Recruiting Column: College football coaches give recruiting advice

Photo: Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY Sports

Recruiting Column: College football coaches give recruiting advice


Recruiting Column: College football coaches give 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.

How do I get a coach’s attention? When do I start? How does this process work? Should I attend this camp? And, on and on and on.

If you’re a high school football player wanting to play in college, it’s safe to say you’ve probably asked every one of those questions. And, rightfully so! This college recruiting stuff can be as confusing as trying to figure out a Rubik’s Cube.

Well, they probably won’t help you with a Rubik’s Cube, but these coaches can definitely help you figure out how to become a college recruit. From getting their attention, to understanding what you control in the recruiting process, here is advice from some of the best football coaches in the country.

Jeff Scott, Clemson

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-foot-4 receivers and we don’t have any more guys on the roster that are over 6-foot-3, than we may only be looking for 6-foot-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.

Troy Calhoun, Air Force

Q: What does a student-athlete control during the recruiting process?

A: You really control all of the intangibles that are a part of how you’re being evaluated. As a student-athlete, you certainly control how well you’re doing in school. You control the strength of courses you’re taking and the grades you’re achieving. You control how good of a student you are.

You also control the respect you have for other people and how hard you work. When we visit the school of a young man we’re recruiting, we’ll ask a ton of questions and get as much feedback on him as possible. From the principal to the custodian, we want to know how others perceive him. Is he treating everybody with respect? Is he kind and thoughtful? Is he among the hardest workers in the school?

Being a 16-year-old kid that shows regard for others and exhibits a strong work ethic are huge indicators for us in terms of the caliber of teammate you’ll be. It reveals a level of maturity that you don’t always see in teenagers these days.

Your academic achievements, your personal code of conduct and your work ethic are all things you control. And they’ve got nothing to do with how high you jump, how big of frame you have or what kind of quick-twitch fibers you have.

Chris Petersen, Washington

Q: So much of the recruiting process is about understanding your ability levels. How can a high school athlete go about getting an objective evaluation?

A: Getting that objective evaluation is probably one of the most important things for any recruit. Without it, you have no idea where you even need to start the recruiting process.

I think getting that evaluation is all about communication. As a recruit, you need to get with people that will give you honest information about what level is right for you and that probably starts with your high school coach.

Listen, just because you want to play Division I football, doesn’t mean you can play Division I football. Heck, I was one of those guys when I was in high school! Fortunately for me, my dad was a coach. He could give me that honest information and help me understand what level was a better fit for me.

You can also get feedback directly from the programs you’re interested in. There’s so much football being played at the various levels, so the opportunity is there. Reach out to a few FBS schools. Reach out to some FCS and Division II schools. Ask them for genuine feedback on where they feel you fit, as a player.

Because if you start talking to enough people, you’re going to discover the options that actually exist for you.

John Stiegelmeier, South Dakota State

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.

Steve Ryan, Morningside

Q: What’s something every high school athlete should know about the recruiting process?

A: I had two daughters go through the recruiting process. So, it’s not only my job as a coach, but it was my job as a parent to help my daughters figure out what was best for of them.

What I told my own kids is what I tell all young men and women: What are the schools you want to go to? Don’t assume that the coaches at those schools know who you are. Take the initiative and reach out to them. In turn, those coaches can take your inquiry seriously and recruit you, or they can delete it. That’s really what it comes down to.

If you’re taking the initiative to reach out and let them know how interested you are in their school, then at least you don’t have to wonder “what if” the rest of your life. The reward far outweighs the risk for a recruit to be proactive in this process.


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