College football's excitement is based on the players.
They are ones that we see on the field, making great play after great play, exciting us and drawing us to watch the games. Showcasing the players' talent enables programs to win, which is the desirable outcome for every game.
The key lifeblood of any program, as I always say, is recruiting. It's the main force of player procurement for college football, and if you're going to be an upper-echelon program, you must be outstanding in this facet of your program's operation.
In recruiting, you must know where to go get top-notch talent. Here, I'm going to give you the 25 best hotbeds or places to find talent to bring to campus.
You'd be surprised, but there is great talent in Hawaii. I'll even go as far as to say that it's still underrated, and even undiscovered.
Whether you see a Manti Te'o become a superstar at Notre Dame or a Scott Pagano become an upper-echelon prospect this year, it's a hotbed for talent.
High school football is good there, and the athletes have good strength.
New York is also a growing hotbed for talent. Usually reserved for basketball prospects, New York is really starting to churn out quality football talent.
Last year, Yuri Wright would openly tell people that he was from New York, not New Jersey, where Don Bosco Prep is.
Ishaq Williams is on his way to doing good things at Notre Dame, and Ebenezer Ogundeko is a top-tier prospect this year.
While the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers may not be great, the Hoosier state is still pretty solid in producing good talent.
Players there really love the game, and they have to because it's a huge basketball-lovin' state. Last year, Gunner Kiel was the star prospect, and this year, it's Jaylon Smith.
Both are slated to play in South Bend.
We tend to overlook Missouri, but it does boast two NFL teams, so it's evident that this is a football-lovin' state.
From players like Napolean Kaufman to Brandon Lloyd, the Show Me State has served as a solid hotbed for talent.
Last year, coaches flocked to the state to get a peak at the country's No. 1 prospect, Dorial Green-Beckham. At 6'6", 220 pounds, DGB is slated to play WR at Missouri and re-write records for Gary Pinkel.
Nevada isn't just about Las Vegas and Laughlin. As a whole, Nevada plays good high school football.
There are a couple of programs that are growing to be national powers, and players from Steven Jackson to Ronnie Stanley to Xavier Grimble have come from Nevada.
Football is sacred in the Midwest, and a state like Illinois fits into the classic mold of that idea. Chicago is the main source of talent, as players there are tough and used to playing big-boy football.
This year, Ty Isaac is the top prospect in the state, as the 6'3", 220-pound RB is committed to USC (per Rivals).
College coaches always check into what Illinois has to offer.
Michigan is another state that you can look to for good talent. From names like Greg Jennings to Jeff Backus to Jason Babin, it's quick to see you can find talent there.
This year, it's QB Shane Morris, who's a celebrity around the state and pledged to Michigan (per Rivals).
Michigan does a good job getting local, homegrown talent to its campus.
This is a state that will start to be known for producing good running backs soon. Lawrence Phillips, DeAngelo Williams, Darren McFadden and now Altee Tenpenny.
Arkansas is an SEC state that has also produced top prospects like Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams and Hunter Henry. Even Willie Roaf is from there.
There's talent in Arkansas, and the Razorbacks continue to do a good job of fencing off their state.
When Oklahoma produces talent, this state does it big. Sam Bradford, Alex Ross, Justin Blackmon and more are Oklahoma natives.
College coaches looking to come into this state always have to deal with OU and the Pokes. Sometimes even Texas.
It's a great state for looking for talent, and college coaches are always looking there.
As people look to get away from the over-population of Los Angeles and find solace in Arizona, this state grows in talent. Some of the top prospects of the most recent classes are from there.
Last year, players like Andrus Peat, D.J. Foster and Connor Brewer all called Arizona home. Before them came the likes of Everson Griffen and Kris O'Dowd, and now it's DB Priest Willis.
It gets hot there, but I think the sense around Arizona is that the high school coaches do a good job of keeping up with the modern nuances of the game.
One of the main reasons I keep hailing UNC as a sleeping giant is because the state is chock full of talent.
Just last year, the Tar Heel had two of the top 10 prospects nationally in D.J. Humphries and Keith Marshall.
Kick in names like Julius Peppers, DeShaun Foster and Torry Holt all being Tar Heel State natives, and you see why this state is on its way to being nationally recognized as an elite talent producer.
Washington churns out good talent, as they play good ball in the Pacific Northwest. The weather gets chilly and it's gloomy, but you can find a talented recruit here.
At quarterback, there's Jake Locker, Max Browne or Jeff Lindquist. Reggie Williams or Kasen Williams at wide receiver, Marcus Trufant at cornerback and more.
This is a good state for talent that every program keeps its eyes on.
Football is a big deal in Pennsylvania, and you can find a tough, physical and dedicated player in this hotbed.
Whether you're looking for Darrelle Revis or LaVar Arrington, you can find them in Pennsylvania.
