The role technology plays in recruiting has been on the rise over the last decade. The reliance on technologies increased exponentially during the pandemic that impacted nearly the entire 2021 recruiting cycle and a large portion of the 2022 cycle. How does Syracuse utilize technology to help evaluate players? We recently spoke to Syracuse Director of Recruiting Kramer Cook to find out.
Q: How much did technology help the evaluation process as things changed due to the pandemic?
Kramer Cook: "I think Hudl was huge obviously. Zoom obviously was another enormous piece of the puzzle. At Syracuse it is a hurdle to get some of the guys that we’re recruiting down on the eastern seaboard. We’ve got guys from Texas, California on the team. Our footprint can go nationally. Obviously the eastern seaboard is the biggest piece of it, but it’s tougher to get guys on campus, so having a virtual visit where we can sit down in a living room and we can kind of give them the overview of the competitive advantages of Syracuse and what we have to offer. That was huge for us, because now they don’t have to worry about hopping on a plane or traveling four to five hours. You’re able to kind of get your selling points out to the kid through just in their living room, and that’s something we have never done in the past. Usually it’s an in-home visit or calls or things like that, so utilizing that was enormous. And then the second part of this is the position meetings with the coach. In a cycle before pre-pandemic, you’re coming up for junior days and official visits, there’s usually more than one recruit with you when you’re doing these position meetings with the coach. It’s really like kind of a presentation from your position coach on what they have to offer, what their core qualities are, how they view, say, offensive-line play right.
"They’ll go through their techniques and this is what we do, this and that, but now I think part of the evolution process is going one-on-one on a Zoom call with your position coach and show him this is how I coach. But also getting out of the kid what’s his Football IQ like. When I go through and I’m teaching technique, is he taking notes, is he really into it or is he kind of just looking around and looking at his phone. And you can tell it’s really the recruiting process that he likes and not necessarily the actual game of football. Those are the guys that I think we were able to weed out a little bit too through position meetings, and that’s something we’re still using to this day."
Q: How much is Hudl used?
Cook: "We utilize it everyday. That’s really the starting point with the highlight, but really I think what we try to do, and I think what we've done a better job of just going through since I’ve started here, is really diving into the game tape as well. We’re able to kind of create our own highlights from in-house as well so we have people going through and basically tagging clips of their games so you see the good, the bad and the ugly on a recruit. You can kind of judge their good plays and judge their bad plays as well and really get the full picture. Obviously a highlight tape is curated by the kid to kind of put his best foot forward, 'this is what I’m capable of.' But we also want to see what you’re like when, you know, are you taking plays off on the game tape? Are you running to the football? What are your leadership qualities like on the field as well? Are you making calls, are you going both ways, how much are you playing? There’s some guys that you watch the highlights and they have some good plays, but then you flip the game tape on and they're only playing one out of every three series on one side of the ball. Or, they have some film on the defensive side of the ball, but we see him as an offensive prospect and we want to watch some of his offensive stuff.
"It’s an everyday deal, and there’s constantly people really not only watching highlight tapes. I think that’s the nice thing about Hudl is you do get the game film. Really what the coaches are kind of used to with the tight angel and the wide angel and you’re able to kind of curate what you want. What's the full picture like on the game film. That's, I think, a big piece of the evaluation you kind of set your board first off of this is what I think they’re capable of, and then those guys move priority-wise off of the game film and some guys can kind of even drop off. It’s like, hey his highlight was good, but the game film was, I mean, he's not running to the ball, I have questions about his flexibility, whatever the case may be those guys drop down and then sometimes those guys in the middle are like; hey, they're what we’re looking for as far as effort and athleticism or they have some qualities that just pop off the actual game tape that actually move them up a bit."
Q: Hudl is more than just highlight tapes as you mentioned. How are the full game tapes used?
Cook: "After their games, which is usually the next day, the high school is uploading it and then we have access to their full library as soon as they upload the film. So there's sometimes, especially during the season where, even New York football that started in Spring, we had a list of guys that we wanted to make what we call POA tapes or point of attack tapes. Which is really us going through and tagging the plays that they’re at the point of attack or they’re - if it’s a corner the ball is coming to them it’s getting thrown to them. Or they’re in run support but the plays away or you know it’s not kind of them. A point of attack tape is basically here's 20 clips of them actually making some plays. Judge this.
"And it could be them missing tackles, it could be them making tackles, it’s really kind of their full picture. The New York guys, we had a list of them, and after they would play the Friday or Saturday. Monday morning or sometimes even Sunday depending on who the kid is, we’d be in their tagging those plays so we can watch that full game as soon as it comes out. So before they're even, a lot of times, putting a highlight out, we’re trying to evaluate their game tape if we view them as either a senior eval or a junior eval. Somebody that we want to get a little bit more information on."
Q: What other technology is used by Syracuse?
Cook: "We also have access to a lot of the camp video as well that's cut up and curated for us. The kids going to an Under Armour camp or a Rivals camp, we subscribe to different services where we can get, a week after that camp, we can log in and watch a curated tape of a kid. All of his throws at an Elite-11 camp and get some of those verified sizes. That was huge for us through the pandemic because you’re going from either sophomore or junior film and then this big gap The film evaluation was crucial, but you’re talking about a year for a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old and how much their body can change during that time. And you’re taking about a point of time where we can't see them in person and see their development. So those types of clips and those type of videos were huge. As far as, 'ok this is where the development is at now' because that's taken out during the pandemic. Ok he is getting bigger, he’s put on ten pounds, maybe he’s grown an inch and half or whatever the case may be. Then you go to that final step, that video for their senior year and you’re able to confirm some of those things as well.
"It was really all virtual data points where you’re just confirming what you had thought from the original evaluation. They’re (camp video) through something else. We have two things. We have Zcruit and we have UCReport. Both of those are tied into different camps. Then what they do is they’ll go and they’ll film the entire deal. Then they have people on their side of things that are cutting up that camp footage so I can click on a top, I’m not going to say a name, but our top quarterback. He’s been to three or four of these different camps. I can log on and watch every single throw from those camps. It's curated for us."
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