PLAYERS: How to make a highlight film and what college coaches look for (Opinion)

Former Capital LB Dorian Etheridge (Photo by Jamie Rhodes of USA Today Sports)

It is no secret. The world of high school football recruiting has changed. Some ways, for the better… some ways, for the worst. We can honestly say one of the best innovations over the last decade is the rise of Hudl. This program and website has given players the freedom to create their own film easily and share it with others. You can guarantee college coaches utilize this as well in their search for athletes. The importance of doing film correctly could truly be the difference in a coach looking into you or quickly closing the tab. Using personal experience within the system as a player and college coach as well a staff who watches hundreds of player film, here is our guide for making a highlight film and what college coaches look for:

Presentation & Editing

Before we get into what specific type of plays to include, let’s hit on your Hudl profile and film edits. First and foremost, create a highlight film! This might seem obvious, but we have seen plenty of college-level players with only snippets from specific games. College recruiting can sometimes come down to chance. Don’t miss an opportunity because you were too lazy to put together a film. Secondly, on this film, make sure it is titled well. There is no direct format, but we find it helpful when positions are included as well as which season highlight it is as well as your class. Example: RB/LB John Smith – Junior Year – Class of 2020. Also, pin your highlight! Sometimes we weren’t aware of a consensus highlight because it was buried under specific game clips or basketball/wrestling clips.

Okay, so the coach has found your highlight easily and is well-informed on what position and class you are as well what year they are watching. This can be important because certain errors by a freshman can be overlooked that might not be acceptable for a rising senior. As with most of this, there is not any specific way to have an intro. We would advise to keep it to 1-3 slides so coaches are not waiting one minute before actual film comes up. Remember, they get hundreds of film in their email every day! These slides can include stats (if they help your case), awards outside your team, and especially academics and contact information! Nothing gets a coach more excited than a good GPA and ACT/SAT score.

One last thing before we delve into actual football film digest: trim and target your clips. Imagine a coach dedicating 60 seconds of viewing time to you. Do you really want 3/4 of that to be preplay and postplay nothingness? No! Trim the clips to the start of the play and end. Fit as many plays in this time slot as possible. Also, don’t worry about chronological order. Your first set of plays should be trend setters. Big hits, big runs, explosive plays! First impression matters a lot here. You can make your film 20 minutes long, but we guarantee 95% of watchers won’t go past the first 90 seconds.

Themes Looked For

Regardless of position, this is objectively what coaches tend to look for:

  • Effort / Finish
  • Athleticism
  • Big Play Ability

These are three things can be displayed by any position in their opening sequence. Effort and finish is pretty obvious. Are you pursuing the runner the whole time on defense? Are you continuing your route at all times? Did you finish the block to the dirt? Did you grind for that last yard? Athleticism is not granted equally but certain plays can play into your favor. This can be a linemen chasing down a back or blocking downfield. Perhaps, a defensive back having a big jump to knock down the ball. Finally, big play ability. Coaches want to know early if you are dominant. Do you score on breakaway runs? Do you decleat those you block? Do you cause takeaways on defense? Try to think about if your opening plays especially display this.


  • Throwing Mechanics / Footwork
  • Difficult Throws / Variety of Passes
  • Calmness

Mechanics are big and easily noticeable. Do you shot-put the ball or do you properly step into a throw and have flick release? This is crucial and immediately can be a make a break. This also goes for footwork and if you take a technical dropback as well as how you navigate within the pocket. A variety of passes is important as well. This means not just screens where the receiver did all the work or only deep go’s. Include clips of tight throws, mobile throws, and check-down’s even if they are homerun plays. Calmness should be the effect exuded from all of this. Are you constantly looking down field or are you just a high school playmaker running around for his life?

Prime Example: Tyson Bagent (Martinsburg – Class of 2018)


  • Burst / Difference of Speed
  • Agility / Ability to Avoid Defenders
  • Scoring Ability
  • Catching

Four to five yards a carry in the NFL is great. But, theoretically, in high school, they want to see runningbacks slice open defenses for big gains. That burst and speed difference is important. This also directly affects whether they think you have legitimate scoring ability. Getting chased down on a long run does not look great. There is an appreciation for backs who can rip through arm tackles but a level of elusiveness and agility is looked to as well. You might have tons of long run clips but make sure to include early clips of broken tackles and multiple defender misses. Also, include some signs of catching and blocking ability.

Prime Example: Mookie Collier (Bluefield – Class of 2018)

Wide Receiver

  • Change of Speed / Ability to Separate
  • Difficult Catches
  • Ability to Make Defenders Miss / Change of Direction
  • Blocking Effort

As with runningback, they want to see the ability to truly have a speed advantage. Gaining separation whether by speed or route running is awesome to see. Make sure to include difficult catches not just wide open automatics. Show them you can get hit and hold on or have the ball skills to beat out the defender for the catch. Displaying the ability to change direction smoothly and avoid tacklers, thus earning yards after the catch. Don’t forget to include clips of you being a consistent blocker in the run game.

