Recruiting Column: College coaches describe their 'red flags'

Recruiting Column: College coaches describe their 'red flags'

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: College coaches describe their 'red flags'


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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. 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.

As we talked about on Wednesday, for a college coach the recruiting process is literally a never-ending quest to find the best players, possible. And who can blame them? Their livelihoods depend on how they fill their rosters, each and every season. In fact, if you were to ask them, every coach in the country would tell you they even have a few warning signs or “red flags” they’re looking for when evaluating a high school athlete. And unfortunately, those red flags are usually what will get a player scratched off the recruiting list. That’s just how it works.

Here’s the deal: college coaches don’t want drama and they will pay attention to every red flag they see, to protect the chemistry of the locker room. In their own words, here are some of the red flags that college coaches have mentioned to us in the past few years.

Tim Murphy, Harvard football

The biggest thing that stands out to us as a red flag is a kid with great test scores (ACT, SAT) and very average grades. That indicates to us, in general, that kid is an under-achiever. Another thing that really stands out to us is a kid that has changed schools multiple times. That says to us that the loyalty and the commitment to your school and to your team probably isn’t where we would like it to be. It indicates a “lone wolf” kind of attitude. As a staff, we trust our instincts on the kids we recruit. That means we’re not just trusting our instincts on the good stuff. We’re also trusting our instincts on the bad stuff, as well.

John Cook, Nebraska volleyball

How do you interact with your teammates? How do you take feedback from your coaches? How hard do you work in practice when no one is supposed to be watching? For example, if you’re running sprints at practice, do you touch the line or are you a foot short? We pay attention to the details that might be less important to everyone else. Because you can find out a lot about a player in those details. If you’re taking shortcuts, you’re hard to play with or you don’t show a respect for the game, those are characteristics that will not only keep you from being successful but will keep our program from being successful. And, individual success is never more important than that of the team.

Bo Overton, Oklahoma City women’s basketball

A lot of the times, I watch the parents of the players we’re out recruiting. I know everyone has heard the horror stories of the parent going overboard on a ref or a coach and I’m here to tell you that coaches are paying attention to that stuff. If you’re a good player and you have parents that are acting foolishly, we’re going to think twice about bringing you on board.

At OCU, we’ve done such an amazing job of setting the tone and the expectations of everyone involved with our program. That includes parents. And like many other quality programs, we don’t have to look the other way on that kind of immature behavior. We simply don’t have to put up with risking our standards for any player.

Dale Wellman, Nebraska Wesleyan men’s basketball

What really stands out to me when I’m talking to a coach is if I hear anything negative. For example, if a coach is trying to sell us on a player and he says something like, “I think he’ll be a good defender in college, or he doesn’t go real hard in practice, but he’s a gamer.” Those are red flags. It’s not like those things are overly negative, but those kinds of things can be telling to who that player really is. If you can’t defend in high school, or you don’t give 100 percent in practice, what makes you think you’ll change once you’re in college?


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