College Football Recruiting: What You Need to Know
Football recruiting is the process by which nearly all student-athletes are identified by college football recruiters and eventually accepted to a team. It can begin as eighth-grade. Although the football recruiting process sometimes involves talented athletes being sought out by college football recruiters from high-profile programs, often, it involves a concerted effort and considerable work on the part of the athletes themselves as well as their families.
Football recruiting starts with an athlete of standout capabilities being recognized as such. While many high-school athletes continue to experience significant physical and athletic development throughout their high-school careers and even into college, recruiting staff is often able to identify top football recruits at least by the start of their ninth-grade year. To an underappreciated extent, football recruiting often relies more heavily on high-school coaches and staff than on college football recruiters themselves. Being more high school driven is a natural byproduct of the strict NCAA football recruiting rules.
While the odds of any given high-school football player becoming a Division I prospect are only around 2.5 percent, for players with genuine college football prospects, there exist several concrete steps that can be taken to maximize one’s chances of grabbing the attention of bigtime college football recruiting staff.
Football recruiting targets the best of the best
If you’re reading this, the chances are that you are a highly talented athlete yourself or the close relative of one. While more than 93 percent of high-school athletes’ playing careers will end with their final varsity game, this is by no means an indication that they are not great athletes.
Consider that there are just over 1,000,000 high-school football players in the United States. That’s a significant number. However, since there are more than 15,000,000 high-schoolers, half of whom are boys, this means that the average high school football player is at the 87th percentile in terms of athletic ability. At large high schools, the mere fact that an athlete has made the football team is a strong indication that they command great athletic talent in relation to their peer group.
The level of play required to get into a Division I football program is truly astonishing. With only around 2.5 percent of high-schoolers ever getting on a Division I team, and perhaps .5 percent becoming starters, even the largest high schools in the country may go years without producing a single Division I football prospect. Those good enough to make college teams are genuinely in a rarefied league.
There are approximately 16 million college students in the United States. While not all of these are sports eligible, this means that only about one in 400 college students will play football and only around 1 in 1,500 will play Division I. The bottom line is that college football recruits at any level can rightfully consider themselves to be highly accomplished players. Within a sport that is represented by millions, rising to the ranks of the top 40,000 is a major feat.
Maximizing your chances to play with football recruiting
The goal of recruiting is for football prospecting staff to lock down the top football commits that they can to build the strongest possible teams. Consequently, the simple truth about football recruiting is that only the absolute top athletes who have standout abilities are likely to be selected by football recruiters.
However, for student-athletes who are pretty sure that they have the right stuff for college football recruiting, there are several concrete ways that they can maximize their chances of ultimately becoming college football commits at one of their desired schools.
One of the most important things to understand about football recruiting is that the stringent NCAA rules are designed primarily to protect top players from excessive college football recruiting efforts on the part of coaches or other college football recruiters. The NCAA rules do not mean that players cannot contact the coaches. One of the best things that an athlete with prodigious football talent can do to dial up his football recruiting chances with a bigtime program is to start aggressively contacting coaches at desired schools as early as possible in his high-school career.
High school football recruiting often begins… at your high school
While most people think of football hiring as being carried out by coaches or specialist football recruiters, the fact is that high school coaches and secondary coaching staff are probably responsible for more football commits than all college football recruiting personnel combined. High-school coaches always know when they are dealing with potential college-level football players even as early as eighth grade.
However, players who know that they would like to play college football and have the talent should always let their high-school coaching staff that they have ambitions of playing college ball. High-school coaches often have extensive contacts within college sports, and still, have second- or third-degree connections to the coaching staff at the primary schools. In football recruiting, these are opportunities that players should exploit.
A high-school coach may not be able to guarantee a player a spot at a Big Ten school. However, that coach will almost always know the coaching staff, or he will know someone who does. Moreover, that can be enough for football recruits to get their foot in the door.
The importance of a great highlight video
Once that door is open, one of the best ways a football prospect can maximize their chances of success in the football recruiting process is by presenting a great highlight video. A football highlight video doesn’t require a great deal of effort. Moreover, the mileage you can get from a solid highlight video in college football recruiting can be truly impressive.
Highlight videos do not need to be a half-hour, professionally created mini-documentaries. Most experts recommend that the video run only around five to 10 minutes. It should contain the top highlights of the player’s career, with a particular focus on grabbing the viewer’s attention in the first 30 seconds. For younger athletes who have not accrued lots of in-game showcase plays, using footage from combines where the player is dominant at a particular task can also be highly effective.
