Getting technical
Advances in technology make it easier for college football recruiting

DULUTH - Step onto the floor of one of the Gwinnett Center's exhibit halls Monday and you might have thought you were at a technology expo, what with all the video screens and computer monitors stationed at every table.

Upon further review, it was the latest edition of the Gwinnett Recruiting Fair, which by midday had attracted more than 140 coaches representing about 85 colleges of different levels to see players from 53 area high schools, including most of Gwinnett County's programs.

And the annual event put on by the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett designed to help college coaches find high-caliber area players is a perfect reflection of how the recruiting process has gone high-tech.

"With the technology as great as it is now, I don't know if I could coach anymore," joked retired Brookwood coach and athletics director, and current Touchdown Club of Gwinnett president, Dave Hunter. "It was hard enough for me to go from 16-millimeter film to VHS. Now, they've got all this computer stuff. It's past me."

Yes, CDs and DVDs, the latest choices for delivering highlights of a give player or players to college programs, has made VHS videotape yesterday.

"I think the technology now is a lot better," said T.D. Woods, wide receiver coach at Tulane University. "The quality of the film is better. You can see the kids a lot better. Something like this is really good because you've got all the coaches in one spot. A coach like myself, who recruits all of north Georgia, it helps you out. You can (get CDs from) all the schools in the area."

They've certainly streamlined the recruiting fair, especially given the increasing number of high school programs showing off the talents of their players from the humble beginnings of the event at Brookwood High School in 1997.

"CDs are awesome," Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. "You can just pop it in there and have a CD ready in like 3 minutes. The editing systems are really good, too. ... Back nine years ago, we'd meet over at the lodge at Brookwood. What we had to do, it was VHS and we'd have to send (coaches) to a different room to make copies of it. And think of the hours we had to spend waiting to make copies of kids' (highlights) to take with us. And once you finished passing them all out, you'd have to make more copies. It took a long time.

"When I started just a few years ago, you'd have a VHS, and that was real time. So, you'd have a game and it would take an hour or hour and a half for it to finish (making a copy). Now, we've got eight games on one DVD. (College coaches) can go through and figure out what film they want to watch. And it's easier to fit in your car, as opposed to making eight VHS copies and stacking up (to the roof). It's just a whole lot more efficient."

Of course, even with new technology simplifying the process, there is always room for upgrades.

Some of those upgrades may be in human form, like Conn's belief that it won't be long before programs begin hiring coaches specifically to put together highlight reels for the purposes of showing off players' talent to college recruiters.

Any coach assigned to that task already has editing equipment available to make that task simpler, though as Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis points out, such equipment doesn't come cheap, especially in the current economy.

However, he also says the expense can be worth it if it gives players a chance to be seen and possibly earn a scholarship.

"We bought last year a pretty expensive video editing program," Jarvis said. "I bought it for recruiting purposes as much as anything, moreso than breaking down game film. Right now, we have highlight films of sophomores, juniors and seniors who can go to any college in America, and I can burn that DVD in 2 minutes and have it ready to go.

"The technology involved is very expensive. You go around this room and most schools spend $15,000 (to) $20,000 in video editing equipment. But this has been tremendous for Mill Creek. Since I've been here, we get one or two kids a year to get an opportunity just from this (recruiting fair)."

Still, while the high-tech approach has been a boon to recruiting, there is still a place for good old low-tech approaches like paper.

To supplement video highlights, schools like Collins Hill, Norcross and North Gwinnett, among others, often handout folders with statistics, academic achievements and other information a college coach might be looking for on a given player.

"Guys have to take stuff back to their head coaches," North coach Bob Sphire said. "Particularly when it comes to academic information. They want to physically have a hard copy. And really, you don't always want to send (personal information) like that electronically."