USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
“How are the best doing it?”
If I want to know how to be great at something, that’s the question I’m asking. If I wanted to know anything about technology, I’m asking, “How does Apple do it?” If I wanted to know what it takes to become an Oscar-winning actor, I’m asking, “How does Denzel do it?” And, if I’m a high school football player wanting to know what it takes to be recruited by best program in the country, I’m asking, “How does Clemson do it?”
This week, I had the privilege of sitting down with Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. Widely considered as one of the great young coaches and recruiters in the country, I thought it might be a good idea to ask Coach Scott, “How does Clemson do it?”
Here is what he had to say about college recruiting.
Q: What age do you start paying attention to potential recruits?
A: Typically speaking, we start identifying the young men we have interest in either freshmen or sophomore year of high school. That’s when we really get serious about getting names on our recruiting boards and into our database. We’ll start watching film on those guys and make those initial evaluations that are so important.
Q: What does it take for a recruit to get the attention of the Clemson football staff?
A: Because of everything that Clemson has to offer, we can recruit at a very high level. We are looking for elite players. For a guy to get our attention, he really needs to be dominating at the high school level. It should be obvious. When we turn on that game film, my wife should be able to pick out who we are watching! If we can’t tell who we are watching after a few minutes, we’re probably watching the wrong video.
Additionally, our coaches know what they are looking for and what we, as a team, are needing. That can change from year-to-year, so that also plays a factor into who we are recruiting. If we’re losing two 6-4 receivers and we don’t have any more guys on the roster that are over 6-3, than we may only be looking for 6-3-plus receivers during that recruiting cycle. Much of the attention a recruit will receive from us is based on what we are looking for out of that particular recruiting class.
I will also say that we don’t go very far with any recruit before we get a transcript to see where they stand academically. The academic transcript tells us a lot about them as a person. We believe that grades are indicative of character and a commitment to be great. We are not just trying to find the best players we can find. We want the kids that are elite, high achievers on and off the field.
Q: Give me your thoughts on verballing early and de-committing.
A: We are a little bit different than a lot of the schools out there. We’re just not a school that throws out a bunch of verbal offers. You know, the times have changed and it seems you’re always hearing about athletes de-committing these days. For us, making an offer is serious business. Coach Swinney has a different policy than many of the other schools across the country in that once a player makes a commitment to Clemson, his recruiting process is over. He’s not going to be talking to any other coaches and won’t be going on any other visits. He’s a Clemson Tiger. In return, that young man that accepts our offer has a reciprocated commitment from us. That means we are fully invested and committed to him, his roster spot is secure and all recruiting for the need he just filled, stops.
In my opinion, there’s a difference between a commitment and a reservation. I think there are a lot of recruits out there that “so-called” commit to a school and then decide they will take visits to other schools just to have fun. We don’t see that as a commitment, we see that as a reservation. Unfortunately, many of the younger recruits look at making an early commitment like they’re just holding a spot until something better comes along. That’s just not the way we operate at Clemson and it’s allowed us to bring in very high character student-athletes, year-over-year.
Q: How does social media factor into the recruiting process?
A: Social media is a huge part of the recruiting process in 2017. It allows us to get our brand in front of potential recruits and families that are interested in learning more about Clemson. I can remember 7 or 8 years ago when a prospect would come on campus, it was really the first time they were meeting coaches, seeing facilities and learning about your program. Now, prospects know a ton about Clemson before they even step foot on campus. They have a great feel for what we are all about because of what they see on social media.
Social media is also a great way to communicate and learn more about the prospects we are recruiting. At Clemson, we have an entire office whose sole duty is to go through the social media of our prospects. It’s extremely important for us to understand who we are dealing with. That office will look through the content and report to our coaching staff on what they are finding. Every year, we will eliminate prospects on our board because of questionable content. We’ve eliminated guys for inappropriate language, images, retweets or anything that we see as a red flag. Conversely, guys have moved up on our board because of the positive things we are able to learn through the various social media channels. It serves as a tremendous resource for us.
Q: What advice do you have for student-athletes going through the college recruiting process?
A: Academics are a huge piece to the recruiting puzzle. There are a lot of different levels to compete at collegiately and if you’re a good student in high school, you will have a great chance of finding somewhere to play in college. Additionally, I would tell recruits to use summer camps to your advantage. Pick three or four different camps and make it a priority to get in front of coaches that can evaluate you. Don’t just attend the FBS camps, either. We see a lot of recruits make the mistake of only attending FBS camps and realistically speaking, they aren’t really FBS-caliber athletes. Then when senior year rolls around, they aren’t receiving offers from those FBS schools or any other level schools. And my last piece of advice for a recruit is to have a great relationship with your high school coach. Your high school coach will be a great resource for you throughout this process.