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January 5, 2013

Football Recruiting: The Vast Unknown

Ok...I'm going to throw a LOT of information at you at one time. I'm going to give you what I know as a parent of two college football players who has been through this as well as a recruiting analyst who has been in the business since 1984. That said, there is a lot more to the recruiting game that you need to be versed on, as mentioned in this article as "do your research!"

PART I: THE BASICS

Year in and year out, I get contacted by hundreds of parents and players about the entire recruiting process.........and the questions usually run about the same....."How can I get my son more exposure? Is my son good enough?" and on and on. This special is written to give some of what I have learned over the last 27 years years about the entire recruiting process from a football perspective. Others I'm sure have a better knowledge, others basically make a living off of a lot of the information that I hope to provide with this four-part series. I hope to inform all of you a little bit of what I have run across.......both the Do's and the Don't! Hope this helps!

First off........is your son really a recruit?????

It's the best place I can think of to start............is your son really a recruit? So how do you find this out? Is there some magical formula that tells you........YOU'RE A RECRUIT? No. When do you find out if your son is a recruit? Senior year? Junior year? Sophomore year? Earlier? My experience tells me that there really is no set time.......kids are discovered EARLY, while others are found late......or your Late Bloomers if you will. So how can you get an evaluation?

So how can I get my son evaluated and by whom should it be?

My first and most important piece of advice is simple, yet is without question one of THE most important pieces in the entire recruiting process.......talk to your son's High School coach. A High School coach is without question THE person who will in most cases give you an honest evaluation of your son's abilities, his physical strengths as well as his weaknesses. Your High School coach in most cases has been personally involved in the recruitment of other players and has seen first hand if your son has what it takes. Many coaches will talk to parents throughout the year about the entire recruiting process, and have the experience and knowledge to help guide you thru the process. It is imperative to rely upon your coach for advice on the recruiting process. Your son's coach is your number one source for recruiting information as well as for an honest evaluation! Your son's coach is one of the MAIN people that colleges and recruiters rely upon for information.......the coach is who these people talk to FIRST!

I have yet to find a High School coach that isn't interested in promoting their kids.........now to which degree of interest of course varies from coach to coach. Some coaches will make and send out highlight tapes.....some coaches will work tirelessly in promoting kids whom they feel deserve a fair shot. Others might go further, others might not go as far.......but when a coach gets a request for information on your son, trust me they will ALL reply. So let's say that your High School coach thinks that your son is a recruit and that your son has some serious ability. Great! Now, is it all in the coaches hands? Nope! Not even close! You as a player/parent have some serious work to do! So get crackin!

At SCVarsity.com, we offer numerous opportunities for the players to get evaluated by myself and our coaching staff. The SCVarsity.com Elite Football Combine is one of the top combine events in the entire country, drawing more than 500 players to each event. Our evaluations are honest and we'll tell you where we feel your best suited in the recruiting game. And most importantly, we communicate either by phone or email with your son's high school coach. For more information on SCVarsity.com opportunities, email us at scvarsity@sc.rr.com

Know the Recruiting Game.........Learn the Rules!

Most parents and players really don't know the rules! So how can you find out what the rules really are? When can a college contact your son? What is a "silent" period? Phone calls? The FIRST place to get information on the entire recruiting process is located at the NCAA website! This is an excellent source for all of the NCAA rules regarding everything about the recruiting process.......from when the NCAA rules determine when you are considered a recruited athlete and everything in between! It is imperative to KNOW THE RULES! It's YOUR responsibility!

Recruiting Services..........from free to major fee $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

This certainly becomes a sticky subject.......can a recruiter or a recruiting service really make a difference? Are those "Pay" recruiting services really worth it? How important is it to impress those "recruiting" gurus? What are the different type of recruiting services available? My experience tells me a few things........first off......let the buyer beware!

Recruiting Services...............what, why, and most importantly how much and is it worth it?

A prospective recruit will be besieged by many different type of services, all with the claim that "we can help your son get a scholarship!" Many of these services come at a price.......in some cases a HEFTY price tag! My experience? I have heard from many parents who have used various services.........some claim with success.....but in MANY cases it's almost impossible to judge if the service actually helped.

