Recruiting Law: The Withdrawal Can’t Exceed the Deposit

Chad Wilson – GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @gridironstuds

One of the biggest problems I run into trying to help young athletes in the recruiting process is the detachment from reality that exists for prospects.  The problem is small on my end but for the recruit it is enormous.  Many high school football players want to withdraw $1,000,000 from an account that they only deposited $100 in.

Too often I run into prospects and at times,  parents,  who would like to get offers from big time Division I schools when they have put in NAIA effort.  I’m even hesitant to say NAIA because that’s a slight on them because those football players must work hard too.  I can not tell you how many times,  I have been asked to see what I can do for a high school player only to look and find out that they don’t have a highlight video that isn’t done yet.  Furthermore,  they have not dedicated themselves to the weight room or their academics.  I’m literally left to think “what the hell do they think this is out here?”  I truly believe that some high school football players think that because they start for their high school football team they are entitled to a scholarship from some college somewhere.

Before I go in-depth,  let me see if I can sneak some simple math across to those would be,  wanna be college football players:

  • Number of high school football players every year (estimated): 1,000,000
  • Number of FBS, FCS & Division 2 schools combined: 426
  • Number of players on scholarships at FBS, FCS & D2 schools (estimated):  25,000

Now you could be in Algebra I for the 4th straight year and still figure out that these numbers mean that a lot of guys will get left out in the cold when it comes to getting a scholarship.  (note:  I left out Division III schools because they don’t award scholarships though they can give aid).

Now many of you have slept outside of a Best Buy trying to get a Ps5 or refreshed a webpage 20,000 times trying to get a new pair of Jordan’s.  Because of this,  I know you get the concept of competition.  Everybody wants that Ps5 or pair of Jordan’s so you are willing to do something drastic to “cop one of those”.  You simply can not forget that concept when it comes time to securing a college football scholarship. When you are 150 lbs. talking about getting an offer from Michigan,  I want you to think walking into Game Stop four days after the new play station comes out and expecting to just pick one up.  You might be able to but I doubt it.

Don’t think that because you went to practice every day and stayed awake in meetings that this means you should have a seat at the table come December or February your senior year.  That will work if you are a genetic freak and it’s similar to working at GameStop so you have an inside track to getting that new game console.  You will have to stay after practice and get in some extra work on your skills.  You will have to watch hours and hours of extra film to up your football IQ.

Some “prospects” that I come across think they can skip weight room sessions,  go on vacations during the summer workouts and by pass the recruiting camps in the offseason.  That’s fine if you have been dunking a basketball since the 7th grade or haven’t been able to fit in the back seat of the family car since you entered puberty.  This would be similar to actually having the last name Jordan and your father’s name is Michael if you wanted to get the latest pair of shoes the company named after him has put out.

If you are a senior and you know you didn’t do the extra running and weight lifting;  if you know you didn’t go to the camps and work on your athleticism in the offseason;  if you remember how your forgot to watch film quite often and didn’t care much for learning the game while you were playing it,  have the same expectations you’d have if you walked into the store after everyone else wanting something that everybody has to have.  If you have recently found that spirit of dedication to the sport,  realize that you will take a winding path to where you want to go.  You are either going to walk on,  go to a junior college or some kind of prep school.  If you are an underclassman reading this then chances are I’m not really talking to you.  Just taking the time to read this and get this far in the article without moving on means that you get what I am saying.  Now,  get started doing something about it because as we speak,  about 100,000 guys like you already have.

Underrated Stud: Tendaji Alexander – ’22 WR / DB – Clawson HS, MI

Chad Wilson – GridironStuds
Twitter: @GridironStuds

We all love playmakers and boy do we have one here with 2022 DB / WR Tendaji Alexander.  The Clawson High School junior can bust out a highlight on you any minute.  While some high school football players will have to search far and wide through their game footage to get a clip,  Alexander has to decide what to leave out.

Alexander stands 5’11” and 165 lbs.  His biggest asset are his ball skills.  On offense he’ll make the difficult catch in traffic,  win a 50 / 50 ball or redirect himself on an errant throw to haul it in.  On film,  he does not look to be a blazer but he is very crafty after the catch.  This quite often leads to big gains after short catches that terrorizes the defense.  He’s strong vs. press defenders when he gets them and at the point of attack on thrown balls,  he shines.  This past season,  he amassed over 700 yards of offense with many of them being highlight type plays.  He certainly looks like a guy who should’ve handled the ball more.

