What’s your game plan to make the right decision for you?

Recently, I read an article about CJ Stokes, a 3-star college football recruit who is currently ranked somewhere in the 700s in the class of ‘22. While the story detailed his recruiting process and what ultimately led to his verbal commitment to Michigan, what stood out the most was that Stokes was outspoken about the strategy he used to come to his decision.

If you don’t have a recruiting strategy, you should. Not only will it help you make the right choice for you, but it will also provide objective data you can refer back to make your decision easier. That’s not to say sentiment shouldn’t play a role in deciding where you go to school but, as CJ Stokes’s example shows, an objective strategy can significantly ease the stress of the recruiting process. And, while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recruiting, implementing some or all of Stokes’s strategy might help you too.

Look Beyond Your Own Recruiting

As a native of Columbia, SC, it was assumed by many that Stokes would commit to South Carolina. While the Gamecocks offered Stokes a scholarship in his freshman year of high school, and his high school coach was hired on the South Carolina staff, he never clicked with the new coaching staff. When he saw South Carolina putting more effort in recruiting two other running backs, Stokes realized that might not be the school for him.

Whether you’re pursuing a specific school or that school is pursuing you, it’s always helpful to look at the current roster, as well as who else that school may be recruiting, to see where you’d fit. Make sure you understand the recruiting process from the other side. If you’re a running back and the school already has several RBs already on scholarship, then you might find yourself stuck at the bottom of the depth chart. Further, if you see a school putting more emphasis on recruiting other players at your position, then you may need to consider other programs.

Look Beyond Football

Though Stokes stated that he wants to use his career at Michigan as a springboard to the NFL, he’s also factoring in how he’ll be prepared for the real world. Stokes chose Michigan, he said, because the program had the most detailed plan for helping him develop outside of football should his NFL career not work out.

It’s easy to get hung up on the football side of recruiting but, as a student-athlete, the education you’ll receive in college should also factor into your recruiting decision. In the big picture, very few college football players ultimately wind up in the NFL. And, regardless of how many stars are attached to your name or where you rank on a recruiting list now, none of it will matter four or five years from now. And, in case you don’t get drafted, make sure you know how each of those schools will help you get a diploma.

On top of that, consider what life at each school might be like outside of football. Make sure that the school you choose offers not only football but the full-college experience you want, as well. And whether it’s social life, campus size, or class size, remember your college football career will only last four years, but the education and experience you gain at school will last a lifetime.

Get To Know The Team

As a running back, Stokes chose Michigan because the team’s offensive scheme, which rotates as many as three running backs, offers opportunities to play. However, while other recruits were playing paintball, Stokes used that time during his official visit to get to know the team’s current running backs. And it was the team-first attitude exhibited by those players that helped convince Stokes that Michigan was the place for him.

While you get to know a football coach and a program, you should also get to know the current players as well. Interacting with current players is an ideal way to get an honest feel for the dynamics of a team and its collective attitude and goals. And when you’re making your recruiting decision, the team that shares your attitude and goals will likely provide the best fit for you.

Take Notes

Visits with coaches and campus tours can be a whirlwind of information and activities. To help make sense of it all, it often helps to take notes. Having notes of what you like and didn’t like about a school or the football program can be handy to refer back to when weighing your college choice. And, if you take notes when visiting with a school’s coaches, those notes can also give you a head start on learning the offense or defense of the school you do select.

Though it was part of CJ Stokes’s recruiting strategy, not everything referenced above will apply to you. However, if you’re looking to make sense of your recruiting, it could serve as a starting point for your own unique strategy. And that’s what could help you find the college football opportunity that’s right for you too.

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