Looking for a QB? No problem. Dan Marino and Joe Montana are both from there, so the state is no stranger to churning out a great field general.
This year, you can find talent like David Williams, Adam Breneman and Robert Foster.
The D.C. area is the main area to look at when you're in or around Maryland; plus, there's Baltimore.
This area is surprisingly home to several powerhouse programs, including DeMatha and Our Lady Good Counsel.
From Cyrus Kouandjio to Stefon Diggs and Kendall Fuller, those programs churn out good talent. You can find Wes Brown, Eddie Williams, Ronald Darby, Derrick Harvey and Jared Gaither from there, too.
A few years back, this state was abuzz because it was home to the country's No.1 player in Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney stayed home to play for South Carolina, as did Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore.
Other big-time players in recent classes include Shaq Roland, Brock Stadnik, Kwinton Smith and Martin Aiken.
You can find an array of variety in South Carolina, be it speed, size, strength or whatever you need.
This is a big-time football state. Mississippi is a classic Southern hotbed that bleeds football, and the players grow up playing it almost from birth.
Names like Jerry Rice and Brett Favre are natives here, and there are juggernaut programs.
You can find a wealth of talent there, including players like Antonio Conner, Quay Evans, Nick James, Nick Brassell, Channing Ward and Marcus Dupree.
Virginia is underrated as far as the respect it deserves for churning out talent. There's big-time football there—heck, even Allen Iverson knew he had to earn respect by playing high school football.
From Michael Vick to Plaxico Burress to Percy Harvin to Tajh Boyd to Ahmad Brooks, this state is a hotbed for athletic football talent.
There's something in the water, and I think Virginia is going to creep up on these types of lists moving forward.
When I lived in New Jersey working for the Giants, the main sense I got from the prep programs there was that they were built on toughness.
This state plays really, really tough football and has produced names like Brian Cushing, Victor Cruz, Savon Huggins, Kenny Britt, Miles Austin, Ron Dayne and even Bill Parcells is from there.
Last year, powerhouse Don Bosco prep had four players among the top 100 recruits in the country.
The Crimson Tide know it. The Tigers know it. Heck, even Florida State evidently knows it. Alabama has great talent, very frequently.
From Reggie Ragland to Kwon Alexander and Jameis Winston last year, to the great national powerhouse programs all over the state, you can bet that Alabama will be a prime-time hotbed for programs to recruit from every year.
They just have to be ready to deal with Auburn and Alabama.
To get a top-notch prospect from Ohio, a program has to deal with three main regional powers: Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Those three know that there's great talent inside the state, so they try to gobble up as much as they can from each other and outsiders coming in.
This is a state that is also home to a lot of legendary coaches, including Urban Meyer.
Players from Ohio are renowned as tough and fundamentally sound.
The Bayou State is chock full of excellent talent, both on the north side and on the south side. It's all through the state, not just in New Orleans.
LSU does an excellent job of building its recruiting classes with in-state prospects, yet it faces competition from various programs coming into its territory because the talent is so rich there.
Louisiana produces players with either excellent size and strength or players with fantastic speed.
Georgia is the school with the best best chance to join the "main three" hotbeds. The Peach State is an elite talent-producing state, and you either play football there or be looked at like an alien.
Three of the top 10 prospects this year are from Georgia in Robert Nkemdiche, Reuben Foster and Carl Lawson. This state always has a slew of prospects on top-100 recruit lists, and Georgia tries to keep a good amount of them home.
This is a big-time, elite football hotbed.
California easily—very easily—could be No. 1 on this list. The Golden State is a super hotbed for talent, especially considering its size, and many teams out West use California as their prime area for recruiting.
Quarterbacks basically grow on trees around this state, and the pickings are ripe for skill-position talent year in and year out. What I also notice about this state is that every few years, there is a huge surplus of great O-line prospects available too.
Many NFL players are from California, the high school football in both Southern and Northern California is big-time and the state's coaching carries a good reputation. No matter where a given college program lies, it always keeps a keen eye looking into this state for talent.
You play football if you're born here. Period.
If you play another sport, then you risk being snickered at and booed. Texas is a football state, and legends come out of it.
It's a huge recruiting hotbed, and you can find some gosh darn excellent football players in this hotbed.
Some of the best players of all time are from Texas, and that won't stop anytime soon, as many top recruit lists have a slew of Texans up and down them.
Quickness. Speed. Agility. Athleticism. Passion. Pride. Nearly year-round training. All of this is what you get when you get a football player from Florida.
Many of the greatest, most productive and most athletic players call the Sunshine State home. If you look at lists for 2013 recruiting, most of the prospects hail from Florida.
They play football there all the time, and I wouldn't be shocked if they start allowing spring football and seven-on-seven in high school.
If you want to establish a great pipeline in an elite hotbed, Florida is a great place to set up shop.
Edwin Weathersby has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (now ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.