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How college football recruiting works

Learn about college football recruiting at NCSA

NCAA football is one of the world's most popular sports. In fact, eight of the world's nine largest stadiums, all seating at least 100,000, are home to NCAA football teams, and all of these schools are amongst the best college football recruiters and attract sellout or near-sellout crowds on a regular basis. As a result, the interest in college football recruiting and the football recruiting competition that exists between the best college football recruiters, all looking for the country's best high school players, can be intense at times.

However, the same can be said for those looking to play NCAA football, looking to get recruited for college football. Those who are fortunate enough to be receiving football recruiting interest from a number of the best college football recruiters have a difficult decision to make as they look to find the best fit for themselves academically, athletically and socially. Additionally, many student-athletes, those in demand and those not, want to sell themselves as best as they can to top coaching staffs across the country, and many of them use college recruiting services to help them stand out.

The biggest schools and top teams are at the NCAA Division I level, which is further subdivided in the sport of football to the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) levels. The NCAA also sponsors football at the Division II and III levels while the NAIA oversees the sport nationally as well.

Here is a breakdown of the number of NCAA football teams and players:

  NCAA

  Teams

  Players in Division

  Division I 

  254 teams   

  29,029 players (114 per team)  

  Division II

  170 teams

  19,074 players (112 per team)

  Division III  

  247 teams

  25,454 players (103 per team)

The percentage of students at a school that participate in intercollegiate athletics ranges from 4 percent at the Division I level to 26 for Division III schools, and football players make up a fraction of those percentages.

Here is the NCSA Composite Ranking of the Top College Football teams. It uses the average of the following college football rankings: ESPN Top 25, Coaches Poll Top 25 and the AP Top 25.

  #  

 College Football Team 

 AP Poll 

 ESPN Poll 

 Coaches Poll 

 NCSA Composite Rankings 

1

  Clemson

1

1

1

1

2

  Alabama

2

2

2

2

3

  Ohio State

3

3

3

3

4

  Oklahoma

4

4

4

4

5

  Notre Dame

5

5

5

5

6

  LSU

6

6

7

6

7

  Florida

8

7

6

7

8

  Georgia

7

8

8

8

9

  Texas

9

9

9

9

10

  Washington State

10

10

10

10

11

  UCF

11

11

12

11

12

  Kentucky

12

12

11

12

13

  Washington

13

13

13

13

14

  Michigan

14

14

14

14

15

  Syracuse

15

15

15

15

16

  Texas A&M

16

16

16

16

17

  Penn State

17

17

17

17

18

  Fresno State

18

18

18

18

19

  Army

19

19

20

19

20

  Northwestern

21

21

19

20

21

  West Virginia

20

20

22

21

22

  Utah State

22

22

21

22

23

  Boise State

23

23

24

23

24

  Cincinnati

24

24

23

24

25

  Iowa

25

25

X

25

 

Which schools have the top college football recruiters? How do players get recruited for college football?

Learn about football recruiting at NCSA

To get recruited for college football, the best person to initially contact is the program's football recruiting coordinator. This person is generally an assistant coach. If you're unable to determine who the head of college football recruiting at that school is, contact the position coach for your position or the head coach as they will then either be able to help you out directly or pass you on to someone who will be able to better assist you. Note that although the head coach usually makes the final decision as it relates to college football recruiting, this individual will generally enter the process later on. 

Top college football recruiting websites

Do you want to see who the top high school football players and who the best college football recruiters are at any given time? Head to some of the most respected recruiting and general sports websites as they all compile college football recruiting rankings of the top prospects as well as college football rankings from team perspectives, the best college football recruiters. These include the 247 recruiting website, which oversees Scout recruiting, ESPN top 100, SB Nation and the rankings released by Rivals.com.

Do you want to get the most accurate assessment for who the best are? Take a look at several college football recruiting rankings, not just one, as the college football rankings posted by Scout football recruiting can vary a bit from the ESPN top 100 or the players who have been ranked by Rivals.com. Rankings of the best college football recruiters from the team perspective can vary quite a bit too.

Also take note that very few players are even rated at two stars by Scout football recruiting and the rest of the college football recruiting rankings and that competition is fierce on both sides of the process. According to Rivals football recruiting statistics, out of 300,000 high school players who have completed their senior seasons, 99 percent of them have not garnered a rating of at least two stars.

What causes top high school football players and the best college football recruiters to stand out in the 247 recruiting, Rivals football recruiting and Scout recruiting rankings? Several things. These include, of course, speed and football-related abilities and instincts, but they also include things like academic skills, teamwork in athletic and other settings and how much they impress or fail to impress during interactions with coaching staffs and others involved with the process.

Top NCAA football teams: best college football recruiters

Learn how college football recruiting works at NCSA

You can see who the best NCAA football teams are in a number of ways. One is to head to a recruiting website or another respected source that reports on college football recruiting and compiles college football team rankings. These include sites such as those mentioned above as well as ones such as CBSSports.com.

Another is to focus on the present and see who the top polls place at the top of their college football rankings. One of the most respected college football rankings is the Associated Press poll. At the end of the 2019 season, the Clemson Tigers claimed the top spot in its college football team rankings. You can also consult college football team rankings of every school that plays at a certain level such as the Simple Rating System for FCS teams.

Of course, schools that rank at or near the top of the various polls and computer rankings that include FBS teams are generally the ones that do college football recruiting at the highest level. For example, those involved with Clemson football recruiting and Michigan football recruiting are working with the country's top high school players. Additionally, NCAA football teams that are sleeping giants often get top recruits as well, including those who are helping Nebraska football recruiting efforts as that team regularly draws crowds of 90,000 per game.

