Thanks to the rise of the Internet and the ability of insiders to publish nearly instantaneous updates on football prospects' progress, recruiting has transformed over the last decade from a niche industry into a 24/7/365 business.
If the Internet kick-started the business, the advent of social media kicked it into overdrive.
Now, on top of their high school careers, choosing a college and scheduling official and unofficial visits, prospects act as their own public relations agents.
In addition to everyday socialization with friends, players can use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts to let the world know which way they're leaning, which coaches corresponded with them and who made scholarship offers.
Social media has made prospects accessible all day, any day for coaches, fans and media.
In other words, it's a whole new ballgame.
That may seem like it could get overwhelming for high school juniors and seniors.
It doesn't appear that way for Tim Settle, a 6'3", 305-pound rising senior defensive tackle from Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Va. The 5-star prospect is the ninth-best player in America in the 247Sports.com composite Class of 2015 rankings. As you would expect, he has offers from just about every big-name school in the country.
Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma. You name it, and it's probably on his list.
Coaches from all over the country are chomping at the bit to make an impression on the blue-chip defensive lineman. Settle understands that his ability on the football field brings this attention, but it was a little overwhelming at first.
"When September 1 (the evaluation period) hit, it was crazy," Settle said. "I got like eight messages. A lot of people told me, 'If you think that's bad, just wait till next year (when Settle is a senior).'"
Private messages on Twitter and Facebook are allowed under NCAA rules, and Settle enjoys some of the greetings he gets from recruiters around the country.
"It doesn't matter what time it is. They'll hit me up in the morning to talk or just give me a 'good morning quote of the day,' or something like that."
The NCAA suspended a rule change last year that would have allowed for unlimited electronic communication between coaches and prospects, according to ESPN.com. Settle would surely have been bombarded with texts, but he feels the same pressure to respond to coaches via Twitter now. He's taking it all in stride and considers the attention an honor.
"Any coaches who wants me to call or chat, I always respond," Settle said. "I feel like I should give the coach respect since they care to try and recruit me."
But it isn't just coaches hitting Settle up on social media. His peers are as well.
Other players from around the country seek him out for advice on the field and off it. The respect he's earned from fellow high school players—some of whom he doesn't even know—is an honor.
"It's actually kind of fun," he said. "A lot of people ask me for advice and want me to look at their highlight tapes and see what they need to work on. I feel like a mentor and a coach."
But what about the fans? An increased interest in recruiting has coincided with the advent of the Internet, and social media has given fans access to prospects like never before.
"I get a lot of fans," Settle said. "About 800 of my 1,500 followers are fans."
Like it or not, fans do follow recruits on Twitter and do encourage prospects to go to their schools—which is an NCAA violation, according to Utah State's compliance department.
Tweet responsibly. Fans please don't retweet or tweet at prospects. It's an NCAA violation. #AskBeforeYouAct— USU Compliance (@USUCompliance) January 8, 2014
If a fan hits him up on Twitter, Settle knows that it's in his best interest to let it be. While he feels obligated to keep in contact with the coaches who are luring him to their school, he doesn't respond to fans who attempt to push him in one direction or the other.
At its best, social media is a great tool for prospects to get to know the coaches and what each program is all about.
At its worst, well, it can be a major distraction.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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