Over the past 10 years, college recruiting has went from shipping DVDs across the country to having everything a scout needs within a click on their tablets.
With so much information on social media and recruiting sites, college recruiting has changed and prospects need to know everything they are putting out is accessible and being looked at by recruiting staffs.
When a college recruiter contacts a coach, Leesville head football coach Robert Causey says the things they look for is first is grades and test scores then the character of the athletes.
"I tell the guys that I'm not going lie," he said. "I ask them what they want me to say about them: are you a high character guy? We just tell them the truth about we have. We put our reputation on the line. We're honest."
DeRidder head coach Brad Parmley has had 18 athletes signed to a scholarship since 2008. He says the recruiting has the same core as it has always had, but is approached in different ways.
"I don't think the questions they ask have changed," he said. "I think the method that they find them has changed. Hudl has changed the game tremendously, as far as highlight videos. Whenever we signed Coach Worthen, we were still downloading the highlight videos from a football program. Then we made copies of that DVD and sent it out to every college that I knew of. We would go on the internet, find the address, write down the coach's name and shipped it off. Now, it's just a click and you can watch a kid's clip from Montana. From a college recruiter's standpoint, it's changed the game."
Leesville had nine players sign to play college football next season, and Causey realized the importance of social media and what it can do for an athlete, but also the drawbacks.
"I feel like we talk about it daily," Causey said. "Once it's out there, you can't take it back. You can't distinguish the meaning of what you put out there. If we're sitting and talking, you can get a better feel of what they're saying. If it's on social media, you take it as is. We tell them to be careful and watch what you put out there.
"I don't like it, but it opens up more avenues for your kids. Coaches all over the country have access to it, and there are more opportunities out there. You try to find a balance and deal with it."
Prospective student-athletes have lost scholarships over social media posts, and Parmley lets his players know what the reach of a bad tweet goes past playing football.
"We translate it beyond college football, because 99 percent of the guys don't play beyond college football," Parmley said. "They are going to look for a job, and employers are going to look for the same things that an employer is going to look for. They are looking on Twitter and Facebook, and that is reference. If I'm a businessman, and I want to hire one of these two kids and one of them has things on Facebook he shouldn't have on there, and the other is pretty straight laced, that's a pretty easy decision. Everything you put on the computer and how you conduct yourself, that's your resume."
Parmley played collegiality at LSU and Northwestern State before coaching at DeRidder and went through a little different recruiting process.
"I think it was probably harder on the college recruiters back then because they didn't have that much information," Parmley said. "They had to do a good job of understanding and evaluating people. It was on first impressions, home visits and official visits."
Right in the middle of the heartland, Rich Wright heads Northwest Missouri State: one of the most successful programs in Division II football.
The Bearcats have won three of the past six national titles and six in the program's history, with a majority of local kids at the forefront of what they do.
"I think that the thing that we do well is that we pay attention to multi-sport athletes," Wright said. "We've been successful with kids from smaller towns because they haven't specialized. The advantage of that is that they're competitors, and you know that because they're competing in different things. They have become well-rounded athletes. There was a state that we used to recruit down south that we don't recruit anymore. The reason is because they have year round football and coaching. They are very specialized at a young age, and the problem was is that the kid we saw at 18 was the same finished product we had at 22. "
The standard for Northwest is filling up trophy cases, so it needs to recruit the athletes that can play, but also puts an emphasis getting the right type of guys in the locker room.
"One of the big things that you hear me talk to my staff about is is the kid intrinsically motivated?" Wright said. "Is he motivated beyond somebody giving him something and a bunch of people being in the stands on Friday night? The toughest thing for high school kids is being the big fish in a small pond to being a very small fish in a big pond in a hurry. Without those characteristics, those kids won't make it.
"We have to ask 'Do you love football?' because so many of these kids, for the first time, are growing up in a generation that wasn't outside playing football. They spent more time doing it on video games. Do you love to play football or is it something you're good at? In college, you have to."
Universities across the country use social media to broadcast what is going at the college, whether that be the university police, the football team or the student body.
Wright and the Northwest athletic department put out highlight and hype videos throughout the seasons, but also use it to check out different players. What Wright has seen is that recruits with offers get more focused on announcing it to their followers rather than what it actually means to get a chance to play on Saturdays.
"There are positives to it because we're able to broadcast our brand more than we ever could without it," Wright said. "It's free advertisement, and we have a good audience. The flip side is that it's become players say 'Blessed to receive an offer for so-and-so', and the offer has very little value anymore. It's all about how I can tweet it out and make it about me. It's a double-edged sword."
Causey is still learning, like most coaches, about the constant change in the world of social media and the different reach it can have. Players can show off their impressive 40 times and arm strength, but they also have a chance to show what else they have to offer.
"It's about teaching your players how to market themselves," he said. "We focus on grades from day one. We sometimes sign them out of P.E. to work on tutoring, whatever we can do. When the coaches come in, they're going to ask about their transcripts. Every kid that comes in and plays high school sports has to have the mindset that they are going to try and play college ball, because when you take that mindset, your grades take care of themselves. Athletes have the highest grades out of anybody in the school because to be eligible, they have to."
Skill and grades are still a big part of what colleges look at, but for a lot of universities, how the young athlete conducts him or herself will tell you a lot about how they turn out.
"Some people get blinded by the talent that they forget about the all the other pieces that go in to making a good college football player," Wright said. "The talent piece is like anything else in life, whether you're a reporter or a football player, that work ethic comes in and stays. Give me the kid that is less talented and works really hard over the talented kid that is kind of lazy. It's amazing how those two kids turn out. Make sure you are recruiting good people and make sure you're recruiting that you would be proud to introduce as a member of your family."