These "services" come in many various sizes and shapes.......some will charge you $25 dollars for a T-Shirt and they will also claim to put your son's bio on a list that "will be read by hundreds of colleges" while others offer a more "personalized" service. The more "personalized" services also can vary......many claim to help your son get more exposure and they too offer a "comprehensive" listing that is sent to many colleges and universities.

Best advice? Research! Many of these services claim to have helped "thousands" find scholarships.......just ask them for a list of those names. Ask for references.....in most cases, you'll either get a short list of "kids" that in many cases are relatives/friends of the service, or you won't get any names or references at all. Remember this folks.......if anyone could pay anywhere from $25 to $2,000 for a scholarship, then sign me up! Sign all of us up!

Now, as far as those "lists" that get sent out to the colleges......guess what? These either never get sent, or if they do get sent, they wind up in the shredder and the wastebasket! Any major college and university has staff that compiles a listing of all potential recruits, and the chances of your son getting noticed from these "lists" is a long-shot at best. Again, let the buyer beware. Play it smart. Do research. Do LOTS of research. Talk to your coach. Talk to other parents who have already gone thru the recruiting process. Learn as much as you can BEFORE you decide to fork over that hard earned money.......these "services" are more than aware that you want to do what's best for your son.....that is there "hook". Let the buyer beware! Remember, if any of these services can guarantee your son a scholarship.....go for it! Just get it in writing

PART II: DEVELOP YOUR GAMEPLAN

Having a game plan! Get YOUR act together!

In Part 1, I briefly discussed several important factors that make up the whole recruiting process. Now that we have figured out that your son has skills and MIGHT be considered a recruitable athlete, where can you go from here?

Have a GAMEPLAN!

A game plan? What kind of game plan? How can a parent or player really be prepared for the entire recruiting process? When do you start?

Research! Learn more!

As mentioned in Part 1, you need to learn as much as possible about the entire recruiting process. Besides visiting the NCAA website and speaking to your son's High School head coach, what else can you do? Plenty!

So what is your son's goal? To play in the SEC or ACC? To run out onto the field to "2001" at South Carolina or rub the rock and run down the hill at Clemson? Or how about the Big East, Big-10, or PAC-10? While these are the dreams of EVERY player in High School, the reality of this happening as well as the overall chances of this dream coming true is SLIM at best. The odds of having a kid accept a full scholarship to a MAJOR Division 1 school is about the same as hitting the Lotto. This is reality. Part 1 of YOUR game plan must be based in some serious REALITY! It's great to shoot for the moon and the stars, but reality tells me that you should keep the goals in recruiting attainable. If your son wants to continue to play football after high school, this should be goal number 1. Paying for this? This should be a goal as well, whether a full blown ride to Enormous University or some serious Financial Aid to a smaller school. Another goal? Keep all doors and opportunities OPEN!

Every parent and player wants to play for Enormous University. But what MANY players and parents don't realize is that while a smaller school might not offer the "atmosphere" of a Monsterous State University, the smaller school can offer as good if not a BETTER education than the larger schools. Many 1-AA and smaller DII schools might not offer the "full ride" or the glory, getting 50/60/70/80 percent of your education paid for playing a sport that your son loves is a pretty good route to a degree. Again, I have seen too many players in the past who "blew off" these smaller schools waiting for Enormous State to call and unfortunately, in most cases, EU never calls, and the smaller school has moved on! Remember...keep ALL DOORS OPEN!

Prepare prepare and prepare!

So we are fully into the off-season, and many of the players are getting to get surveys and questionnaires in the mail. Most colleges and universities send these out en mass. Yet filling these out is a MUST! If you receive 15 of these in the mail, send back all 15! If a college has your info on file, they know that you are actually interested. If a college asks/requests information, send it back! The sooner the better! Now....what information can YOU prepare?

Create a bio of your son/player

This is a cheap and easy yet effective way to have all of your son's information on hand if this is requested. While I have seen a million different styles, just a simple one page bio with a picture is the most effective. What is on this bio? Name, address phone number, sizes, position, any awards won, basic academic info, anything that YOU want a college/university to know. Look at this bio like a resume for your son. Sell and use his strengths, but don't get too carried away, keep it to one full page. This is an effective way to have all of this important information on hand if requested.

