The Identification Process

How a college football coach finds his top recruit.

You are a position coach of a college football program.
You have a couple of slots to fill with this year’s recruiting class and a sea of potential recruits to select from.
You not only have to find recruits who have the athletic ability to help your team win a championship, need to make sure they are academically eligible, 
..they mesh well with the character of your team,
..AND you’ve got to make sure that once that athlete checks off those boxes, they don’t commit to a rival school.
That is no easy task.
On top of that, you have to manage the athletes currently on the team, and, depending on the time of year, manage game-planning and a rigorous practice schedule.
Here is what your schedule will look like throughout your year.

Recruiting Regions

There are 9 position coaches at each university. Smaller universities may condense these coaches.

Linebackers, Quarterbacks, Offensive Linemen, Defensive Linemen, Tight Ends, Wide Receivers, Cornerbacks, Safeties, Running Backs.

Based on the size & location of the university, your recruiting coordinator will break up the country, a couple of states, or a single state into sections.

The budget your school has to support your recruiting efforts and the amount of resources your staff has will affect your recruiting process.

The more resources your team has, the more coverage your staff will have and the more rigid your approach will be.

The recruiting coordinator and the rest of your staff will strategically identify the areas they wish to emphasize in the recruiting effort.

They will then assign a coach to a section or sections and he is responsible for identifying good recruits from that area.

A university normally recruits heavier in regions closest to the campus.

Large schools recruit nationally, smaller schools will focus on their state and the surrounding region.

Within your assigned region, you will be visiting high schools, developing/maintaining relationships with the high school coaches, and leveraging the data your school purchases to find your top recruits.

Below are examples from Stanford and their staff. 

  • LandLord photo

    Stanford RB Coach

  • Rocket Fit photo

    Stanford LB Coach

Scouting Data

The data your university purchases will reflect how your team breaks up the scouting regions.
The bigger the budget, the more competitive your school, the wider your search range will be, and the more data your school will rely on to support your search.
Most schools purchase data from one or more of the reputable data service providers.
These data service providers are FREE to the athlete.
They make their money by selling their data to schools, not by selling anything to the high school coach, athlete, or parent.
These data providers identify "recruitable student-athletes" and compile that data to sell to the university.
College programs will purchase the data from one or more of these services and combine them to create maps of recruits in their regions.
Utilizing the data they get, a coach can input any criteria he wants to search for.
For example, if you, as a coach, want to find all Junior Wide Receivers in the state of Nevada who are over 6'2" and have a GPA of above 3.7, you can get just that.
So an athlete should purchase a recruiting service in order to increase exposure?
The data service provider that sells to a university is not one that will charge the athlete.
The recruiting services that charge athletes DO have a database of athletes....but that database is not robust and universities do not purchase that data.
Any university that DOES purchase data does not need that data.
The schools that use that data in their recruiting efforts are the schools who do not have the budget to purchase scouting data: this generally means Division III and NAIA universities.

High School Coaches

Let's get you back into the coach's seat....

Part of your job when you are in charge of your recruiting region is to maintain relationships with the high school coaches in the region.

You will, over time, learn which schools usually have the top talent and organize with those schools' coaches to visit their school, watch practices, and meet their top athletes.

You will develop trust with these coaches and will value their word heavily when you talk over the phone about their recruits.

More than just skill, the high school coach provides valuable insight on a recruit's character and grades.

If a coach calls you up and says "I have a guy you may be interested in", that athlete is definitely now on your radar.

How you evaluate the athlete after the coach tells you about him is out of the coach's hands.

Social Media

In today's day and age, you will likely have a Twitter profile.
You will not, however, sit on twitter and scour the platform to watch highlight after highlight in the futile attempt to find an athlete that matches all your criteria.
There are two ways you might use Twitter in your identification process.
You may have a couple reputable twitter profiles that you follow who are specific to your area.  
The athletes those specific profiles share might pop onto your radar. There is no rhyme or reason to this: this goes coach by coach.
Another way you might use Twitter is try to identify the athletes that your rival universities offer scholarships to. Schools in the same conference usually have very similar recruiting criteria when it comes to a recruits size and skill.
As with everything, the process of identifying offers through social media is being outsourced:
data service companies that specialize in scouring social media and other sites to immediately update an athlete's offers are popping up. They also sell their service to the university, meaning coach's will use Twitter less and less to do that themselves.


As the final piece of your staff's recruiting efforts, you will host summer camps for recruits to come and compete in a number of drills and events.
Camps are used both for identification of athletes not currently on your radar and for the evaluation of athletes who ARE on your radar.
If you are a smaller school, you may not host your own camp but attend another school's camp.
Schools will often work with each other to attend camps at locations that are far from their campus.
What are you looking for during a camp?
Your camp is most likely a skills competition and not a padded camp. As a result, football skills are hard to be displayed.
Your search is superficial.
You are looking for the biggest, fastest kids at the camp.

Besides prospect camps, there are endless other camps and organized football activities out there.
Most cost money and most DO NOT have any place in the recruiting process.
We have put together a separate page where we cover 7-on-7 tournaments, combines, development camps, and All-Star games.

We started with James Franklin....let's close with him as well.
Listen to his thoughts on "sleeper recruits"

The recruiting process has tremendous variability in it.
Not only does it vary by division, it varies by resources and it varies by coach.
Many recruiting services out there will paint the recruiting process as a huge complex beast when in reality, with data, it is getting simpler and simpler.
As part of our mission here at AthleticOutlook....we are ALWAYS on the hunt to bring the most accurate, up to date information to high school families like yours.