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June 23, 2014

The importance of recruiting

Over the years coach Jared VanAker at Freedom High School has been among the more active coaches in the state when it comes to communicating with both college coaches and VirginiaPreps.com about his prospects.

We sat down with the Eagles leader to talk about the importance of his role in recruiting and the aspects of it that are important to him.

What is your role as a coach to help these kids get recruited? 

JVA: "One of our major roles as a teacher/head football coach is to provide the exposure and guidance to young men to continue their education. If those individuals are able to obtain athletic scholarships then we also need to provide that exposure and guidance to these young men as well. Some of these athletic scholarships can provide a young man an opportunity to not only pay for their college education but set them up for future success in life as well."   

Do you have connections that help? If so, what are some examples? 

JVA: "I have developed a bunch of connections and relationships with coaches all across the United States. After 12 years of coaching with 8 as a head football coach, I have been able to develop relationships and connections with a ton of football coaches. The football coaching profession is a fraternity that helps support one another and provides opportunities to build solid relationships with one another. I also played college football myself and also had three siblings who played collegiate athletics so there is a lot of experience in the recruiting world. I have sent numerous kids to JUCO, D-III, NAIA, D-II, FCS, etc in my coaching career and thus have developed connections with college level coaches. I also recently became the clinic director of the Mid-Atlantic NIKE Coach of the Year Clinic, where I personally come in contact with some of the best coaches in the U.S. This past year I got to personally network with Todd Graham (ASU), Dana Holgorsen (WVU), Brett Bielema (ARK), Rich Rodriguez (AZ), Al Golden (MIA), and Ruffin McNeill( ECU) and a host of other great college and high school football coaches." 

We see a lot of coaches who talk up their recruits. How do you try and stay fair in assessing? 

"As coaches we have to be able to assess and promote the kids to the correct level that their ability correlates to. If you lie to recruiters about a prospect they may not trust your evaluation skills and unfortunately may not look at future kids that you may have in your program.  As coaches there always comes a little bias, but in my opinion, if the kid can play and he shows it on the field and thus on film then he will get the attention of the proper recruiters as well." 

What is the most overrated trait of a recruit, regardless of position? 

"I may be committing a sin by saying this but I think linear speed (40-yard dash) is the most overrated aspect of the recruiting business. I mean how many times will an athlete get an un-obstructed straight line sprint, not to mention with no pads and practically down to your boxers, in the game of football? Never…However, so much stock is put into this data that I have seen average/below average "football players" get offered because of their blazing speed. I would rather like to see the kid play the game at the speed they actually play. I break kids down into three categories: kids that are fast and play fast, kids that are fast that play slow, and kids that are a step slow but play very fast. Alll can be good or bad football players. How do they play the game? 

What is the most underrated trait for a recruit/prospect, regardless of position? 

"I would say the most underrated trait is the level of desire, heart, and level of competition a recruit may possess. Does the kid really love the game of football? Because after all the glitz and glamour of the recruiting process, the star rating system, combine invites, and multiple offers, etc., it all fades away when they step foot on their college campus. How will they be? You are going to be on a team that is full of kids that were the stars on their team, state, region, etc…You now have to compete for a position that wasn't just handed to you because you were the best….You have to put a ton of time, hard work, and commitment that doubles what they currently do at the high school level. Are they really ready for what it takes to play college football? I have seen so many examples of highly-recruited kids who fizzle out under the pressure for them to perform Meanwhile I have seen a ton of examples of not-so-highly recruited guys perform to the highest degree and excel and make it to the NFL. What was the difference? Hard work ethic and desire to compete."


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