Football recruiting and the differences between divisions
College football commits enter one of three major NCAA divisions or the two non-NCAA divisions, which consist of the NAIA and JUCO schools. The latter two comprise of junior colleges and much smaller private schools. While the level of play and the prestige of securing a position on an NAIA or JUCO team are considerably less than for NCAA teams, top players from smaller private and junior colleges are frequently sought out by bigtime football programs.
However, for most athletes going through the high school football recruiting process, the ultimate goal is to be placed on an NCAA team. Those involved in the high school recruiting process should understand the differences between the three NCAA divisions, especially when it comes to the level of play.
High school recruiting and NCAA Division I football
Only around 2.5 percent of high-school football players will make it to a Division I program. Even fewer who are involved in the high school football recruiting process will make it to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the preeminent Division I league. For those that do make it to Division I, the difference between the college level and the high school sports to which they have been accustomed will often be shocking.
For players coming from large schools, the fact that they have become standout athletes at high school sports is an achievement in itself. Many states have dozens or even hundreds of high schools with more than 2,000 students. A typical high-school team for varsity football commits only 20 players to its roster. This selectiveness means that any football recruits who have made their varsity team at a school with 2,000 students are already at the 99th percentile for athleticism. The odds are the sports equivalent to being a National Merit Semifinalist. Whoever makes it to such a high level of football commits themselves wholeheartedly to their sport.
However, when it comes to playing Division I football, the level of elite athleticism required is far higher still. An excellent way to illustrate this is through looking at the football rankings from sites like 247 football recruiting. 247 Sports football recruiting rankings and the ESPN college football rankings page show those who are arguably the best players for a given year’s class of high-school seniors. The ESPN football recruiting pages have a wealth of additional information. Perusing the ESPN football recruiting pages is a great way to get a feel for the complete picture of what a top athlete looks like at each position.
One thing to notice in the ESPN football recruiting rankings is that the college football stats of the profiled players are very close to what you would expect from NFL players. This is evident in the NCAA Football Top 25 team profiles. The teams on the NCAA Football Top 25 and other top NCAA football rankings lists could properly be viewed as the football equivalent of AAA baseball teams, with players exhibiting very close to the level of play and the physical stats seen in the NFL.
An excellent example is available in the recommended minimum abilities for Division I football recruiting. A quarterback undergoing the Division I football recruiting process, for example, should be able to throw a football through the uprights from the opposing 40-yard line. This feat is a scarce ability than even some current NFL quarterbacks probably cannot complete. Similar pro-level benchmarks exist for every other position, with Division I recruiters generally looking for players who utterly dominate their opponents in high-school games.
Division II and football at the lower levels
Division II is not as tough as Division I. But the requirements for even top Division II athletes are still at a high-elite level. For reference, an aspiring Division II quarterback should still be able to throw a football through the uprights from the opposing 45-yard line, a task that 1 in 1,000 randomly selected men would be lucky to be capable of.
As one goes down the ranks, however, the rarefied exceptionality of athleticism required in a prospect begins to lessen notably. A quarterback who aspires to play at a JUCO college could probably get away with being able to throw through the uprights at the 40-yard line. Also, whereas a Division I FBS tight end will typically be at least 6 feet 4 inches tall, weigh well over 200 pounds and be able to dunk a basketball with ease, someone who is 6 feet tall and weighs in the high hundreds will at least have a chance at making an NAIA team.
Getting your name out there
To summarize, two essential requirements are necessary to secure a position on a college football team. The first is that the student-athlete must meet the needs that teams on his list of potential colleges are likely to be looking for. If the first condition is met, the second required step is to grab the attention of as many coaches and other recruiting staff as possible.
It is in this second task that the internet has proven to be a game changer. Filling out an online football recruiting questionnaire for every college that a prospect is interested in is a great way to start.
An online football recruiting questionnaire contains all of the relevant statistical, academic and biographical information that a coach needs to quickly determine if a student-athlete has the right stuff to help fill out the team’s roster.
Questionnaires and other helpful means of getting student-athletes in contact with key recruiting staff can be found online for most major Universities. The University of Michigan football recruiting page has a wealth of resources and contact information. Likewise, the pages for Iowa football recruiting, Oklahoma football recruiting and Virginia Tech football recruiting give prospects essential insights into what those schools are looking for as well as the ability to contact key staff. Provided that the student-athlete realistically meets the physical and athletic standards of a given program, contacting coaches by email can be one of the most effective ways to get noticed.
NCSA is an organization that is dedicated to helping talented student-athletes navigate the often-difficult college sports recruitment process. We are made up of players, coaches and lifelong college-sports insiders who understand both the system and the needs of students. Through our online recruitment platform, we have helped tens of thousands of talented athletes to connect with coaches who are seeking to build the best possible sports teams. Create a free football recruiting profile and get seen by college football coaches. Call 866 495 5172 for more information.