seminoles are looking to expand its 2023 recruiting class, which currently includes four verbal commits in Miami Gulliver Prep defensive end Lamont Green Jr., Brentwood (Tenn .) Ravenwood quarterback Chris Parson, Lynn Haven (Fla.) A. Crawford Mosley tight end Randy Pittman and Vero Beach (Fla). High wide receiver Vandrevius Jacobs.
247Sports, Rivals and On3 each rank the class No. 14 nationally. None of FSU’s recruiting classes under Norvell and since 2019 have finished in the top 15. Yray will look to put an end to that trend.
“Communication,” said Yray on what FSU needs to recruit at a high level again. “And I know that’s a very broad term. But when I say that, there’s so much that is ever-changing in the landscape that the more and more we can communicate and language being a force multiplier in those things, that is proven to be successful in that sense.
“It’s a relationship-driven business now in recruiting, so we’re communicating what messages we want out there. I think communication is the key.”
Reach Carter Karels at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels.
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