College football schedules and NCAA football standings

Once enrolled in school, NCAA football players have busy schedules, both athletically and academically, with much of that focus on the games themselves. In general, these are played on Saturdays throughout the fall. NCAA teams generally play at least 10 games although that can increase significantly if a long postseason run is added on to the end of the regular season. This can add up to two extra games for NCAA FBS teams, up to five extra contests for NCAA FCS, Division II and Division III schools and up to four extra match-ups for NAIA squads.

Within a conference, teams generally will play every other team once with the schools finishing with the best records in these NCAA football standings winning conference titles. However, this scheduling format within conferences does vary quite a bit, especially at the FBS level where many are split into two divisions. Regardless, every team except for the few that are independents will play mostly conference games and just a few non-conference contests. The most known independent teams, which do not belong to a conference, include Notre Dame, BYU and Army.

Of course, the busyness of being a college football player does not stop once the season ends as offseason workouts and other team-related obligations add a bit of time that is devoted to the team. The most known period outside of the playing season itself is spring practice, which, at most schools, culminates in a spring game. Some of these intrasquad games garner significant crowds with a few schools even reporting attendance figures in excess of 70,000 for them.

NCAA rules

What about the NCAA? It is made up of 1,117 universities and colleges that are spread throughout the United States and Canada with 671 of those sponsoring intercollegiate football teams. The national office passes and enforces regulations ensuring that college sports are competed in with fairness, and this includes issues related to the recruiting process.

Find out about college football recruiting at NCSA

One example is the recruiting calendar. It includes when the dead, quiet, evaluation and contact periods are. During dead times, in-person meetings are not allowed anywhere while quiet periods are the same except that on-campus communication is permissible. During evaluation times, coaches can watch players play, but in-person communication is not allowed except for on the college campus where the staff member is employed. Finally, contact periods are when coaches and athletes may meet off campus. The recruiting calendar describes exactly when each of these periods are. Note that rules are also in place for how often college football recruiters can initiate conversations with prospective athletes during the appropriate times.

The NCAA also oversees the process surrounding the signing of a National Letter of Intent, which is a binding agreement between a high school student-athlete and the university where the player will be heading. 

Best college football recruiting strategies

So much of the media focus on the college football recruiting process is on the teams and which ones used their recruiting strategies to get significantly better as compared to their rivals. However, your focus needs to be on yourself and your own recruiting strategies as you look to find which school best fits your needs, not only athletically but also academically and socially. This is especially true for the vast majority of high school athletes who need to be the driving force in the process. One of the first things that you should do is educate yourself on the recruiting process, including how it works from the other side.

During the college football recruiting process, it's also important to imagine what your time will be like at the school outside of football. Although much of your focus will be on your time spent on your sport, that cannot be your sole focus, especially considering that the vast minority of players will head on to the NFL, and many of those who do will have truncated careers. Even those who are fortunate enough to be set for life monetarily will have wanted to have gotten the most out of their college experiences, skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.

One of the first things that you should do is see how you compare to current college football players who you're competing with in the college football recruiting process. But do take into account that these players will be bigger than the best high school players due to the work that they put in after having already gone through the college football recruiting experience and arriving on campus. Also note that their previous accomplishments at the high school level may be difficult to compare to yours as it's not always easy to determine what a conference MVP honor means in one league as compared to another.

You also want to ensure that care is put into every step of the college football recruiting process as you can be sure that the college recruiters that you're looking to impress are analyzing every aspect of what you bring to the table.

Doing so includes activities such as emailing college recruiters. It can be easy to not put much thought in emails you send, but you really should as that plays a role in college football recruiting too. Be natural but also confident and excited about the possibility of playing for them, and have your parents or other trusted people look over an email that you're planning to send before you send it. As you get recruited for college football, it's also important to do things such as determining the best questions to ask college recruiters.

What is NCSA?

Chris Krause was a high school athlete in the 1980s who struggled with attempts to figure out how the college football recruiting process worked en route to finding his home at Vanderbilt, and he wanted to help ensure that later student-athletes did not have to go through these football recruiting struggles. As a result, he founded NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) in 1980, and his company has helped bring together hundreds of thousands of high school athletes and tens of thousands of college recruiters to help both sides get the most out of the college football recruiting process and make the best decisions possible.

Several coaches have had positive things to say about what NCSA offers. One NCAA Division I baseball coach said that it would not have been possible to find a valuable player had it not been for NCSA helping the two find each other while a Division I softball coach added that NCSA's judgment is trusted and that any prospective athletes sent in that direction will be considered.

Why use NCSA?

The most important reason to use college recruiting services such as NCSA to help you get recruited for college football is because they help you gain valuable exposure and increase the chances of being discovered by college football recruiters and ensuring that the best possible match ends up occurring as a result of the time and effort spent on the football recruiting experience. With 35,000 coaches in the NCSA system, it's easy to see how this can be done, and many who have gone through the process have positive things to say about it.

Additionally, those who work at NCSA understand the ins and outs of the college football recruiting process, and many NCSA employees have first-hand experience with both sides, including as college football recruiters, and know how to help you get the most out of the football recruiting experience.

Start your college football recruiting process and get recruited for college football today by completing a free profile with NCSA. If you have any questions, call 866-495-5172 or fill out our online support form.

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