The college recruiting landscape has changed with the times.
Modernized methods of communication — namely social media, Internet and email — have simplified the process for coaches seeking players.
Potential recruits are taking advantage of the recent advances, using those platforms to reach his or her goal to play at the college level.
The process is focused on self-promotion, one of the biggest changes Tri-Valley football coach Justin Buttermore has seen. His program works with Mark Porter and ScoutingOhio.com, which is a free service that posts video highlight films available to college coaches.
That type of accessibility was missing 15 to 20 years ago, but the Internet has opened new doors.
“In the old days, recruiters would charge families big fees to send out tapes and information to colleges,” Buttermore said. “Now, it’s certainly easier to get your name out there and it’s easier for college coaches to find kids with social media and YouTube. It’s free, which is a huge benefit for kids and their families.”
The success of Tri-Valley alums like Adam Bice have provided another way of exposure for student-athletes in the area. Bice earned a scholarship to play on the offensive line at Akron and recently was invited to attend camp with the Arizona Cardinals.
He produced on the field for the Zips, and his performance showed college coaches there is talent in the area.
“(When I was at Hilliard), Big Ten and coaches from other Division I schools would stop by because they were in the area,” Buttmore said. “If you weren’t a program that had Division I-type players, coaches wouldn’t stop out, especially if you were a rural program. After Adam got his chance, the traffic has been much greater here.”
Skill sets on display
West Muskingum’s Todd McLoughlin was the area’s top basketball player during the 1990-91 season when the Tornadoes went undefeated and won the Associated Press poll title.
At 6-foot-5, he was a guard with inside-outside ability and recruited by Division I schools in the Mid-American Conference. He eventually settled on Division II California (Pa.), where he was a four-year letterman.
He has since coached the Tornadoes and currently is the head coach at Tri-Valley. He’s in the process of helping one of his own players, Avery Williams, through the recruiting process.
McLoughlin said he wasn’t recruited heavily.
“What I did, Division II came along and offered a full ride with books and housing,” McLoughlin said. “I said: ‘You know what, I’ll be able to play in Division II and get it paid for.’ It was a win-win situation.”
McLoughlin’s recruitment began his sophomore season, when he played on one of the first All-Ohio Red Amateur Athletic Union teams with future Division I stalwarts Eric Snow and Jermaine Guice. Snow, from Canton McKinley, eventually signed with Michigan State and played extensively in the NBA. Guice signed with Butler, where helped lead the Bulldogs to their first winning season in eight years.
It was AAU that helped McLoughlin get a ride as college coaches saw him play against top competition he wouldn’t see during the high school season.
AAU has since become a vital part of the ability to be noticed.
“That team is still going strong today,” McLoughlin said of All-Ohio Red. “Recruiting has changed dramatically from that standpoint. (Coaches) are able to get out and evaluate, seeing them against elite competition. Nothing against our kids around here, but Avery Williams isn’t going to see the same style of competition as he’s going to see in the summer time.”
He also doesn’t buy in to the notion players must have highlight videos to be get scholarships.
“Division I and Division II, they’re going to find you,” McLoughlin said. “Avery has exploded this year in the spring and caught the eyes of a lot of coaches. The word of mouth spreads. When we go to shootouts and team camps, they want his AAU schedule. They go and that’s when they view these kids.”
Hanna Luburgh followed a similar path to McLoughlin’s, playing AAU basketball and attending camps with college coaches present during her sophomore and junior seasons at Tri-Valley.
She never made a highlight film.
“My AAU team gave me a lot of exposure,” she said. “We played in showcases in Kentucky and Pennsylvania with coaches in attendance. I got invited to an Elite Camp at the University of Michigan. That was a great experience and where Akron first made me an offer.”
The difference in the past decade is the change in communication. Luburgh said Facebook was the main source of coaches staying in touch with her during the process.
“Coaches would (make friend requests on) Facebook after tournaments,” she said. “It was I did a lot of texting, so they sent messages to see how you were doing and to let you know when they were able to talk.”
But for those who lack the “big city” exposure, self-promotion is a vital.
Aaron Spragg of Zanesville-based storiedrivals.com is a former sportscaster/videographer who specializes in creating team highlight and individual recruiting videos.
In business since 2008, he has worked with clients from around Ohio, offering service packages for as little as $400 (some recruiting services charge as much as $5,000).
His videos differ from those provided from teams and recruiting services: his are shot in high definition and at field level, offering a different viewing perspective. He also conducts player interviews, allowing collegiate coaches to get to know a player without seeing them in person. It’s all in an effort to save coaches time.
In the case of former Tri-Valley kicker Matthew Amicone, now at Ohio University, Spragg custom-built a video that not only featured game highlights but an individual kicking session that allowed coaches to see his form.
Offering quality, well-rounded videos that are more than traditional game footage are among the trademarks of Storied Rivals, which offers its services to all sports. His videos can be found on YouTube.
The website will have personalized player pages once its upgrade is finished.
“Coming from a journalism background, I obviously had experience working with players and coaches,” Spragg said. “That’s where I got the idea. Very few companies do this. But when they do, it’s cookie-cutter.”
But it takes more than a video, Spragg said.
“You have to work at it,” Spragg said. “You don’t have to be rich to do this. It just takes time and you can’t be lazy. You have to want to get yourself out there.”
That means contacting prospective coaches and following up with emails.
“You can’t just send out your video and then not do anything else,” Spragg said.
Amicone said he benefited from working with Storied Rivals. The videos helped Amicone get recruited by about 10 Division I and II programs before he chose OU two years ago.
“You can never get too much exposure. The more I got myself out there, the more coaches contacted me,” he said. “Sending the video showed I was interested and put the ball in the coaches’ court. It’s easier for coaches to watch videos through emails and the Internet instead of driving around the state and the country.”
“Without the video, it would have been hard to get my name out there and get noticed.”
Football was not Amicone’s main sport growing up. He played soccer like most of his family but changed sports as a sophomore and developed into the area’s best kicker and among its best receivers.
Technology aided Amicone’s trek, but he said he has regrets.
“Camps are huge for 1-on-1 contact with the coaches. I didn’t do enough with that,” he said. “I was invited to a camp at the University of Tennessee after my sophomore year. It sparked my interest, but I didn’t follow up. I wish I would have taken more advantage of that stuff.”
The ability to share highlight films was critical for Tri-Valley senior lineman Collin Prouty, who recently committed to Kent State.
Prouty took the initiative to sit down with his father, Alan, and Buttermore to mold a plan. Through the Huddle Program from ScoutingOhio, they were able to email highlight films to multiple coaches and that led to some interest.
“I had six different schools show serious interest,” Prouty said. “I got a lot of mail and brochures. I had coaches emailing me with times to call them. I made visits to Cincinnati, Youngstown State and Kent State, but I really liked Kent and what they had to offer.”
Prouty also relied on his parents’ advice during the process. Both played key roles during the late phases of the process.
“My mom (Julie) is a school teacher, so she looked at the academics with me. I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted to major in,” he said. “My dad met some of the coaches with me. We talked about the type of character we saw in them. I sat down with both of them to discuss my decision.”
Ultimately, academics do play a role in the final decision. Luburgh, who is majoring in physical therapy, understood the unlikely chance of playing basketball professionally. She concentrated on picking a place where she felt comfortable and could get the education needed after she earns her degree.
“Coach (Marty) Bice made me realize it was going to be a place I would live at for four years,” she said. “Akron has been the best place for me because it was close to home. You want to go to a place that will benefit you and make you happy. Not many play professionally so get your education and set yourself up for success after school.”