Recruiting 101 with Ryan Karhut: The signing process, provincial teams and more!

So your highlight tape is now completed and sent out. Some schools are calling, some email, texting, etc. It’s December and you are unsure of what to do next. Should I be playing 7 on 7? What about provincial teams? Will coach love it or hate it if I play another sport in the offseason? If I’m grade 12 and committed to a school, should I just focus on training? Should I hire an outside recruiting agency to help me get noticed by a school?

These are all questions we get asked all the time by recruits and players who have signed. They are all legitimate concerns and for young athletes. Let’s work through them and answer them for you from a college football coach’s perspective.

The signing process 

First of all, in the NCAA there is a ‘signing day’ in which everyone has to sign their letter of intent (LOI) on. Thus, making the recruiting process more frantic as their is a distinct end date they are working towards. In U SPORTS there is no signing day. Athletes can literally sign all the way up until/during training camp. The only stipulation on athletes signing in Canada (as far as dates go) is they cannot sign until September 1st of their senior year of highschool.

So what has become popular now is athletes verbally committing to a school earlier than that but then signing in September. For example, with the Bisons the past two years, we have had a handful of players verbally commit to us prior to September. So we invite them and their families to come and sign officially with us, on the field, during halftime of our homecoming game.

Left to Right – Austin Balan, Sam Hezekiah, Jarrett Alcaraz, Elijah Rivera, Isaiah Letander, and Breydon Stubbs. Photo: 1812 Photography

So with less ‘pressure’ of no signing day in U SPORTS, everyone’s recruiting process is unique and moves at a different pace than others. Some players commit very early into their senior year. Others start committing to their school of choice right around the holidays. Some do not even start visiting or talking to schools until the new year or after their first semester exams.

Still, there are plenty that do not commit to a school until well into the spring. This is one of the most exciting times of your life. Do not rush it. Do not let people pressure you into making a decision. Think about what is best for you, where you feel you fit in the best, commit to it when you are ready, and you will never look back.

Playing multiple sports/provincial teams

Aside from the actual recruiting process there is lots of other things going on in a young athletes life. The question we probably hear the most is athletes asking whether or not they should play basketball or hockey (or any other sport) that offseason or should they just train and get ready for university. Our answer never changes, no matter who is asking. You should always play each and every sport you want to play in high school.

There is nothing wrong with, and actually it is beneficial for all, if you DO play multiple sports in high school. There is so much cross training and mental sport development that occurs with athletes who play multiple sports that it is completely unnecessary to think you have to focus solely on football.

For athletes who are not in grade 12, we always get asked if they should play on the U16 or U18 provincial programs. Furthermore, some athletes will ask if it’s worth it if they basically already know what school they are probably going to. After all these tournaments are very well known for their recruiting frenzies.

For example, the U18 Canada Cup, is well known for all 27 U SPORTS teams having coaches there watching every game and practice. Most staffs send multiple coaches to the tournament to ensure they don’t miss anyone. For us, we love when guys we are recruiting play in these national tournaments.

For one, it exposes them to new competition and usually a higher level than they have ever played before. Two, being coached by new coaches, playing with new teammates, and travelling to compete are all things you are going to have to go through to play at the university level. Three, the tournament is a short, intense, microcosm of university football. You practice, you recover, you’re in meetings, film study, gameplan meetings, team meals, etc, for an entire week. It is a very good glimpse for you, and for us, to see how you adapt to these circumstances.

Does it make us a little uncomfortable to see guys like Breydon Stubbs win offensive MVP every game he competes in at the tournament? Of course, but our job is to recruit high quality players like that to stay in Manitoba and be Bisons, so there is no way we would discourage anyone from wanting to compete nationally.

Third party recruiting agencies

Lastly, and this one might be painful for some to hear, let’s talk about third party recruiting agencies. They are people whom you hire to send your film out and put you in contact with university coaches on either side of the border. They usually cost a good chunk of money and make no promises for what they can secure for you. They ultimately put it on you to put a great tape together and do great things on the field.

Please, please, do NOT waste your money on these agencies. I have worked in two different conferences within U SPORTS football in Canada (CanWest and OUA). I have met dozens of coaches and talked about recruiting with almost all of them. A common theme amongst all of us how turned off we get from film sent to us by a ‘recruiting agency.’ So much so in fact, I have had numerous coaches over the years tell me many times that they won’t even watch the film if it comes from an agency, simply because of the headache of dealing with them.

Coaches don’t want to offer a guy on your tape an opportunity to play for them. They want to get to know YOU the person and the athlete. Contact coaches directly, their email addresses are all public on the team’s websites. Make the email personal to that coach, (do not copy and paste the same one to every team) and show sincere interest in their program, tell them why you think you are a good fit for them, and why their school is a good fit for you. You will be surprised how quick coaches respond to email like that as opposed to generic ones.

Recruiting is a tough path to navigate and can always be daunting to work through. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at either or or  and we can answer it in the next article.

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