Defensively he is also a problem.  His sophomore campaign saw him nab 9 interceptions.  This no doubt put a big beware sign on his helmet for opposing quarterbacks.  Despite that,  he still finds ways to get in on the action whether its a big hit,  a forced fumble or jumping on a loose football.  His outstanding ball skills are definitely a big asset to him on the defensive side as he goes up to grab balls away from intended receivers.  He also seems to be johnny on the spot too on errant throws by quarterbacks.  Remember how I said he’s nifty after the catch,  this applies to defense too when he hauls in the interceptions.  All around he’s a solid player with the playmaking gene that will only get better this offseason and make himself a prized recruiting option for many schools.

4 Moves Sophomores Need to Make Now | College Football Recruiting

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @GridironStuds

Congratulations,  you just completed your sophomore season of high school football and perhaps for the first time you are thinking about playing college football.  The road to an offer and commitment can be a winding one so mapping it out is must.  With that in mind here are some moves you will need to make heading into the offseason.

(1) Make a Solid Highlight Video

This piece of advice obviously means more if you actually started playing varsity and had a chance to acquire some serious playing time.  If you played strictly JV and perhaps some varsity then still make a highlight video but this will be more for getting used to the process. If you did play a serious role as a sophomore on the varsity team then make sure you make a winning highlight video.  As a sophomore,  it is ultra critical to do this right.  Chances are you didn’t make a ton of plays but you can make yourself look better by packing the front end of your highlight video with the best of you before moving to the more routine plays of your season.  Keep the video brief.  Two to four minutes will be enough to tease scouts with your potential for the next two seasons to come.  I have videos on my YouTube channel discussing how to make an effective highlight video.

(2) Build a List of College Coaches

A list of a minimum of 20-30 coaches’ email addresses and Twitter handles is a must.  If you can get to 50 or more then all the better.  Realize that you will have to continue to update this list as college coaches change jobs frequently.  However,  start making that list if you haven’t already.  Your list should not be entirely the Top 20 programs in the country or all Power 5 schools.  Be realistic about who you are and your talent level.  Your goal is to secure a scholarship by the time you graduate.  If you are putting together a list of 30 coaches then you should do the following.  10 should be dream schools.  10 should be schools you think you have a pretty good shot at earning attention from and 10 should be schools you know for sure would recruit you.  Who is in each part of those lists can and will change in the time to come. Whatever the case may be,  start making the list because you are going to need to start reaching out to them.

(3) Get Focused on Strength and Conditioning 

The biggest gains in the area of size and strength usually come from sophomore to junior year.  By then,  puberty is kicking into high gear and so too should your dedication to the weight room.  When it comes to building size and strength,  consistency is the key.  Try your best not to miss workouts.  Set goals for yourself on each lift and work your butt off to get there.  Find a way to eat as often as possible to support all of this activity and I can assure you that you will start looking the part.  College football recruiting is a beauty contest.  A lot of what happens there has to do with looks.  Looking the part will get you looks before actually doing the part will.  Sad but true so while you are striving to be a top notched playmaker,  make sure you are looking like one in and out of your pads.

(4) Start Attending College Football Camps

Notice I didn’t say “recruiting” camps.  You should have already done some of that after your freshman season.  Attending recruiting camps will continue to be a part of your offseason as a sophomore but if you feel you put together a solid sophomore season and have significantly developed yourself athletically during the offseason,  then it’s time to get in front of college football coaches.  If you are lucky enough to be in an area where they have Spring football,  then coaches will come to your campus.  Hopefully they notice you during practice and in your spring game.  However,  even if they didn’t,   you can give them a second look during the summer by attending their camps.  In choosing which college camps to go to,  think the same way you built your list.  If you are going to 5 camps,  choose 1 or 2 that are dream schools and 3 or 4 who have actually contacted you already or that you feel pretty good that they will take an interest in you.  Again,  the trick is to secure a scholarship by graduation not dreaming all the way to National Signing Day.   Attend the camps,  learn how to compete and interact with coaches.  This will serve you well after your junior year when college camp attendance is huge.

Those are the moves to make along with some other minor ones.  Start making your plans now that your season has ended.  The sooner you can develop the plan and start attacking it,  the better your chance at executing.  Remember,  college football recruiting is very competitive and I can guarantee you that many others that you are going up against have already begun on their plans to earn their scholarship.

Underrated Stud: Michael Hawkins ’22 TE – Somerset HS, KY

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @GridironStuds

When you talk about looking the part,  2022 TE Michael Hawkins is it.  At 6’5″ 225 lbs.,  he certainly stands out playing on the end of the line of scrimmage for Somerset High School in London, Kentucky.  However,  I don’t want to just reduce him to being a specimen.

