George Barlow is a 24-year coaching veteran in college football, so he knows how the business works. He was coaching Vanderbilt's defensive backs and coordinating their defensive recruiting efforts last year when James Franklin left to take the job at Penn State.
At that point, Barlow had options. As he noted, "in this business everybody kind of knows somebody that knows somebody." In this particular case, Barlow had a good friend that also happened to be close to NC State head coach Dave Doeren.
Through that connection, Barlow decided to take the cornerbacks job at NC State.
"We kind of knew the same person, he had an opportunity, and I kind of had the opportunity where I could go here or go there," Barlow recalled. "He approached me, we got a chance to sit down and talk, and I liked a lot the things he said. I liked his mission and the things he is trying to accomplish.
"I had a chance to meet some of the coaches here, and I thought it would be a great opportunity. This area, I heard so many great things about, so I went with this opportunity."
Barlow has changed job before, so he knows how to handle a transition, a task he considers especially important for the benefit of his players. He considers himself to be "more of a relationship and teacher-type guy," and his first priority is to establish personal connections with the corners and understanding what they respond to on the practice fields.
He also does his due diligence in learning the scouting reports.
"I like to go into it with an open mind, but at the same time I have got to see what their strengths and weaknesses were as players before I got here," Barlow said. "What I do is go through and evaluate all of their previous games and even watch some of their practice tapes when they do one-on-ones and see exactly what they do good and do bad.
"We start from there. At the same time, you have keep an open mind and start with a clean slate for those guys."
Barlow has just four scholarship corners on the roster this spring. Ideally he said that he would like to be three-deep at the position especially with the trend towards fast-paced, spread out offenses.
However, he has been impressed with the reception he has received from returning starters Juston Burris, a redshirt junior, and Jack Tocho, a sophomore, as well as reserves Niles Clark, a redshirt sophomore, and Sean Paul, a sophomore.
"The thing I like about them is they are athletic kids, but they got great size," Barlow noted. "All of them are around 6-foot tall, 190-200 pound range. That gives us a chance to be physical. We want to try to be a little more physical than they were last year at the point of attack and just continue to improve on the skillset that they already got."
After the spring, Barlow will hit the road recruiting. He has been put in charge of the Pack's efforts in Virginia and stretching into District of Columbia and Maryland. It's territory that Barlow is familiar with from his days as an assistant coach at James Madison. He coached for nine seasons at JMU, including five years as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
"I just got to go through and rekindle some of those ties I've had there, which should be fun," Barlow said. "I'm actually looking forward to it cause I get to see some people I haven't seen in a long time."