How to get recruited
When you watch a college football game now days, it looks much the same as it did a decade or two ago. The players are bigger and faster, but the collegiate game goes rolling along.
Getting to State U., however, has changed. Specifically, the recruiting process has become almost as difficult as converting on third down-and-20. Let’s say you’re currently a budding high school talent and you play quarterback. How do you get from Point A – high school – to Point B – the college ranks?
It can be a path paved with peril and pitfalls, especially with the explosion of the Internet. Now days, just about anyone with a laptop, login and password can try coming across as a recruiting expert.
“The media tends to make things way more blown out of proportion than they really are,” said Will Hewlett, NFA’s Lead Coach and Director of Player Development. “There’s a frenzy over maybe one, two, three kids. And with Twitter, it’s in these kids’ face 24 hours a day.”
Hewlett has trained over 50 quarterbacks that have gone on to play college football, and many more – Brandon McIlwain, Tommy Stevens, Matt Jimison, Mitch Guadagni, Ian Book – are well on the way. While he prefers training quarterbacks to reach the next level, Hewlett has seen it all as the recruiting game has evolved.
He has a message for young athletes that are driven to play college football. “You have to make sure as a quarterback, as an athlete, you’re developing yourself to perform on Friday night,” Hewlett said. “Your only competition as a football player, as a quarterback, is Friday night when you’re in high school.”
That means young football players should be concentrating on the here and now instead of surfing the net to see which peers in pads are hot and which are not. Certain athletes might be ordained the next great things by one of the massive list of exposure camps and Internet recruiting sites, but all of the gaudy compliments, rankings and retweets actually mean very little.
Film is vital
According to Hewlett, putting together the strongest game film you can – and updating it every week during the season – is still the best way to get recruited. By far.
“With exposure camps, as an example, they can help generate an element of buzz and excitement around an athlete,” Hewlett said. “It’s a good, competitive atmosphere to help prepare yourself but the only people that give out scholarships are the colleges. Understand who you’re trying to impress. It can be beneficial, but it doesn’t equal scholarships unless you have the film.”
Brandon McIlwain is a perfect example on the importance of putting good game film together and staying on top if it. The Class of 2016 standout quarterback from Council Rock North High School in Pennsylvania and six-year NFA veteran already has 15 offers from BCS schools, including Auburn, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan State, South Carolina and UCLA.
Instead of focusing all of his attention on participating in exposure camps, the junior to be keeps working on his game and that comes across loud and clear on film. “A lot of camps make it seem like you’ve got to compete against all of these other kids,” Hewlett said. “But in the recruiting process, what college coaches truly put all the value on is film. I think the biggest thing people don’t realize, the off-season is so long, it’s skewed about what people value in a quarterback. I think Brandon is a really good example of that.
“He went to a major exposure event as a freshman,” Hewlett continued. “No one wrote about him. No one really even knew he was there and now he has the most offers of any quarterback in the 2016 class – Top 25 schools and schools in general. He’s only been to two college camps. Why did that kid get all of these offers? With Brandon, once you get the decision maker, the head coach or offensive coordinator, to sit down and watch the film, he’s going to get an offer off the film right away. They don’t even need to see him throw in person. His film is so strong that they pull the trigger on him right away.”
McIlwain is already widely considered to be the top quarterback in the Class of 2016, so his recruiting process is different. But his case still shows how important film is.
Generally, film is the initial part of the recruiting process, followed by throwing in person at a college camp or spring evaluation periods. The spring evaluation period is the time when college coaches visit high schools to assess athletic and academic qualifications of prospects for early football scholarship considerations. Read more here.
The right way
There are all kinds of Internet companies out there that post game films and provide scouting reports on prospective college recruits, but many of them can be costly to the individual and his family. Here are a few to consider:
Hudl. The site hosts the most high school film and has the ability to edit your highlight film on a weekly basis.
SigningDay.com. This site is self-service. It connects athletes with colleges. There is a fee, but you get a professional evaluation.
UpperHand Promotions. This is an email and profile service. UpperHand provides the tools needed to develop player profiles, share information with college coaches and gain access to an expansive college database.
Scouting Services. These are detailed player reports that are generated and run by individuals or organizations that scout the athletes and sell the service to NCAA programs. (Note: NCAA Division I member institutions are only permitted to subscribe to scouting services in basketball and football that are approved through the NCAA scouting service approval process).
Prospect Spotlights events. These are NCAA approved third-party evaluation events run by college coaches.
OK, so you throw for 3,000 and 30 touchdowns as a freshman and wonder why the scholarship offers aren’t pouring in. Give it time.
Sure, some athletes will already have offers before their junior season, and another NFA stalwart, Jauan Jennings (Class of 2015) recently committed to Tennessee over Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and a host of other schools. That’s no reason to go into a deep sweat.
“The recruiting process for a lot of athletes, the starting point is moving up,” Hewlett said. “It’s getting earlier and earlier with the way colleges are working now. But at the end of the day, even though offers are going out earlier and earlier, you can still only sign when you’re a senior. The meat of the recruiting process is still happening in the junior year of the athlete, going into their senior year. The reality is the 2015 class, right now is when all the major commitments are starting to happen. Even if a kid got offers a year ago, two years ago, the timeline is still relatively set for going into your senior year.”
Once again, it goes back to working your way up to starting varsity quarterback in high school and getting your best work on film. “If a kid doesn’t get an offer as a freshman, it doesn’t mean he’s not going to be recruited,” Hewlett said. “Film is everything. It doesn’t lie. The reason coaches want to see kids throw in person, they want to evaluate any possible flaws they’re not seeing on film, they want to confirm what they’re seeing on film. ‘Let’s really see the velocity in person.’ Things tend to be more clear in person, but the reality is that interest in person doesn’t really get generated without the film in the first place.”
In rare cases, prep players get through their junior seasons and don’t have enought varsity film. That’s what happened to Morgan Mahalak from powerhouse Marin Catholic in California. Even though he likely would have been the starting quarterback at 99 percent of high schools across the country, Mahalak spent most of his junior season on the sidelines behind senior Jared Goff, who is now the starting QB at Cal. Despite his lack of activity, Mahalak drew heavy interest from Oregon and he will play for the Ducks in the fall after finally getting his chance to play for Marin Catholic as a senior this past season and leading the Wildcats to a 12-1 record.
“Morgan’s situation was unique,” Hewlett said. “He blew people away by how he looked in person. He had JV film, but a lot of schools didn’t offer until they saw varsity film, which is how it should be. Oregon saw him in person 7-8 times and they took a little leap of faith. The offer was based on his film as a sophomore, his attitude and they scouted him heavily. A lot of schools would not have done that because of film.”
So the lesson to be learned is this – work hard and stay on the game film, unless you are in a very unique situation like Mahalak. “Don’t expect to be heavily recruited until you have impressive varsity film as a starter,” Hewlett stressed. “There are kids out there that have extremely high rankings by some of the major recruiting websites and are on the radar in the media, but they have not gotten the offers their ranking suggests based on, what? Their game film. It’s not strong enough. Concentrate on the film and what you are doing to make sure you perform on Friday night. Varsity film is key to being properly recruited. Don’t mistake Internet exposure for recruitment. At the end of day, the film doesn’t lie.”