Hawkins moves like a division I tight end and he’s full service.  First off,  he gets off on the ball and gets on his blocks when he is asked to do that.  He’s most impressive in reach blocks on outside zone plays.  That’s not all though,  he can down block on the big guys and get movement while also getting on the LBs at the 2nd level.  He can also neutralize a defensive end on both run and pass plays.

In the passing game,  Hawkins provides a big target.  Asking a high school linebacker or defensive back to cover him is a tall order.  When teams opt to play zone,  he can just get out in space,  sit down and be an easy target for the quarterback.  Tackling him after the catch now becomes quite the chore.  Hawkins is also a strong red zone threat when the area to work in gets reduced.  He is a long athletic 225 lbs. who becomes a tough cover over the middle and on routes to the corner of the end zone.  Somerset’s offense also flexes him out from time to time and he shows enough agility to freeze a defender at the line before getting body position on him to make a tough catch.

Hawkins really reminds me of another GridironStud who made our Recruit Watch List from the class of 2021,  Cane Berrong.  Berrong entered our list with little to no offers and is now set to be a part of Notre Dame’s 2021 class as the #8 ranked tight end in the country.  Hawkins possesses a lot of the same traits and has the looks of a Notre Dame,  Big 10 type tight end.  This is not to say that he’s not a possible target for any Power 5 conference school.  It will be interesting to see how his body and skill level develops over this next offseason.  He will certainly draw much attention during this next recruiting cycle.

Underrated Stud: Bruin Barnes – 2021 DB – Hamburg HS, AR

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @gridironstuds

Everyone likes a little aggression on the football field. There’s nothing little about the amount of aggression Bruin Barnes brings to the table. The 6’1″ 190 lb. safety prospect out of Hamburg HS in Arkansas is all about violence.

Clip after clip on his highlight video features him taking some young man’s soul who’s only mistake was to be carrying the pigskin and not wearing Hamburg’s colors. Barnes’ full metal jacket approach to the game is eye catching. He moves at a different speed than everyone else on the field despite not having eye popping athletic numbers. Barnes has what we have all come to know as game speed. He does have 4.59 speed which is plenty fast but not what anyone would call elite. His 405 lb. squat is above average for high schoolers and certainly D1 worthy.

The other think you will like to see from him on film are his instincts. It is clear when watching film that he likely played football for several years before high school. He has a keen sense for what is about to happen and reacts well to it. There is very little hesitation in Barnes game. I think he is a division I prospect but in the crazy recruiting year of 2020, many a prospect is hiding under a rock. Whatever program lands this gridiron warrior is going to be getting a treat.

Check out Bruin Barnes’ GridironStuds profile and highlight video

Empower Your Signal Caller on Defense vs. Hurry Up Offenses

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @gridironstuds

When teams want to throw you off as a play caller for the defense they will resort to the tactic of hurry up offense.  There are times that you will be inside of the offensive coordinators head with your calls and you seem to be one step ahead of him.  A good offensive  coordinator will reclaim his edge by moving to an uptempo offense to change your play calls and get your defense to line up wrong.  There’s one good way to counter that counter and this article will talk about that.

There are three reasons why hurry up offense works.  First is it fatigues the defense which leads to blown assignments and missed tackles. Second,  is that it causes mis-alignments which leads to big plays because the defense is out leveraged.  Third is it causes miscommunication which leads to big chunk plays in the passing game as receivers are left wide open.  Regarding number one,  thats on you as a coach if your team is not in shape enough to handle an uptempo offense as virtually every team has it in their repertoire.  Reasons two and three can be severely eliminated by doing this one thing and that is turning the play calls over to your middle linebacker.  Why the middle linebacker?  Because he’s typically the brains of your operation and the one who calls the signals in the huddle.  If he’s not for some reason then give the play calls over to whoever that signal caller is (aka the guy you trust the most).

I know what I just said is like a guy giving his girlfriend his cell phone (pretty scary) but it’s a must.  Unless you absolutely don’t trust your Mike backer,  putting the power to make the calls in his hands helps the defense in several ways.  First,  it limits the whole defense having to look over to you or the signals coach to get a call while the offense is getting ready to snap the ball.  Second,  it gets everyone on the same page more likely.  Finally,  it limits the playbook which is a good thing when teams go fast.

Against a hurry up offense,  the best defense is the one where all 11 men on the field know what the call is.  Signaling in the defense from the sidelines in a haste causes problems.  First you must choose the defense,  next either you or the signals coach has to signal it in.  Then the you have to hope that all 11 players see the same thing and echo the same call around.  By then the ball is snapped and the players have little chance to decipher their assignments vs. the look to go play with any amount of speed and confidence.

