Football Positions’ Recruiting Must-Haves

At Signing Day Sports, our mission is to provide every student-athlete with the opportunity to get seen and prove that they are worthy of a chance to compete at the next level. While this is contingent on many things, one of the main factors in getting recruited is an athlete’s suitability for a certain position. Lots of attributes come into play. 

For example, a quarterback needs to have strong arm strength and excellent accuracy, while a defensive end needs to be quick and agile in order to get past offensive lineman and into the backfield. 

College coaches and recruiters look for specific traits and abilities in each position, so it’s important for prospective student-athletes to understand what they need to work on to increase their chances of getting recruited.

Today, The Wire will discuss the differences between positions in football and how it relates to individuals’ recruitability. 

Offensive Positions


There are SO many things to look at for quarterbacks. The most important player on the field needs to have a handful of top-flight attributes in their back pocket if they are to be recruited and then succeed at the next level. 

1. Leadership

Coaches want somebody they can trust. The quarterback influences the game the most. Whether that is in a good way or bad way is how a quarterback’s leadership is judged. While intangible, leadership is still something that weighs heavily and is easily visible for college coaches and recruiters.

2. Intelligence

As mentioned in the last point, quarterbacks influence the game all the time. It comes down to a quarterback’s decision-making on whether or not they lead their team to victory. Can you read defenses? Do you avoid costly turnovers? Can you adjust plays at the line of scrimmage? The list goes on. 

3. Strength & Accuracy

This is relatively self-explanatory. A quarterback needs to be able to make all the throws. It’s that straight forward. It doesn’t matter if you can chuck the ball 100 yards downfield if you can’t put it in the right spot. And it doesn’t matter if you can hit your check down perfectly every time, if you can’t advance the ball downfield. 

4. Size

We’ve seen smaller quarterbacks make their mark in recent years. But it’s still a coach’s dream to have that 6’5” signal-caller, capable of spotting blitzes, finding open receivers, and avoiding pass deflections.

5. Mobility

This falls in line with size. The smaller a quarterback, the more mobile they typically need to be. Mobility is essential, especially in smaller quarterbacks, in order to be able to extend plays or scramble out of the pocket when it collapses. 

Offensive Lineman

Coach Noel Mazzone of Signing Day Sports brings decades of experience and expertise regarding recruitment and specific attributes needed for each position. On the topic of offensive linemen, here’s what he had to say:

“The traits that are looked for in an offensive lineman are size, short-area quickness, and work ethic.”

Of course, each specific position on the line requires different things for each play depending on whether the offense is running a run or a pass. However, as noted by Coach Mazzone, mental decision making and communication are key to each position across the line. Offensive linemen need to compete as a cohesive unit and without this key trait, they won’t perform to the best of their ability. 

Running Back

A Group of 5 assistant coach detailed what he looks for in running backs when recruiting them for the collegiate level. His top five traits are: vision, balance, physicality, competitive streak, and home-run ability. 

Keep these things in mind when creating your highlight video or attending any prospect camps. If you can highlight these things as a running back, you will be showcasing the traits that college coaches want and expect from their athletes. 

Tight End

In today’s college football, tight ends need to be able to run, catch, and block at an extremely high rate. It’s a tall task, and one that not many can achieve with regular success. Here are some of the main criteria for what colleges look for in the position.

1. Ability to exploit mismatches

As a large-bodied tight end, you should be able to out-muscle defensive backs. As a route-runner, you should be able to out-run linebackers. As a blocker, you should be able to hang in there with the best of them when a play calls for that. The ability to do this is called “identifying mismatches” and colleges love this attribute. 

2. Build lean muscle

As mentioned, it’s rare to be able to adequately perform in two different positions. Because of this, it’s imperative that a tight end is able to perfectly bulk up in a way that allows them to block defensive ends, while still maintaining the ability to outrun linebackers on routes. 

Wide Receiver

“The traits in a wide receiver are specific to playing the inside or outside receiver position,” said Coach Mazzone. “Both position traits must have natural ball skills, the ability to drop weight and change direction, and be able to accelerate quickly to separate from defenders. 

1. Hand-eye coordination

“Not just great hands, but also the ability to adjust, track the ball, and have a large catching radius,” said Mazzone.

2. Football IQ

The ability to conceptualize offensive schemes and learn your team’s plays / system play a huge role in a wide receiver’s success or lack thereof. And it’s apparent early on whether a WR is able to grasp difficult concepts or not. 

3. Footwork

Footwork is the basis for everything as a wide receiver. It is where you derive power, explosion, and find the separation needed to make any sort of an impact as a playmaker. Many factors come into play regarding an athlete’s footwork. As a wide receiver, be sure to figure out your weaknesses and strive to improve upon them. There are many private trainers that can help with this, or even online videos that can help you improve on your footwork. 

Defensive Positions

Defensive Lineman

1. Befriend the weight room

Defensive linemen have a very limited range for where their weight should ideally be. They need to maintain their speed and power coming off the line of scrimmage, but they also need to have the strength and size to overpower offensive linemen. Working with a strength and conditioning coach should help with finding your range

2. Keep your speed

While this is easier said than done, speed, explosion, and leverage are one of the most important components that a defensive lineman needs to master. Offensive lineman are typically much slower than their opposition, so capitalizing on this mismatch is paramount to a defensive lineman’s success. 


“Linebackers are typically evaluated for traits that are specific to defending the run or the pass” said Coach Mazzone. “For either of these plays, however, linebackers need to show vision, strike ability, and physicality.”

     1. Against the run
    • Vision / reading keys
    • Angle of pursuit / entry
    • Leverage on block and ball carrier
    • Tackling with leverage (no overrunning in pursuit)
      2. Against the pass
    • Vision / reading keys
    • Open and drop for position
    • Vision on routes and on QB
    • Change of direction

Defensive Back

Defensive back is a notoriously difficult position to recruit for. Basically, if you’re a successful cornerback or safety in high school (and other levels), teams will stray away from passing in your direction. 

Because of this, it’s important to differentiate yourself in other ways, and ensure that if you ever are thrown at, that you defend the pass successfully. Here are some key things to remember as a DB when being recruited. 

1. Speed and Athleticism

As mentioned, if you’re being recruited and playing at a high level, you may not be seeing the ball come in your direction that often. With that said, your speed and athleticism should be at the forefront of your game. In order to ensure that your receiver doesn’t gain separation on you, your agility, power, and athleticism as a whole need to be topflight. 

2. Intelligence

As a defensive back, your intelligence plays a major role in your ability to effectively defend a pass. Not only that, but coaches and recruiters love to see a DB who studies their position regularly and shows that they are proactive in improving themselves. 

“Show that you can recognize when adjustments need to be made to coverage. And make sure you understand opposing offensive formations and can make correct coverage checks before the snap,” said a recruiting coordinator from a power-5 school. “These things will set you apart from the pack, and be a major touch point for recruiters watching you in person.”

3. Physicality

“You need to be a dog,” said the recruiting coordinator. “You need to have a motor that doesn’t stop.” 

Gone are the days where DBs simply needed to defend a pass. Now, they are expected to contribute in defending the run, and even rushing the quarterback in certain instances. Your physicality plays a huge role in your ability to help in these diverse areas. 

A tough, physical DB will always have the upper hand on pure cover DBs. It comes down to your mindset and the work you put in on and off the field. 

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