As a former college football quarterback in the 1990s and as a head football coach for 10 seasons since the mid-2000s who now has a highly-talented daughter in basketball, JimBob Striplin has seen how recruiting has evolved.
He feels the present might be the best time for a perspective student-athlete.
“It is really a good time to be recruited right now because of the electronic way people can see you,” Striplin said.
Striplin, the head football coach and athletic director at Geneva County, has especially seen the high-profile aspect of recruiting in the last two years with his daughter Karoline, a junior who committed this winter to play basketball at Tennessee, and with Bulldog football standout Emmanuel Henderson, a sophomore who already has 14 major college offers.
But it’s not his first venture into the recruiting arena. He received a few small-school offers before walking on at Auburn following his high school career at Geneva County in 1996 and later coached at Wadley when Terrell Zachery was recruited hard before signing with Auburn in 2006.
Striplin has seen recruiting evolve from a word of mouth/newspaper format to the current social media aspect.
“It is way different from Terrell and even anyone from the 1990s,” Striplin said. “Back in the 90s, you had Athlon Magazine as your recruiting source – it was a regional recruiting magazine and listed what schools they (the players) were being recruited by. You didn’t have any video. It was just word of mouth and newspapers – that is how things got around back in the 90s.
“Then you up through 2004-6 which is when Terrell Zachery was in high school and that is when rivals.com came along and that became a big source of recruiting. Now, fast forward 14-15 years, social media seems to be the biggest source of recruiting.”
Striplin also noted 15-20 years ago and beyond, a lot of the recruiting was done by high schools coaches in interaction with college coaches. The student-athletes’ best opportunity to have contact with college coaches, especially early in the process, was through summer camps.
Today, the actual student-athlete is more involved from the start, says Striplin.
“Everything was on the (high school) coaches’ shoulders back then, but now kids can create their own Hudl highlights and post those on Twitter on Friday night after a football game,” Striplin said.
The quick easy access to Twitter means “everybody has an opportunity to be seen,” says Striplin, and not just a selected few.
“Nowadays you get your name circulating much earlier than you could in 1994-95 (because of social media),” Striplin said.
He also notes the student-athletes quickly get the word out on Twitter as to when they receive an offer, adding to their profile.
Social media is a big part of the recruiting from the college coaches standpoint too.
“With social media, they can build a profile on you before they even hit you on the phone,” Striplin said. “They can do their homework sitting at their desk without having to exhaust all their resources.”
The Bulldog head coach said he noticed the college coaches’ intense homework very early in the recruiting process with both his daughter Karoline and with Henderson.
“The thing I have been most impressed with throughout Emmanuel’s recruiting process – and Karoline’s too -- is how much homework these guys do on you,” Striplin said.
“Some of the schools, particularly some of these big-league SEC schools, have got guys that their only job is to check social media. That is their behind the desk job all day long.”
While college coaches are looking for talent to help them win games and titles, they also have a strong desire to find the right person in terms of character.
“They will eliminate half the people they are looking at just by checking their (players) Twitter feed or Snapchat,” Striplin said, noting college coaches can tell the “characteristics of a kid” based off what the athlete is posting.
“A college scholarship is a lot of money to invest in a kid. That is why they are doing their homework on social media. They are going to know whether or not it will be worth their time and their investment before they even make contact with the coach.”
To that end, Striplin said student-athletes have to be careful what they post to their social media accounts.
“I would encourage everyone to keep a clean feed,” Striplin said.
Academics are also a major part of the story in recruiting, says the Geneva County coach.
“As good as he (Emmanuel) is, the first thing they ask me is (a) what kind of kid is he and (b) what kind of grades does he have,” Striplin said.
Currently, Geneva County has two of the more high-profile athletes in the state of Alabama in both girls basketball in Striplin’s daughter, Karoline, a two-time Class 2A state player of year finalist, and in football with Henderson, one of the state’s top running backs.
Striplin noted the differences in recruiting for the two sports.
“There is a world of differences honestly between basketball recruiting and football,” Striplin said. “In basketball, you need to play AAU basketball (in the summer) to get recruited because of the time constraints the college coaches have during basketball season to see their kids (recruits).
“They can’t possibly do it because they often play on the same nights as the basketball kids play on in high school. So a wise thing for them to do is to go to these AAU basketball tournaments so they can catch everybody at the same site.
“High school football is more of a pure process where nine out of 10 of them (coaches) are going through the high school coach which is the way it ought to be anyway. They can come see the player on a Friday night because they play on Saturday.”
He also notes recruiting – or more specifically choosing a school/college team -- is different between boys and girls student-athletes too because of what is behind the college level or not behind it.
“The guys have more of chances in professional sports so their college education, unfortunately in some cases, is not as important as it to the girls,” Striplin said. “The girls do have the WNBA but that doesn’t pay a whole lot more than a decent job. Whereas for the guys, they are going to want to find a place that can get them to the NFL (or NBA).”