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Editor's Note: As the 2016-2017 school year approaches, many young athletes are preparing to step foot on the field, court or golf course. Many of those athletes have dreams of playing in college, but how does an athlete get to the next level?
That’s the question that we look to answer in this series, X’s and O’s of the recruiting process. For the next four weeks, we will talk with people who have seen the recruiting process unfold from different angles during their careers. We will talk with a former recruiting department employee, coaches and players that have earned scholarships or walked on to a university team.
While the focus will be primarily on football recruiting, the advice is still applicable to volleyball, basketball and track athletes as well. The process is nearly the same across all sports. While there may be slight variances in the way it is carried out, the idea is still the same. The biggest thing an athlete needs to do is get exposure. There are various ways to get that exposure to colleges and we will discuss that over the duration of the series.
This week, we talk with HuskerOnline’s Nate Clouse. Clouse worked for nearly a decade in the recruiting department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln under Frank Solich, Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini.
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While many high school athletes have hopes of continuing their careers in college, most don’t know how to get the attention of coaches.
Nate Clouse, currently a recruiting analyst and staff writer for HuskerOnline.com, worked in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s football recruiting department from 2002 to 2009. He began working under Frank Solich, mostly helping with the game day experience for visiting recruits. He stayed with the program under Bill Callahan and the early portion of Bo Pelini’s tenure, eventually working his way into the day to day recruiting operations.
After his time at the university, Clouse began working for HuskerOnline.com as a recruiting analyst. Through his time at the university and with the national recruiting site, he had the opportunity to learn what it takes for a prospect to become a top recruit.
When trying to determine if a prospect is a top-level recruit, Clouse said the first thing coaches look for is a player’s overall athleticism. Coaches and recruiting staffs spend much of their time trying to determine if a player can make their team better and fit their needs.
Once the coaches determine an athlete fits their idea of a recruit, they then start researching a recruit off the field - in particular their academics and character.
“They start trying to figure out ‘Is this kid not only going to help our football team, but are they the type of kid that’s going to fit our culture here and fit in to the university, will they represent the program the way we want it to be represented,’” Clouse explained.
With so many athletes hoping to earn a Division 1 scholarship, poor academics or character concerns can immediately turn coaches away from a recruit.
“I don’t care how good a football player you are,” Clouse said. “If you have poor transcripts and don’t have the grades, coaches aren’t going to waste their time recruiting you.
One issue he saw that held many great athletes back is that they didn’t put in the effort in the classroom during their early high school years. Those students then spent their junior and seniors years trying to catch up. With teams finding recruits earlier than ever, many prospects in that position get passed by and have to go to a junior college or lower level school to continue their careers.
One reason that teams are finding their recruits earlier than ever is due to the rise of recruiting services such as Rivals, Scout, 247 and even Hudl.
“When I was in the recruiting office, we were on those sites almost every day,” Clouse recalled.
Those services have become so popular among coaching staffs because of the ability it gives them to stay informed. Throughout the year, their are certain periods where coaches are restricted in how much they can contact a recruit. Oftentimes, a known recruit will be interviewed by the writers on the recruiting sites and when that article comes out, it gives the coaches an idea of what a recruit has been up to.
Hudl, a Nebraska-based video hosting service, has made the recruiting process easier for both athletes and coaches. Clouse noted that when he first began in the recruiting department, they would receive VHS tapes on a regular basis with a prospects highlight reel.
That process was expensive for players, as they had to pay for the tapes and to ship them to multiple colleges across the country. Hudl has made that process easier, as recruits can upload their highlight reel directly to the site and coaches can immediately watch a player’s film on their computer.
However, sending a coach film is just one way for a recruit to get noticed, according to Clouse. Coaches also look for prospects on various lists, such as all-conference and all-state selections. College coaches also spend time speaking with high school coaches about their top players. Attending a school’s football camp is also a great way to gain exposure.
“That’s another way that schools find out about recruits,” he said.
Clouse said it’s important for athletes, especially from smaller schools, to attend as many camps as possible to gain as much exposure as they can. Prospects should attend camps at schools from different levels of play, from NAIA school to Division 1. Once a prospect catches the attention of a coach, even from a lower-level school, other coaches quickly tend to take notice.
“One thing that I’ve always noticed in recruiting is that gaining that first offer and getting some of those first looks is usually the hardest part of the recruiting process,” Clouse said.
For small school athletes, getting to these camps is even more important. Due in part to the large amount of athletes that compete in the lower divisions of Nebraska high school sports, it is easy for a Class C or D athlete to get passed over.
“They maybe have to be a bit more proactive in the way they go about gaining exposure,” Clouse said.
Regardless of where an athlete comes from, Clouse stressed that it is important to keep a clean online presence as well.
“Social media nowadays is another thing that coaches look at immediately,” he explained.