Have Tape Available!

Part III of this series will go into details about having a video-tape ready on your son! I will cover the so-called "ideal" tape as well as what NOT to do!

Pictures! Have some pictures!

It amazes me how many parents do NOT have any pictures of their kids available. Make sure that you have at minimum a head shot of your son. Recruiters and schools want to at least see what your son looks like! Some goofballs like myself will attempt to use EVERY picture that we receive. I also ensure that these are seen in HIGH traffic areas of the website as well!

Take care of the essentials!

This seems VERY obvious, yet because of the importance of recruiting, I feel it's important to mention??.grades! Despite what you have seen or heard over the years?.very few if any schools will offer a basket-weaving degree. Grades matter. Your son will be considered a STUDENT athlete for recruiting purposes regardless of his athletic skills. You MUST have your academics in order. Take your SAT early! Study, study and study some more. If you need to boost your test scores?..get help! Remember?..grades do matter!

The best word of advice I can give is to NEVER give a college a reason to NOT recruit your son! If his grades are bad, you have limited your opportunities. Does he have a behavioral problem? Or has your son ever had a run-in with the authorities? Schools and colleges will find out, if the press and recruiters don't first! Be honest and up front with the coaches.

PART III: GETTING NOTICED

Getting noticed!

Probably one of the most difficult things involved in the entire recruiting process is getting noticed. How do some kids get noticed while others, who very well could be as good if not better recruits than those who have caught the public's eye get their due? How do you get noticed? How do you catch the eyes of those recruiting guys? How do you get on those listings?

Some of these ideas might work, some might not. But all are worth a try!

Publicize your player!

Now while the Bright One or other major newspapers are a great place to get your son's name out to the masses, the chanced of getting your son mentioned in these papers are as remote in most cases as winning the Lottery. The facts are simply this.........most major newspapers are limited in the amount of space that they can devote towards recruiting, and most if not all major newspapers have their own "recruiting" experts who they rely upon for this information.

Now, with this said.....how can you get the message out? Prepare. Look at the various recruiting outlets........how can they possibly get all of the information that they list? How can they possibly look and judge all of these players? How can they rate and compare players? Simple.......information. Recruiting services spend a TON of time sending out surveys to coaches and players in the off-season, they also spend thousand of dollars a year on the phone.......calling coaches and parents and players. Getting information. If you are sent these surveys....fill them out. If your asked for a picture of your son.......provide one. Video tape? By all means make sure you have Tape! More on video tape later.

I have dealt with many, many players and parents over the last several years, and what amazes me is the lack of understanding of why this is so important. Websites and recruiters can't talk or evaluate your son without this information. Be prepared and ready. Have extra pictures of your son ready. Have copies of a video tape all set to go. Throw together a one-page bio on your son as well.......nothing too fancy, just consider it a resume for any potential schools. These bio's are extremely helpful....and remember.......the more info the better.....Grades? Size? Special honors earned? Stats? This also is an incredibly handy tool that can be prepared at minimal cost.

But what about if the recruiting services or other mediums don't call? What then? My suggestion is to find out how to contact them (usually isn't too difficult, although some services make contacting them like trying to find a person in the witness protection program!) and send them the information! You would be amazed at how many kids are "discovered" because someone "tipped" off a service or a recruiter! It does work, because I know this firsthand!

Let's face facts......it is IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to know about every kid in the state without some help. No one can claim to have "discovered" every kid. I readily admit that many players slip under my nose each and every year. Players on losing teams? Yep, you get overlooked a lot! Kids on winning teams? Doesn't matter...if we don't know about you, you won't get publicized!

From my own personal experience, I am more than willing to take the time to reply to any emails on a player.......actually I answer emails in the thousands each year from parents and players wanting more info.........I figure it's the least I can do. Pictures? I have yet to NOT use a players picture on this site......at one point last season I featured a new player picture on the Varsity Underground Message Board almost daily! I will also follow up these request with a call to that players coach. This is how I get my info, and any website or recruiting service out there worth anything will also happily respond and reply! Heck, you can alwayshttps://www.twitter.com/scvarsity, as well,

PART IV: MAKING THE VIDEO TAPE

Lights......camera.......action!

