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Recruits Beware: Fake coach Twitter accounts on the rise

Luke Hughes lists himself on social media as the director of player personnel and recruiting coordinator for Tennessee football. His Twitter handle is @CoachLHughes. He has the Tennessee hashtags of #PoweredByTheT and #GBO in his profile.

Location: Rocky Top.

Except Hughes is not a Tennessee coach, he’s not on the staff directory and it could be a completely fake name, a total scam perpetrated online that asked at least one prospect on Tuesday to send $20 through the Cash App or, strangely enough, a check to the Tennessee admissions office.

Luke Hughes is not real.

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The prospect seems completely convinced that it’s legit though. It’s not. And it’s a scourge going around social media that is fostering confusion and a whole lot of frustration for elite football prospects around the country.

“The kids ask me a million questions about the recruiting process,” said Kenyatta Watson, the real director of player personnel and football operations at USA Academy. “This morning, a kid sent me the Tennessee guy and said, ‘Coach, is this real?’ And I was like, ‘No.’ I circled how he spelled recruiter. I told them they have to go on the staff directory and see who these guys are and you have to pay attention to certain things in their profiles.

“First of all, look at how many followers he has, look at when the account was created and things like that. But kids are so hungry for attention and offers, they’re not paying attention to that stuff. They see a college logo and they jump right on it.”

In just the last few days, Watson has seen accounts from fake coaches at Tennessee, South Carolina, USC, UAB, Virginia and FIU. During a phone interview on Tuesday, Watson said he was sent another one for Eastern Michigan at that moment.

Minutes later, Ohio State assistant AD for player personnel Mark Pantoni quote-tweeted a fake account - @coach_tellison - that was imploring prospects to send it their HUDL tapes and to follow the account because offers were going out. The only problem is there is no coach Ellison on the Buckeyes’ staff.

Pantoni’s response to the coach Ellison tweet: “Why don’t I know who you are?”

“It’s going to be more prevalent but I don’t think there’s a way to stop it,” Rivals National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell said. “If it happens, you can report the person to Twitter and they can remove the account but they’ll just pop up another one.

“You just have to do your due diligence and make sure anybody who’s asking you for money who appears to be a coach, that’s not right. It’s really a scumbag thing to do but that’s the world we live in and people are trying to take advantage.”

A few weeks ago, Watson said a bunch of prospects started posting on social media that they received offers from FIU. The recruits were saying the offers were coming from assistant coach Tim Harris, Jr., but Harris didn’t know anything about it when Watson called him to ask. They were coming from a fake account, duping kids into believing they had a new offer.

“It’s just sad,” Watson said. “It’s just really disgusting because kids just don’t know.”

To tackle this new obstacle in the recruiting process, research is necessary. Watson said parents need to be more involved, to be more engaged with what’s happening on a daily basis and if that means scrolling through all the direct messages your kid receives then that’s what it takes.

That’s what Watson did for his star players when he coached at Loganville (Ga.) Grayson and Owen Pappoe, Wanya Morris and his son, Kenyatta, were being recruited by every team in the country - and by real coaches.

“Kenyatta, Owen, Wanya, all these guys, I had their log-in and password and every day I would go in and go through their direct messages,” Watson said. “A coach from (any school) just DMed you, respond, and they said they got so many of those things they just didn’t respond. Parents have to be diligent and just start a recruiting Twitter for your kid and you run it, you monitor it, but it’s sad.

“Kids are so thirsty for offers and exposure and attention, here’s an opportunity for (these fake accounts) to capitalize on it and I hate it. I can’t stand it. I’ve seen so many kids get their heart broken in the recruiting process and to have someone doing something like that, it’s really bad.”

And getting worse.