So how do we set up the play calling controls for the middle linebacker?

(1)  Give Him 3 Options

As a defensive coordinator,  I experimented with 5 calls, 4 calls, 2 calls, etc.  After trial and error,  I settled on three options as the best for the player to choose from.  If you have a really smart Mike AND a pretty experienced unit you can throw a 4th call in there.  Yes,  I know shortening the playbook makes you feel like you are in prison but guess what,  the offense has shortened their playbook too.  They are simply hoping you line up wrong vs. one of 3 or 4 plays they want to run.

(2)  The Calls Should be One of Each

Within those 3 options,  you want to give the MIKE a zone call, a man call and a blitz call.   This gives him a range within the curtailed set of options.  He can now match the defensive type to the situation.  This is where you will do your best coaching.  Since in this situation you are removed as a coach on game day,  you replace it with your coaching during game week.  Discuss with your MIKE the possible scenarios that could occur and what call best sets the unit up for success in the given situation.  Your MIKE should be able to think like you but given his IQ and experience,  let him know he has a certain amount of freedom.  Yes,  I know for the college coach making $500,000 to $1.5 million annually,  the thought of a U-Haul truck pulling up to the front of your house because of calls made by an 19-22 year old frightens you.  Relax,  that kid might call a better game than you in this situation especially if you have done a good job coaching him.

Regarding the actually kind of calls.  Your zone should be your best zone.  Is your team best in a 1 high Cover 3 concept?  Is a split safety coverage where you excel?  Your man call should be the one where your unit is most comfortable.  Remember,  they will be fatigued a bit.  You don’t want to mix discomfort in with fatigue.  Finally,  the blitz should match up with the objective.  Are you trying to stop a run play with the blitz or a pass play?  Is the QB a pocket passer?  if so then you might want some kind of double A gap pressure.  Is the QB great outside of the pocket?  Then you may opt for bringing edge pressure.  This call will likely change from week to week.

(3) Give the Calls Simple Names

Give the play calls a one word name.  Trust me on that.  Don’t go getting complicated.  Remember on offense during uptempo,  simplicity works.  This applies to you on defense.  For example,  “Migos” named after the popular rap group can be your Cover 3 call.  There are 3 members in Migos.  Your young group can appreciate that and will prefer that over you calling Cover 3 “Run DMC” (who also had 3 members) who is old and has two words in it.  “Hulk” could be a blitz call and “Lebron” could be your Cover 1 call because to this generation,  he’s #1.  If you really want to do this right,  you let the MIKE come up with the names for the call.   It will make it more fun and the unit will embrace it.

Now you need hand signals because on top of calling it out,  he must also signal it for the guys that are far away from him like the secondary. The defensive line can look forward at the offense and hear the call while the secondary can eyeball the MIKE for the hand signals in the event that they can’t hear him in a crowded stadium.  Simple hand signals are best.  Touching a part of the body,  raising a hand in a certain direction,  etc.  If you don’t have ideas,  go watch a first base coach signaling to a batter in baseball.  LOL.

(4) Practice, Practice, Practice

Now you need the dress rehearsal.  In the meetings you must present to the MIKE and the whole defense the scenarios and what you think works best.  You must also ready the team for scenarios like the offense switching suddenly from a regular offense to hurry up.  Is there a safe call for that scenario that you automatically call just to make sure you are lined up right and in position?  It’s probably best to have that and make it known to the MIKE that this is the call on that first hurry up play.  Also,  cover the objectives each week and go over constantly what calls have changed each week.  You don’t want to change all the calls each week.  Again,  the objective is comfort which brings confidence and allows your unit to play fast.  Finally,  you have a 2 minute session in practice and let your MIKE go to work.  My signal to the MIKE when we were in hurry up was to simply point to him.  That meant “your on! It’s your turn”  Sometimes it’s best to launch that 2 minute period in practice without warning.  This preps the mind for the sudden change, chaos and pace that could occur in the game.  Preparation is key.

Example Calls

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In closing,  the best defensive call in any scenario is the one in which all 11 men know what it is.  The biggest plays on offense typically occur when there’s a miscommunication assuming you have near equal talent to your opponent.  Closing down the playbook and giving an on field player that ability to choose cuts out the middle man.  As we all know,  the middle man slows down any process and causes the prices to be higher.  In your case the high price is confusion on defense and a 30 yard run off the edge where the ball carrier is untouched because you had three guys in the same gap.  Empower your players and watch them excel.