Making a GOOD quality video highlight tape!

Video tape........video tape (Or CD's and DVD's) has become to the football recruiting world what the computer has become to business........it's a MUST HAVE! From recruiting experts to college coaches and all points in between.......a good quality videotape of a player is a MUST! So how can YOU get some quality footage? What should be included on this tape? What should NOT be on this tape? Read on.

Top things you MUST do for an effective highlight tape

Get a video camera or access to as much tape as possible. Fortunately some schools are video tape crazy......and some schools have one shaky camera at best. Make sure that you are able to get what you want......good quality footage! Good quality footage? Good quality footage is tape that is easy to see, without jumpy or blurred footage......nothing turns off an evaluator than to have to struggle with watching a shaky tape. Take from as many sources as possible and compile the best or best available.

Now.......linemen? This gets tough, since most people takes shots and follow the ball/action. Most video of linemen lasts approximately 1-2 second from the snap and the rest is following the ball. The ideal video angle is from up top......sideline footage is mostly useless from an evaluation standpoint. Also, take some video from as wide an angle as possible besides the super close-ups........this way it's easier to see how your son react to the "entire" play. Besides linemen, the same can be said of DB/LB's. If your son is in one of these positions, you should find a way to get footage of your son playing thru every play from start to finish.....this is the BEST way to get an honest evaluation. Many schools and coaches will gladly help in making a tape, others will at least offer it's video for parents and players to copy. Also get friendly with that "Goofy" parent who tapes every game....you might be surprised at how much video they have, and you also might be surprised at how good they are at making videos!

Make sure that if you are copying a tape from another tape, or creating your own DVD's, ensure that the tape or DVD that you are sending out actually works! You would be amazed at how many tapes go out blank or DVD's that get produced that can't open.......and 98% of most schools/recruiters will also be left with that impression of your son......BLANK!

Leave the Hollywood productions to Hollywood! I have seen tapes that parents have obviously spent thousands of dollars having made.......from Star Wars like graphics to explosions to out and out promotions that make some Heisman Trophy campaigns look tame......be smart.....if your son doesn't have the skills or talent, no Hollywood type production will cover for this! Keep it simple.....and cost effective. Music? Music is fine.....as long as it's QUIETLY in the background.......I personally like music, others don't.

Also make sure you include your son's uniform number so that it's easily seen/remembered....nothing worse than seeing a tape and having to guess who your son is (especially if someone sees another player who is NOT your son!). Adding stats and vital info is fine to the video....but make sure that you also include this info in a bio besides the video tape. Also make sure to properly label this tape itself......include name/school/position/uniform number and a phone number!

The ideal video tape or DVD?

Again, everyone seems to have a different answer to this question, so I'll I can talk about is feedback from recruiting experts, college coaches and the like as to what makes an ideal tape. The ideal tape should include

1. The first part of a highlight tape should include your best 12-15 plays/highlights. Make sure that these highlights are at the BEGINNING of the video......always remember about good first impressions.

2. Next include at least 2 FULL games! Nothing becomes more frustrating than watching a video of a player and seeing highlights and nothing else.....in many cases it tells the viewer "you have something to hide!" Two full games will give an evaluator a good feel for what your son has to offer!

Also, TRY to have this footage put together and ready to go asap! The longer you make a school wait....the sooner they will forget you! If your son is a Top junior recruit......honestly you should have this ready to go by now......if not? Get cracking!

SCVarsity.com publisher Jim Baxter has been on top of high school sports for more than two decades, delivering player rankings for football, basketball, and baseball. He has written recruiting articles for various publications over the past twenty-five years, including The Deep South Recruiting Guide. He is the founder and publisher of SCVarsity.com. His game-of-the-week previews and evaluations can be heard state-wide during football season on 107.5 The Game.

SCVarsity produces the top high school football combine in the country, and offers instructional and performance opportunities through various camps throughout the state.

To contact JB, simply email scvarsity@sc.rr.com or follow him on TWITTER

Need more information: order the SCVarsity.com Recruiting Guide by clicking on the graphic below. This publication includes the eligibility changes for the Class of 2014, as well as those upcoming changes for the Class of 2016



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