Whether a middle-schooler or an unheralded prospect entering his senior year of high school, recruits focus on landing that crucial first scholarship offer.
Outside of blue-chip athletes, that part of the process can often be the most confusing, frustrating, and trying time of their young lives.
Between the money spent on development, camps, and traveling to visit these schools, there are times when it can feel more like buying into a pyramid scheme than pursuing a life’s dream.
Landing on a program’s radar proves difficult enough. A player can offer everything a coach wants – talent, potential, grades, attitude – but without exposure, none of that matters.
Gaining exposure is a challenge all its own, especially for prospects outside of the typical recruiting pipelines.
“Other kids come from talent hotbeds in different recruiting states,” the 5-star prospect said. “The attention is already there and they don’t have to do much beyond show up and show out to get those looks.”
In order to overcome those odds, recruits turn to 7-on-7 tournaments, satellite camps, and on-campus training clinics to improve their odds.This leads to the introduction of a new variable, one that can be impossible for some recruits to overcome: the financial burden of attending these events enough to be seen by the right eyes.
And even then, getting that all-important offer is no guarantee. A 2016 3-star recruit who went through the process told CFB Huddle he believed the primary purpose of these events are for the coaches to discover players they want.
“There’s a lot of underrated players that they won’t even give the time of day to see if they’re even good enough or not to give them a chance,” he said.
Unfortunately, that leads to other kids getting a lot less instruction even though they’ve paid the same amount of money.
“Each camp is like $70,” the 3-star lineman prospect said. “I’ve gone to multiple and it does add up. I feel that if some colleges were to make it free it might help them look better from what people are saying that they only do these camps for recruiting and stuff like that.
Travel expenses on top of camp admission fees can total well into the thousands for prospects trying to get on multiple coaches’ radars. Once exposed to a coach, a prospect now is playing catch-up to those already with exposure – those recruits who garner attention as seventh and eighth graders.
Rob Boydstun, a recruiting analyst with Oregon’s Scout affiliate, noted similar concerns about disproportionate focus and coaching given to already-established recruits on the summer-camp circuit.
“There’s a limited amount of coaching available,” Boydstun said. “The kids that you can tell are 4 and 5-star kids probably get more one-on-one attention because the coaches can see that they’re going to be the recruit that just need fine tuning in order go to the next level.
“Maybe a coach sees a kid and thinks he’s not going to be playing Div. I ball or someone who needs a lot of work,” he added, offering the other end of the spectrum. “They’ll talk to those recruits, don’t get me wrong, but we need to be honest that all of these kids are paying for the same level of instruction, and I just don’t know if the coaches can provide that with the volume of kids that go to these camps.”
A future entry in this series takes a deeper look at the camp circuit, but these examples provide a quick glimpse into the stress a prospect faces in simply marketing himself for recruitment.
Prospects go through the wringer before ever committing to a scholarship offer — which presents its own set of stresses.