I received an e-mail from a concerned high school coach the other day. I think he speaks for a lot of coaches and I hope I can put his mind at ease and, at the same time, provide some sensible advice that he can use his players in the future.
"I am a head football coach and I have done everything I can possibly think of from sending out films, taking visits, calling and e-mailing coaches, taking my players to combines and camps, etc.," the coach wrote. "Is there anything else? Maybe my evaluation skills are wrong. Maybe I think my kids are better than they really are. I don't know."
Coach, you have done everything right. There is only so much a coach can do. Now it is up to the college coaches to decide if they like your players or not. To use an overused old saw, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Well, you can lead a coach to a prospect but you can't make him offer a scholarship if he doesn't like him.
Your job is to make sure the college coach is aware of your player and make sure they look at the film. After I watch a film, I give it to the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) and they allow every coach in the country to watch it for free. College coaches don't offer a kid based on a high school coach's recommendation. The final decision is up to the college coach. And college coaches can be wrong in their evaluations. Remember Russell Maryland, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Barry Sanders and Kurt Warner?
Here is some more advice that I have found helpful over 31 years in this business:
Make sure your players attend as many one-day college camps as possible. That's how they get scholarships. A college will offer before a kid leaves the campus if they like him. The bottom line is earning a full scholarship. At a one-day camp, the college coaches see a prospect in person. They will work you out and you have a chance to show them what you can do. The reward could be a scholarship worth $200,000.
Remember, college coaches can't attend combines. So you are spinning your wheels at combines. One-day camps are more intense. You know you are being scrutinized by people who can really help you.
Combines? There are too many of them. Some are fun by qualified people and some are not. Since college coaches aren't permitted to be present, prospects are stroking their own egos. They are draining their strength. Some combines give results to colleges, some sell the results and some don't release the results at all.
I recommend that kids should spend their time and energy at a one-day college camp. If you have multiple offers, don't go to a combine but go to a camp at a college that hasn't offered you. Or take a vacation. Or take unofficial visits to as many schools to check out the social and academic aspects of the program.
Time is limited. Don't waste it at a lot of useless combines. Instruction combines are good for freshmen and sophomores. Football University is a good instructional camp for younger kids. It's about learning, not about recruiting.
Honestly, in all of my experience, I have never heard of a senior who jumped on the national stage because of his appearance and exposure at a combine. In fact, some combines inform kids that if they don't show up, they won't get any publicity. It is up to the parents and high school coaches to be weed out the good guys from the bad guys.
Another camp I heartily recommend is Jamie Kohl's kicking camp at Wisconsin-Whitewater in July. Kohl once was a punter for the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. In my mind, it is the best punting camp in the country. NFL punters serve as instructors. For information, call (262) 510-9010.