College football prospects are being watched on Twitter and Facebook.
And many of them know it.
Jordan Watkins realized it after attending a WrestleMania event last year. “One of the Ohio State coaches was messaging me, asking who was winning and who was doing what,” said the Woodward Academy defensive tackle who signed with Stanford last February. “That kind of woke me up to it.”
Shaq Wiggins discovered it after tweeting out some song lyrics. “When I was talking to some coaches in person, they were like ‘I like so and so song that you put on Twitter’ and I was surprised they had paid attention,” said the Sandy Creek High School cornerback who is committed to Georgia.
Brandon Kublanow, the highly-recruited offensive lineman, knew after attending his prom at Walton High School. “I had coaches look through my Facebook photos, and were telling me I looked nice in this or that one.”
Social Media is a new and popular way for colleges to both monitor and communicate with potential recruits. Just about every elite recruit has a Facebook or Twitter account, or both.
Coaches are on there, too. Georgia’s Mark Richt, after expressing reluctance, returned to Twitter last week after an 1,072-day absence to publicize the program and get noticed by recruits.
Under NCAA rules, a coach can send a Facebook friend request to a prospective student-athlete and follow them on Twitter.
And once they do, they are often finding out a lot of new information. Some of it good, some of it not so good.
“I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and you name it,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “You will find out more about guys on Facebook and Twitter sometimes than you will having a 10-minute conversation with them because a lot of times they will let their guard down and show a side maybe you haven’t thought about before.”
Said Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, “The society we live in now, how kids are growing up, [Social Media] is a huge part of their lives. It’s a huge part of what they do and how they communicate. So we embrace it … It’s another way to build relationships and get to know people.”
Unfortunately for some recruits, their comments and tweets are also destroying relationships with colleges.
Last year, one of New Jersey’s top prospects was expelled from school and reportedly had scholarship offers withdrawn after posting explicit messages on Twitter.
Duluth High School coach Corey Jarvis said one of his former players was recently kicked off a college team for the same reasons. “It was the final straw. It was stuff that shouldn’t have been posted. I understood where the college was coming from. He was representing the program when he did that.”
It became such a concern to Lovejoy High School coach Al Hughes that he finally gave in and created Facebook and Twitter accounts, simply to observe the team.
“I’m on there for the same reason as most college coaches – I wanted to know what was going on and keep up with the pulse of the team,” he said. “We’ve told all our kids to be careful what you say because you’re being watched.”
Many high school football players are cautioned about the dangers by parents and coaches. Joe Burns, the co-founder of the RisingSeniors.com high school all-star game, even went as far to have a 90-minute educational seminar for last season’s participants.
“We let them know with Social Media and the Internet, we’re all publishers; anything you say is out there immediately,” Burns said. “I just put out a Tweet the other day saying that there’s going to be some really good football players not make this year’s game because of their Twitter accounts.
“If they’re talking crazy, we’re not going to let them be in our game because we care more about their image than they do. We’re trying to take a stand and get certain kids to be leaders and be more respectful … I think it’s disrespectful how some of these kids talk, and I can’t believe their parents aren’t jacking them up.”
Ronald Jenkins, the father of AJC Super 11 defensive end Jordan Jenkins, created a Twitter for several reasons: To follow news about his son (who signed with Georgia), to correct or address recruiting rumors, and – surprisingly — to follow the tweets of college coaches.
“Those guys were looking at Jordan, and I was looking at them to see if their character was a little different than what they were representing in person,” he said.
“We didn’t eliminate anybody based on that. But I did monitor them, and if there was a concern, we would’ve definitely discussed it as a family with something like ‘Hey I don’t agree with this and I don’t like that person’s character.’ Yes, it could’ve lead to losing trust in a coach.”
It works both ways. Sometimes, you just never know who is watching you on Facebook and Twitter.
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