4:48 AM EDT, March 23, 2010
The football recruiting process is easy, if you are good.
College scouts will camp on the doorstep of a 5-star superstar, or even a 4-star player by recruiting Web-site standards.
But when players are of the so-called fringe level of talent, the process becomes more confusing, stressful and even downright aggravating for many players and their parents.
Parents often call me looking for answers – like I have any answers – as they begin to realize their son might have what it takes to play college football, and they want to know the best way to get their kid's name out there.
There are numerous ways to gain attention. The most obvious way for a player to show his skills is in a game situation. There are also highlight tapes, recruiting combines, camps and 7-on-7 tournaments that can be used as tools to creating exposure.
For me, the 7-on-7s is where it's at, and for a number of reasons. But Lo Wood, who coaches the Big Timers team made up of Central Florida players from different Orlando-area high schools, breaks it down fairly simple.
"At a combine, a quarterback can run a 4.5 40 and he's an all-American," Wood said. "Nobody has seen him throw into coverage, nobody has seen him in game situations and nobody has seen if he can win."
Combines do have some one-on-one drills and 7-on-7 opportunities, but those are limited drills in terms of time and number of reps. Mostly, players are measured for their official numbers in things like the 40-yard dash, standing broad jump, vertical jump, bench press, just to name a few.
Camps give players more coaching of position-specific techniques and fundamentals, another good tool.
Both are good for different reasons, but there is usually limited exposure in these sorts of events and players can get lost in the shuffle at a combine where 100s of players are being run through the different stations like cattle at a stockyard.
The 7-on-7 tournaments, however, are the most opportunistic events at which reporters, scouts, analysts and even parents have up-close and personal contact with the players. Usually the tournaments have a very laid-back format without a lot of boundaries within which media must contain themselves, making players that much more approachable.
And more importantly, with only 14 players on the field at one time, players have far more room to roam and show their abilities in game situations. There is no hitting in the 7-on-7, touch format, so plays mostly involve the passing game and there are no linemen.
"The best way, in my opinion, to get exposure, besides highlight film and grades, is the 7-on-7 tournaments," Wood said. "The players can be seen better by multiple reporters. ... at a 7-on-7 tournament Rivals.com will be there, Scout will be there, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and other newspapers.
"Players get an opportunity to do multiple interviews and can hand out their film to different sites and get their name out their on different sites."
Each defense usually consists of three linebackers and four defensive backs. On offense, there is pretty much just a quarterback and five receivers, of which some are running backs, and a center. These players can be far more easily evaluated on individual skills in the wide-open settings with no pads limiting movement.
Many schools have their own 7-on-7 teams, giving them more opportunity to run patterns together during the offseason, giving receivers and quarterbacks quality game-time experience in working with each other.
"And colleges are getting smart. They are letting the reporters do all of their footwork for them," said Wood, the father of DB Lo Wood from Apopka, and now Notre Dame, and WR Isiah Myers at Olympia. "So they get the profiles and stuff from the Web sites and then they know who they want to look at and they don't have to come down here until spring football."
Of course coaches better be going by a lot more than scouting reports from recruiting Web sites. If any coach bases his recruitment of a player on what my opinion is, he doesn't value his job much.
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