Long gone are the days of high school football prospects mailing college coaches VCR tapes of their highlight packages.
The world of recruiting has dramatically changed, according to area athletes and coaches.
Should players hope to be recruited for college programs, Flowery Branch head coach Chris Griffin said they are increasingly expected to cultivate a strong ability on the field — and a clean image off of it.
“Even DVDs are in the past,” said Griffin, who’s heading into his fourth year as head of the Falcons. “Today, you’ll send a link from your Hudl profile. Coaches have access to so much, and so many athletes. And what’s crazy, is kids can control their recruiting from their phones.”
Back in the mid-1990s, Chestatee’s Bill Forman was sending paper questionnaires through “snail mail” to reach high school prospects as the defensive line coach at Missouri Valley College. According to Forman, it was often a four to six-week process to scout a player, receive an answer back, request video from a head coach and make a decision on whether to extend a scholarship offer.
Today, Forman often sees the recruiting trail from his players’ perspectives. Two of his new assistant coaches, Jake Conley and Korentheus Bailey, help the team as recruitment coordinators who can promote athletes by updating player profiles, following up on official visits and maintaining relationships with college coaches.
Even with the help, Forman said Wednesday, students must make sure to market themselves in the most positive light.
He said he follows most of his team’s social media accounts, including Twitter and Instagram.
“There’s no doubt about it, kids are able to get themselves out so much better than they used to,” he said. “But they’ve got to be careful with what they put out on social media. All the college coaches will follow them, and they’ll definitely see what you put out.”
Such is the case of West Hall’s rising senior Anthony Lotti, who recently committed to play for Wisconsin. His father, Spartans head coach Tony Lotti, said his son was followed on Twitter by several coaches across the country before Anthony attended a pair of camps this June at Boston College and Wisconsin.
Like Forman, Lotti said he and his staff regularly educate his players on the consequences of communication on the Internet or through social media. Even then, Lotti said it’s crucial to make a strong impression with coaches during face-to-face interactions like official visits and summer camps.
“It’s a stressful process,” said Tony Lotti. “If you get multiple people interested, you’re making relationships as you go, it’s hard to decide on one. You like the people you meet, the people you work with, so it’s an emotional whirlwind.”
Often, parents and recruits will pay out of pocket to attend the best summer camps to get in front of coaches and programs. Then, players may choose to wait until the end of their season to officially make their college choice, according to Gainesville coach Bruce Miller.
Rising senior Chris Byrd is expected to pick up several new suitors throughout his final year after strong performances over the summer, and is currently entertaining offers from Kennesaw State and Charleston Southern. While some programs recruit based on specialist positions, like Lotti, most prefer to have their recruits play on both sides of the ball.
Miller said Byrd will be able to build a strong profile by featuring at running back and linebacker for the Red Elephants.
“It just expands (his profile),” Miller said. “If kids only play one side of the ball, it takes a really extraordinary kid to really stick out.”
But it’s sometimes difficult for talented players to take time out to travel for camps, according to Griffin. The coach said senior cornerback/wide receiver Cortez Davis has to juggle his family commitments with his appearances at regional college camps. Davis currently has offers from Western Kentucky, Samford and Georgia State, among others.
As a coaching staff, Griffin said he and his coaches are doing the best they can to help players like Davis, from providing social media tips to the team to creating highlight video packages.
“Every school wants your kids to go to camp, but parents are limited,” said Griffin. “They’ve got to go to work, it’s tough for some of them to get to where you need to go ... but it goes beyond recruiting. We’ve got to make sure they represent themselves as athletes and as people.”