By Devin Golden
Before the power of the Internet stretched its arms far enough, college recruiting still was entrenched in the world of VHS tapes and snail mail.
Now it’s all about being inside the “Hudl.”
The website formed in 2006 as an online database for game film, playbooks and anything else of use to coaches and players from the Pee Wee level to the elite professionals. It’s used by opposing coaches to swap game film early in the week leading up to a game and to store one’s own team’s video to study.
It’s not just for football, but also advertises on the front page — www.hudl.com — for volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track and field and lacrosse.
One of its biggest uses? Recruiting, for both coaches and players. College coaches can see video and highlights of players from the comfort of their offices and players and high school coaches can “sell” their players through those videos and stat updates.
Easy-to-edit highlight tapes categorized by individual players make it easier for college coaches to find exactly what they are looking for, and not have to wait for the postal service. There are different prices and packages. To use the website only for exchanging video with opposing coaches is $200 a year.
To add player accounts and upload individual highlight videos, it’s anywhere from $800 to $3,000, depending on how many player accounts and which additional features are desired.
There also are packages for schools to purchase the service for numerous sports.
“In my 25 years being a part of coaching, I don’t know if there has been one single technological advancement greater than Hudl,” Dalton coach Matt Land said. “The ability for coaches to exchange game film, to allow college coaches to request and view players, to scout yourself and view your own tendencies. I think Hudl has become the most critical and maybe non-athletic tool there is in coaching.”
For recruiters, there are different pricing packages, including a free service with limited features but the ability to view basic athlete profiles without any video highlights.
“Now you can send a coach a tape through Hudl or through his email and talk to him on the phone while he receives it and watches it,” North Murray coach David Gann said.
For most recruits in Northwest Georgia, a lot of work is done by the actual recruits and their families. But the high school coach is just as important, if not more.
“Jacob Mays signed at Charleston Southern (in North Charleston, S.C.),” Gann said. “They couldn’t have told you what or where Murray County or Chatsworth was. I called their coach. I call them, email them and send up follow-up calls until they tell me whether they are interested or not interested.”
All local coaches talked about the necessity for good contacts at the next level. Coaches know one another. Coaches talk to one another. When coaches trust one another, it’s as good as any 40-yard dash time.
“I think the biggest thing is contacts and talking to coaches that we know,” Coahulla Creek coach Jared Hamlin said. “It’s all in the head coaches.”
But in the 1990s, it was still a strain from both sides to send hours of VHS tapes of a player to a college coach. Not even highlight tapes. Just game footage. Let the college coach sift through hours of unnecessary plays.
“When I was coming out of high school in the 1990s, you didn’t do highlight tapes,” Gann said. “They just wanted game tapes on the VHS machine.”
You think college coaches watched each tape sent in?
“When I was at a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee, there was a four- or five-month stretch where we’d get 4,000 tapes in a week,” Gann said. “There’s no possible way they can watch that. ... So you have to do something where your name sparks an interest.”
With Hudl, email, YouTube and any other new-age tools that allow for instant viewing and communication between parties, it is much easier for both coaches.
“I got an email two weeks ago from a school in North Dakota (North Dakota State Junior College) saying they needed a defensive end real bad,” Southeast Whitfield coach Sean Gray said. “This was a mass email that went out to almost every high school coach in the country. It had details of a 6-3, 250-pound defensive end. I emailed back saying we have a kid named Jayro Perez who still is looking for a place to play.
“They called me last Monday evening and said, ‘Coach, we want to get Jayro’s phone number. We saw him on Hudl, like him and want to offer (a scholarship) to him.’”
That quick. That easy.
“That’s what coaches say now,” Gray added. “They tell me they’re going to watch the kid on Hudl. When I was coaching 10 years ago at Ringgold, I’d make highlight films and send them to the schools. All of that is over.
“It’s real easy on me.”
Admittedly not a huge fan of self-promotion tools like YouTube or college combines, Land holds an opinion similar to Hamlin. The relationship between the high school coach and the college coach matters most of all. The prestige of the high school program carries a ton of weight, too. And what you do on Friday nights matters more than what you do in a summer prospect camp.
But even Land admires Hudl.
“When (a college coach) goes in to look at that film, he sees his needs immediately. He doesn’t have to wait 30 or 40 or 50 plays.”