Prime Example: Elijah Bell (Wheeling Park – Class of 2016)

Tight End

  • Blocking at Point of Attack
  • Difficult / Consistent Catches
  • Vertical Route Ability

If you wanted to be recruited truly as a tight end, you will have to include clips of your pass catching AND blocking. If you leave one without the other, you might be looked at more as wide receiver or offensive tackle dependent on your size. When you block, it must be on par with linemen. Dominant, point of attack blocks. Various routes are good but tight ends true threat can be with their ability to vertically stretch the field. This will be the money maker at this position.

Prime Example: Jacob Cassidy (Spring Valley – Class of 2018)

Offensive Linemen

  • Athletic Movements / Flexibility
  • Footwork
  • Point of Attack / Nastiness

We have said athleticism already but it needs to be reiterated for some linemen. Having a big belly and laying on kids is not enough. They want to see you move smoothly with good pad level and maneuver to get blocks. Show off your footwork when driving but also in great pass coverage drop steps. Nastiness is key. Do you simply out muscle defenders or are you driving their face in the dirt with decleating hits. This is especially important if you find yourself below 6’2″ 270 pounds. If you can play tackle, guard, and/or center- display that as well!

Prime Example: Zach Frazier (Fairmont Senior – Class of 2019)

Defensive End

  • First Step / Rush Ability
  • Hands / Defeat Blocks
  • Knocking Back Ball Carrier

Firstly, if you are high school defensive end weighing around 190 and aren’t 6’1+, you might consider labelling yourself as Rush End or something similar. This means you’ll mostly likely be a linebacker-type on the next level. Regardless, colleges love seeing speed off the edge. Using hands and numerous ways of defeating blocks is great as well- bull rushes, swims, spins, contains, etc. As for all defensive positions, coaches want to not just see you grab the ball carrier but knock him back and physically tackle him. Also, do not include clips of you getting blocked back and making a reach out tackle! Only vicious, backfield plays.

Prime Example: Reese Donahue (Cabell Midland – Class of 2016)

Defensive Tackle

  • First Step / Rush Ability
  • Denting Offensive Lines
  • Flexbility
  • Strength at Point of Attack

This is similar to defensive end. The speed does not matter as much here but it can definitely help your case. How many guys are needed to block you? Include broken double teams. Are you denting offensive blocking schemes? Especially for defensive interiors, its not always about big plays, its about showing you can stuff up the whole middle. Veer away from clips not helping your case in terms athleticism. Also, as with offensive line, portray if you can play both tackle, noseguard, and/or end.

Prime Example: Kalai Clark (Capital – Class of 2019)


  • Downhill Play /Pursuit
  • Physical Tackles
  • Blitz Patterns / Defeat Blocks
  • Passing Clips

The very first thing looked at simply is whether you play downhill. Just about anyone can wait fro the back to come hit them or go chase down someone at the sideline. They want to see no false step and immediate penetration into the run game with proper angling and pad level. Display plays where you get off blocks (especially using your hands). Blitzing timing and showing you can put pressure on a quarterback is awesome. And, we know it’s hard dependent on who you play, but try to include pass clips displaying good meaningful drops and awareness for receivers.

Prime Example: Owen Porter (Spring Valley – Class of 2018)


  • Man Coverage
  • Zone Coverage
  • Physical Tackles
  • Hip Turn
  • Ball Skills

Corner is one of, if not, the most difficult positions to play. You can not let your guard down once. It should be known but do not include clips of receivers beating you but the quarterback made a bad pass or they dropped it! You fool no one. Instead, display both man and zone coverage. Make sure your back pedal and hip turns looks good and polished. Show off your ability to play the ball in the air as well. Plays do not have end with you having a pick or knock down. The best corners are rarely thrown at! Also, if you are proficient in the run game, include clips of you coming up and making tackles.

Prime Example: JJ Roberts (Cabell Midland – Class of 2020)


  • Downhill Play / Open-Field Tackling
  • Ability to Cover Ground
  • Physical Tackles
  • Ball Skills

Safeties should be the hardest hitters on the field. You have over ten yards to come down and clean up the lane. Outside of the head rockers, include difficult open tackles as well as the ability to cover large ground in the pass game. As with corner, show off your ball skills. Finally, if you played linebacker and/or corner as well, include that somewhere.

Prime Example: Derrek Pitts Jr. (South Charleston – Class of 2017)

Closing Tips

The whole idea is to build your resume. A good resume is short, sweet and briefly highlights your ability and diversity. Use the tips above to show college coaches glimpses of your ability. Make sure to mix up the early clip-types to show them your diversity. If you can play multiple positions, include that! Not every team has the same needs. WVU might have five quarterbacks on the roster but are in dire need of tight end! Perhaps, they need a long snapper and you could work your way to linebacker eventually.

Ultimately, this is a basic guide. Every coach looks for unique things that might be special to their scheme. If you aren’t sure, ask your coach to look over your film and he will tell you to drop/add certain plays. Follow our presentation rules on editing, and we promise you will get the most of whoever is watching your film’s attention. You truly never know when a random click could change your entire future.

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