Recruiting Column: Top coaches give college recruiting advice

Recruiting Column: Top coaches give college recruiting advice

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Top coaches give college recruiting advice


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.

(Photo: South Dakota State Athletics)

Over the last month, we were able to sit down and talk recruiting with some of the best coaches in all of college sports. John Stiegelmeier, Mike Bianco and Dan McDonnell were all kind enough to chat with us and share their insights into how the recruiting process really works. From how a scholarship doesn’t dictate playing time, to how a recruit can be confident in his/her college decision, they covered it all. In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights from each of their interviews.

John Stiegelmeier, South Dakota State Football

Q: How can a recruit be sure he/she is making the right decision on a school?

A: As a coach or recruiter, my job is to help a young man make the right decision. It’s not to talk him into something or paint a picture that’s less than the entire truth about our program. In the end, we want a young man at our school that truly believes South Dakota State is the perfect fit and he can trust the coach that recruited him.

One of the things that we really push our recruits to do is to figure out what’s important to them. To do that, they’ve got to be able to take football out of the equation. They need to figure out what matters to them, as if they were only making this decision as a student. What kind of community do you want to be a part of? What major will you be working towards? Do you want to be close to home? For whatever reason, student-athletes lose focus on that. They forget about what’s going to make them happy and instead of deciding for themselves, they allow recruiters to tell them what they need. And unfortunately, that opinion is usually just based on football.

At SDSU, we want to make sure we’re meeting the wants and needs of our athletes. If we genuinely feel like we can meet your needs, we will do whatever it takes to make you a part of our family! But, if that’s not the case, we owe it to you to help you get this decision right. Even if that means you end up somewhere else.

Q: How important are camps in your evaluation process of a recruit?

A: It’s a make or break type of deal. Here’s why: getting a thorough evaluation on a young man is the most important part of the recruiting process, for any program. The only way you can accurately evaluate a player is by seeing them in your environment, and vice versa. We get to know a player that comes to our camp infinitely better than from just watching his film. You get to see his personality. You get to see if the kid has grit. Listen, I don’t want any player coming here if he isn’t going to fit in with what we’re doing. The greatest loss that can be experienced in the recruiting process is when one, or both sides involved, don’t do a thorough enough job of evaluation. It’s not a fun situation when you get something different than what you were expecting. So, camps are crucial in all of that. Many, many decisions are made during a camp setting. That’s true for most schools, not just SDSU.

(Photo: Ole Miss Athletics)

Mike Bianco, Ole Miss Baseball

Q: Tell me something you would want every high school athlete to know about the college recruiting process.

A: Quite honestly, we pay attention to how you fail. If we’re recruiting you, it’s a given that you have some physical talent. So, we pay attention to the moments you wouldn’t want us to see, or the moments you don’t think we’re watching you. How do you handle a strikeout? Do you run out fly balls? Do you have that competitive spirit during the pregame in and out? Most guys we recruit haven’t experienced a lot of failure, prior to getting to Ole Miss. And, I would say that’s typical for most college programs, too. If you want to play college baseball, especially for a school in one of the power five conferences, you’ve got to be mentally tough. You have to be able to handle tremendous adversity and there has to be a fire inside you that is undeniable to anyone who watches you play.

Q: What’s an example of a question you might ask a recruit you were really interested in knowing the answer to?

A: “How’d you do last night?” You can learn a lot about a player by the way he answers that question. Does he answer with, “I went 2 for 3, or we won 5-4?” Some kids will tell you how the team did, and some kids will tell you how they did, individually. Listen, if you’re good with going 2 for 3 when your team loses, that’s something that will grab our attention. Recruiting isn’t an exact science. It’s relationship building. And, when we’re getting to know a player through this process, we’re going to find out if you care about your team, or you care about yourself.

(Photo: Louisville Athletics)

Dan McDonnell, Louisville Baseball

Q: Does the scholarship amount you offer a young man predict his playing time?

A: Not at all. This is not a situation where mom or dad is running the booster club, therefore their son has to play type thing! This is the best players are going to be on the field type thing. Scholarship or no scholarship, playing time will never be determined by anything other than who the best nine players are, on any given day. As a staff, we are extremely transparent with our guys during the recruiting process. We don’t make promises and we make sure we’re very clear that if you get on the field at Louisville, it’s because you’ve earned it. For us to recruit you and make you an offer simply means we like you and we feel you have a great opportunity here. But, understand that you’ve got to perform. You’ve got to produce between the lines. We want to win championships and get you ready for pro ball. If we played you based on your scholarship amount, we’d be doing you a tremendous disservice. That’s just not how baseball works at the college level and beyond.

Q: What advice do you have for a high school player not getting much attention from college coaches?

A: The great thing about college baseball is that there are so many levels and opportunities out there. If you love this game and you’re a pretty good player, you’re going to have a chance to play at the next level. Take the junior college level as an example of what’s great about our game. Maybe as a senior in high school, a young man isn’t quite ready for a big-time 4-year school. Well, he can go to a junior college, where he can get on the field and play immediately, which is crucial for the development of any baseball player. A young man can change so much from the age of 18, to 20. You can literally go from no offers, to a power five school in a matter of 2 years. My advice to a guy not getting much attention is to trust the process of your development and go somewhere you can get on the field. If you can commit to getting better and you can accept the right opportunity for your circumstances, you can find a place to play.


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