There were no extraneous titles issued when Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon named his coaching staff. Neither Jerry Zulli nor Jason Jackson was named “associate head coach.” There isn’t even a recruiting coordinator.
“I think there’s three of them,” Jackson said.
There’s truth to that. Zulli was recruiting coordinator and hitting coach at Louisiana Tech last season. Jackson was Florida Atlantic’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. Bohannon was recruiting coordinator at Auburn.
Recruiting is hardwired into all three coaches. It’s part of how they built their reputation, and where all three of them met. Bohannon, Jackson and Zulli had never coached with one another before they landed at Alabama this summer. They met on the recruiting trail when their territories and targets overlapped.
And their territories are vast. Bohannon has signed recruits from 25 different states as well as Canada. Zulli is a Louisiana native who has recruited Mississippi, the Florida panhandle and junior colleges heavily. He spent four seasons at South Alabama and knows the state. Jackson also coached at South Alabama earlier in his career and spent the last nine seasons at FAU, recruiting up and down the state.
“Basically you’re taking three people and putting three networks together,” Zulli said. “It’s going to hard for there to be a player anywhere in the country where we’re not going to be able to pick the phone up and call somebody that we know that has seen or knows him. That’s the biggest advantage.”
Not every school has that advantage. At college baseball programs around the country, it’s not unusual for only one or two members of the coaching staff to handle off-campus recruiting.
That’s not the case at Alabama. Even for the head coach.
“It’s hard to keep Bo off the road,” Jackson said. “He chomps at the bit.”
The coaching staff covers the bases well with or without official titles. Bohannon has years of experience working with infielders. Zulli is primarily known for his work with offenses and outfielders. Jackson will handle the pitching staff. Volunteer assistant Brock Bennett will work with catchers.
The coaching staff hasn’t had a chance to work with the current roster yet, but Zulli isn’t totally unfamiliar with many of its players. While he was at South Alabama from 2011-15, he recruited many of them.
“Chandler Avant, Hunter Alexander, Jake Walters, Sam Finnerty, they all told me no,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you the smiles on their face when they saw me.”
The in-state experience all three coaches have should help, too. None of the coaches will have to build relationships from the ground up.
They also have a similar idea of the kind of players they’re looking for. Bohannon likes athletic, rangy players on offense who can fill in at multiple defensive spots. There’s a place for big-bodied sluggers on the roster, but only a handful.
“If you sign a right fielder, he’s playing right field,” Jackson said. “If you sign a shortstop, he can go play right field if you need him to. So if you sign some athletic defenders who are versatile and have a chance to produce offensively, and you’re always going to be able to defend. If you can pitch and defend, you’re going to be in ball games.”
There’s also an outline for the kind of personality the staff wants. That’s about more than just personality; it’s a look at where the coaches want to take the program.
“I try to envision whether or not I can see that guy jumping on a dogpile,” Zulli said. “I really do. Can I see him on a dogpile? Can I see his passion? Can I see the way he plays? Can I see him holding up a trophy? Can I see him handling an interview? Those are all things that come with dogpiles and championships.”