A Scout’s Take on Small School Players Transferring, What Scouts Look for When They Visit, and More!



Welcome to part two of the Behind the Scenes of NFL Recruiting… series featuring my interview with football scout Mark Clagett of  aspiringnflscout.com.  If you missed part one, click here to check it out.

Alvin: OK, so let’s say I’m a small school guy who’s within driving distance of a big school.  What kind of attributes or media coverage would I need to have accomplished to get you interested in checking me out?

This is one of the situations where a college coach actually could help, by telling the media, “Hey, this kid is the real deal.”

College players that come across as lazy and uncoachable in practice throw up huge red flags in the eyes of scouts.

Mark: If there’s a lot of buzz or media coverage, you’re going to want to come and see him for yourself.  You don’t want to just take their word for it.

Another thing is helpful, is if you’re attending a small school that has produced some NFL talent in recent years.  Pat Devlin was on people’s radar at Delaware, partially because Joe Flacco had just gone to the NFL.  Small schools can  get momentum for a few years by one guy making it.

Alvin: In other words, high school guys that may only be getting offers from small schools that have a desire to play


in the NFL, it would be in their best interest to go to a school that’s recently sent talent to the NFL, right?

Mark: Yes, definitely.  If you’re in that position, I’d definitely take a look at the track record that school has for sending guys to the NFL in recent years.  Scouts know the school, they’ve been there before, and they know the coaches.

Alvin:  So, what kind of things turn scouts off when they come to visit players on college?

Mark: When they come on campus, they’re going to be watching film, watching practices, obviously talking to coaches…  head coach, and obviously the position coach…  The worst thing, is if you’re coming off as lazy, looking  sloppy in practice, or being difficult with the coaching staff.

If you’re lacking effort, especially for wide receivers, on plays that aren’t designed for you, taking plays off, that just screams red flag.

On the other side, show hard work, your attention to detail.  Scouts want to know that if they drafted you, that you would come in and work hard and give the effort.  When you’re considering drafting someone, you want to be able to  trust them.

Alvin: Right.

Mark: You definitely need to trust that they’re going to give that kind of effort, and that they have attention to detail, and that they’re going to put in more than just the required time.

Alvin: I meet quite a few players that didn’t get drafted, and didn’t get picked up as an undrafted free agent that are idle for a few years…  My personal philosophy from the representation side of things is that if you don’t get drafted  or land on an NFL or CFL roster your first year out of school, you’d better play somewhere, even if it’s the SIFL, IFL, or wherever.

From my experience, there’s so many guys coming out fresh from playing college football, if you have gaps in  playing experience, it can really hurt you.  How do scouts look at guys that have gaps in playing experience?  Do they share that opinion?

Mark: Oh, Totally.  Not only from what you said, but with a whole new crop of guys coming out each year, you just have less time, as a scout.  Especially if you didn’t get drafted or didn’t get signed…  I mean, I got a whole new crop of guys coming’ out…  I’m  looking at hundreds of players, and I don’t have time to go back and look at older guys that have fallen off the map.

But even more than that, time off is just bad.  If affects you football-wise.  I mean, even look at the big time guys like Mike Vick, how much it much it held him back.  Look at how rusty he was.  His first year back in Philly, you know,  he looked horrible.  It took him a whole year to get back into shape.

No one knows what’s happened to your body during all of that time off.  They know you’re not in football shape.  It’s a big difference between being in shape, and  being in football shape.

Alvin: Oh, absolutely.  You know, I played D2 football, and I always struggled with the thought of transferring to a D1 school because I always felt I’d get more recognition and respect from scouts.  I ended up staying, but for guys  that are playing at small schools now that are considering sacrificing a year of eligibility and transferring to a bigger school, if their goal is to play pro football, what would your advice be to them?

Mark: It’s usually better to go the other way.  Try the big school first, and if you can’t crack the lineup at all, then try a smaller school. Going the other way around…  I don’t know if it’s really worth it, if you’re already at a D2 school or  something like that; if you’re killing’ it there, you should probably just stay where you’re killing’ it, because if you keep putting’ up stats there, you’ll get guys to come and look at you.  You’ll get attention.

As opposed to going to a big  school, where you’re going to be a small fish in a big pond, it’s going to be harder to get noticed…   You’re better off staying where you are for the most part.

Alvin: From a scout’s perspective, if you had two players with the same ability and skill, one played sparingly at a D1 school, and the other started for a D2 school, which player would the average scout grade as the better pro  prospect?

Mark: First off, no one’s ever going to be exactly equal in ability, but if you were to put a gun to my head, I’d probably say the D1 guy…  He’s probably going to have less playing time of the two, but what he’s been doing in college  has been against better competition, which means it’ll be easier to judge what he can do in the NFL.

I mean, college to the NFL is a huge leap, but D2 to the NFL is an even bigger leap.

Guys from D1 schools probably have better coaching too, so they’re more likely to have a known coach that you know is going to teach them things they’re going to need to know to make it in the NFL.

And a guy that may not  play as much at a bigger school… you’re going to know they got the same level of instruction and teaching that the better players from that same school got in the past.  So you have a better idea of what you’re getting.

Alvin: Mmmmm!  Never thought of it like that!

Mark: Yeah, there’s less unknowns with the big school player…


Do you agree or disagree with anything Mark said so far?  Leave your comments below!

Check back soon for the third and final installment of this series.

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