The most successful college football coaches on the recruiting trail are those who excel in developing relationships with a player, his family and his high school coach.
The connection between college and high school coaches is a critical, yet sometimes underappreciated, part of the recruiting process.
High school coaches are often the liaisons who connect a university to a potential recruit.
When coaches on the prep level have a prospect who has an opportunity to play college ball, it’s their duty to make sure his film gets in the hands of college coaches.
During the spring evaluation period, when college coaches hit the road in search of potential targets, off-campus contact is still not permitted for sophomores and juniors, according to RecruitLook.com.
That’s where the high school coaches come into play. They tell college coaches everything they need to know about a potential prospect.
"We have transcripts available for coaches when they come by during the spring evaluation period,” said Kelvis White, the head coach at Dothan (Ala.) High School. “We put together a portfolio of each kid and put things in like their height and weight, stats and things like that, and we put it in one place for coaches so that it makes the evaluation process easier for those guys.“
College coaches pepper a recruit’s high school coach with questions to find out the details on a prospect that won’t show up on film. While the measurables are an integral part of the equation, college coaches are interested in the intangibles as well when deciding whether to tender a scholarship offer.
“Another big thing is just to be honest with coaches,” White said. “We tell our kids that we will be honest with colleges when they ask questions. If you are lazy, we will tell them that you are lazy. This is an investment for schools, and college is so expensive now, that most coaches don’t want to gamble with a kid that has question marks in those areas. Sometimes the athletic ability is easy to see on film, but it’s also about the character and work ethic and things that film won’t show.”
When interest becomes mutual between a college and a recruit, it’s the high school coach’s responsibility to keep his player informed of things like summer camps and combines.
Every kid isn’t always a 5-star recruit, either. With the recruiting calendar speeding up every season and players earning offers in their sophomore and junior seasons, late-bloomers can sometimes fall through the cracks.
However, White said there are still examples of youngsters persevering and being rewarded with a golden opportunity.
“I use a kid like Julian Thomas-Jackson as an example,” White said. “Last fall, he didn’t have any offers. Our staff worked with his mom and his family to get some good film on him, and it got into the hands of the coaches at Wake Forest and they loved him. He ended up signing with them and will be a freshman up there this fall. He was a 0-star that wasn’t on the radar, but he was a really good football player for us. He took care of his business on the field in his senior year, and that senior film stood out enough to get him noticed. Now he gets a chance to play some big-time football in the ACC.”
White, who played on the college level as a defensive tackle at Alabama from 1996-2000, is quick to stress that the recruiting process begins with academics.
Of course, athletic ability is a key component, but that trait alone is not enough to get a scholarship these days. Solid work in the classroom, combined with hard work and an attitude rooted in determination, are a great foundation for athletes who hope to play big-time college football.
While recruiting has undergone many changes in recent years, the main principle for high school coaches has remained the same.
“I just encourage all high school coaches to promote their players and their programs, and always be honest with the college coaches so that you can develop that relationship with them where they want to keep coming back to your school and recruit more of your kids,” White said. “Times have changed, and if they don’t know about your kids, then they have no reason to call or stop by. That job falls on high school coaches and parents to be proactive in the recruiting process."
Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.