As much as any college football coach likes to see the product up close, it's difficult to watch every potential recruit play in person.

Sure, the upper-level coaches see players in action at their institution's summer camps. Those BCS coaches also have the travel budgets to see more games, but even they can't get everywhere. And coaches of smaller schools are even more limited on trip funds.

Which is why a highlight tape - or in this age of technology, the highlight DVD - has become such a valuable recruiting tool.

It's what can initially grab a college coach's attention and eventually lead to a football scholarship.

"The highlight tapes have an importance when they can't see him play in person because of all the restrictions," Parkview coach Cecil Flowe said.

Highlight DVDs of players have become essential in the recruiting process, allowing college coaches to evaluate talent.

But the tool is more than just long touchdown passes, big hits and amazing blocks.

"The highlight tapes are very useful for the colleges because they get to see the best plays instead of going through 10 games trying to evaluate them," Shiloh coach Keith Wilkes said. "They can just evaluate them on highlight tapes."

Name, school and jersey number are just some of the basics that go with highlight DVDs. Many schools will provide contact information such as phone number, e-mail and home address. Then there's football specific stats like height and weight, 40-yard dash time, bench press max and vertical jump. Some schools will even add GPA and SAT or ACT test scores.

"Some of them are really fixed up nice," said Wilkes, who uses a professional company to record and make Shiloh's highlight DVDs. "I think the ones that are more attractive will get coaches looking at them hard. So you want to make it as attractive as you can."

Of course it's what college coaches see in the highlight reel that really matters. It often goes beyond just throwing and catching or running and tackling.

"If a kid can play, he can play," Georgia State assistant coach George Pugh said. "The thing I'm looking for in a highlight tape, I'm focusing more on the player - his character, his work ethic, stuff like that."

Which is why high school coaches try to fill a highlight DVD with as many big plays as possible, to give college coaches a sense of what kind of player they are evaluating.

"You want plays that will jump off the screen to a recruiter," Peachtree Ridge coach Bill Ballard said. "They want to be able to see if he can play that position they need or another position."

Some teams will put every top play on a player's highlight, no matter how many there are.

"If a guy can play then they can see it on a highlight," Ballard said. "We try to be thorough and put a lot of plays on it. We're going to put so many plays on there and show he can play at that level. The evidence is there."

College football recruiters can often receive hundreds of college highlight DVDs each day, which can often make it difficult to set aside time to watch them all.

"Not every coach will watch the entire thing," Ballard said. "I know Coach (George) O'Leary with Central Florida will watch three or four plays and can tell if he likes a kid or not."

While a highlight DVD can be entertaining to watch, it doesn't always tell the whole picture of a player. Which is why many college coaches will often ask for game film of a player to evaluate them further.

In the end, a highlight DVD is often just the start of the recruiting process and is a good way to attract a college coach.

"The majority of the ones we get are excellent, but I still prefer the old way - watching game film," Pugh said. "I want to see what a kid does after the play and after the point of attack. ... A highlight tape is just that - highlights."

Daily Post sports writer David Friedlander contributed to this story.