Story: The Evaluation Process

By Randy Rodgers : 7th In A Series

After student-athletes are identified as potential prospects, the universities must start the process of evaluating which players best fit their programs. Schools recruit to meet their needs and expectations and the most important thing a prospect and his parents need to understand is that the prospect is NOT in control of the evaluation process.

Recruiting to “needs” means that each school has certain positions they need to fill. If a school is not recruiting any wide receivers in a particular year, they may not look at a single wide receiver. If they need to recruit a whole bunch of linemen, then their search will likely expand wider than usual. The important thing a prospect must learn is whether his favorite school has a “need” for his abilities. The other factor is recruiting to fill “expectations”. These are somewhat subjective. For instance, a particular school may put a height requirement on offensive linemen like not recruiting anyone under 6’3. There may be a speed expectation like no wide receiver or running backs slower than 4.5 in the 40. In some cases the expectation may be academically related. Schools like Duke, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Rice, and others may require their recruits to meet a standard higher than the NCAA minimum.

Obviously the most important area in recruiting is ability. This is not to minimize academics, but at the Division I level, a great student who is both small and slow, will probably not get recruited at the scholarship level. Each school has certain criteria they look for in each position. Most schools are geographically organized and the area coaches have the responsibility for evaluating players in their area and then recommending them to their staff. Usually the position coach looks at the particular player at his position before making a recommendation to either the coordinator and/or head coach. There are usually several stages to this process before a prospect would be extended a verbal scholarship offer.

With the NCAA restrictions on college coach travel, most of the evaluation is done via videotape. It is important that each prospect have videos or DVD’s of his best games for college coaches to evaluate. Highlight tapes are ok for juniors, but what the college coach really wants to see is actual game video. Highlight tapes obviously showcase the prospect’s talent, but the college evaluator wants to know if those highlight plays were the only positive plays or just a snapshot of what occurs on each and every play. College staffs only get four weeks of on-road evaluation in the spring, so seeing a tape on a player prior to traveling is a high priority. Make sure you or your high school coach sends videos to those schools that you are interested in.

There are four evaluation windows in college football.

The first window is junior game tape. Those players who have already been offered scholarships and perhaps made verbal commitments were evaluated on the basis of their junior tapes. To offer a junior player a scholarship at this early date, a college must believe that had that player been a senior last fall, he probably would have been offered and recruited then.

The second evaluation window is fast approaching. It is the spring evaluation period. NCAA rules allow a six-week window from April 15 through May 31. Each school must select four of those six weeks and seven coaches are allowed on the road to evaluate prospects during six days of each week (excluding Sundays). Each school is allowed to view practices, off-season workouts, and talk to coaches and counselors. They are not allowed to have direct face-to-face contact with junior prospects. Each school gets to make two evaluations per prospect, one of which has to occur on the high school campus. Attending large events like the Nike Football Training Camps give prospects an opportunity for a second evaluation. College coaches can also utilize track meets and baseball games for this second evaluation or they can come back to the high school a second time. If a player wasn’t offered a scholarship on the basis of his junior tapes, he might be during this period, if he favorably impresses the college staff.

The third evaluation window is summer camps. Prospects are currently being inundated with college camp brochures. It is the newest development in the process, because with the number of early verbal commitments increasing, there is a high priority placed on recruiting junior prospects to summer camps. An excellent camp can be the springboard to a scholarship offer.

The fourth and final window is senior game tape. A vast majority of scholarship decisions are made on the basis of player performance during the senior season, so if you don’t have an offer by the end of the summer, understand you are in the majority, not the minority, so keep working.

Academic evaluation is vitally important also and prospects should give themselves every opportunity to be thoroughly evaluated. Make sure you sign up with the NCAA Clearinghouse this spring. Make sure you sign a transcript release and leave it with your counselor, so college coaches can obtain unofficial copies of your transcript when they visit your school in the spring. And by all means, MAKE SURE YOU TAKE AN SAT OR ACT TEST THIS SPRING. Don’t roll the dice on taking your test for the first time next fall. Most of these tests are given on Saturday morning and there is a pretty good chance that you will have either played a football game on Friday night (think being tired with a potential headache) or Saturday (think being distracted by the upcoming game). You may still wind up taking a test in the fall, but don’t make it your first attempt. By having a test score and knowing what your core grade point average is, helps you to determine where you rank on the NCAA Sliding Scale, giving you some insight on whether you need to improve your performance in the fall or perhaps by taking some summer school courses.

Remember prospects and parents, you are not in control of this phase of the recruiting process, so all the stats and honors you accumulate are not going to get you a Division I scholarship. Being academically eligible to be recruited is the starting point. Then it is up to the colleges to judge your performance against the needs and expectations of their program and make their own selections.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the world of combines.