There’s a new routine in high school football.
Make plays Friday, add them to your highlight reel on Hudl before the weekend’s out.
Hudl is a website that allows high school sports teams to upload, review, share, and edit film of practices and games.
College coaches can use it to scout players in a much quicker and less selective manner, which has been shifting the recruiting landscape since the website’s founding in 2006.
High school coaches can use it to review game tape, scout opposing teams, and teach players new plays.
“Instantly, by Saturday morning or Sunday morning, kids all have their plays and highlight films ready,” Marple Newtown coach Chris Gicking said. “It’s so easy, a lot of kids will update every week.”
“It’s one of the greatest tools ever invented for a football coach,” Bartram coach Jim Chapman said. “It’s become extremely easy now for colleges to look up kids and see what they can do.”
Balancing the scales
Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante remembers being an assistant in the early 2000s, receiving packages in droves, filtering through trying to find recruits.
High schools would send VHS tapes (or DVDs, if you were lucky) to college coaches they were familiar with, and letters would come back for the players who got noticed. It was an arduous process for both sides, and an expensive one, at that.
“It was super hard 15 years ago,” Ferrante said. “[Now] if we have someone contact us, you almost just go right to the computer and Google search his name with ‘Hudl’ at the end.”
There was a substantial benefit for high school programs that had someone on staff who could produce quality highlight reels. Schools that could afford to buy more blank DVDs could reach more schools for more players.
“It’s evened the playing field,” Martin Luther King coach Ed Dunn said. “I’ve been around long enough to know what it was like before.”
With Hudl, high school athletes edit their own highlight videos. If college coaches like what they see, they can message an athlete over e-mail or on Twitter.
A Twitter reply could get you scouted:
Hudl’s base subscription costs each school roughly $800 a year, with the most feature-rich option coming in at $3,000.
This price might be keeping the service from truly being the great equalizer, but Dunn sees more and more schools, especially in the Public League, realizing the return on the money they spend.
“It’s a big financial burden, but it’s been worth it,” Dunn said. “Hopefully the school districts grow to a point where, if the teams want to make the investment, [the district] will support them. There’s still a lot of programs that have to come around to it.”
Never too late
The ease of sending game tape early and often might have its greatest impact on lightly recruited upperclassmen who are late bloomers, such as Dunn’s senior wide receiver Isaiah Allen, who updated his highlight reel after every game en route to getting several Division I offers last season.
Sending game tape every three or four weeks is now a possibility, and that has enabled quickly progressing seniors to make a case that they’re peaking at the right time.
“The biggest boost that Hudl gives are [for] seniors,” Dunn said. “They’re going through the process and they’re going to camp in the spring — they used to not have film. Now, smaller schools can go back and [watch] four games into the season to see kids and how they’re progressing along the way. That was something that wasn’t possible before because we didn’t have the resources to send out that midseason film for each kid.”
Allen, who committed to ASA College, a junior college, on Tuesday, said he received an offer from Bowling Green after direct-messaging a link to his Hudl page through Twitter.
“I kept posting my highlights and tell people to tweet them out,” Allen said. “I sent them to coaches, and I tagged them on the highlights.”
This time of the year, after the first early signing period, many colleges are looking to fill in blanks from their current crop of recruits.
Ferrante’s early pledges consisted of 11 players from seven different states, all on the East Coast (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia). His class could diversify even more geographically as his staff’s search becomes more specialized, partly thanks to Hudl.
“When your search is narrowed and you’re looking for something specific, you can find what you’re looking for quicker," Ferrante said. “We were looking for an offensive lineman and the coaches felt that they knew about the majority of the ones in their areas, all of a sudden, we have a couple linemen we like on film, one’s in California, one’s in Texas, etc.”
Maryland freshman defensive back Kenny Bennett, a Palumbo grad, is another late bloomer from the Philadelphia area who used Hudl to his advantage.
Bennett didn’t get his first offer until his junior season, but ended up going Division I after impressing at camps and putting out a promising highlight reel.
Videos, though, don’t diminish the importance of impressing coaches at camps, both on the field and on a personal level.
“It was more about the people who I knew and them getting me in a position to get in front of coaches,” said Bennett, who played on a Palumbo team with only a few dozen players. “You may send your highlight tape and [the coach] doesn’t know you or you don’t have any offers. But with me, I had credible coaches say, 'Yeah, this kid can play.”
“You still need to see them play football,” Ferrante added. “We’re not going to offer a guy just because his highlight film looks good.”