Nebraska Director of Player Personnel Ryan Gunderson breaks down how to craft the best highlight videos — and the snags to avoid.

From managing his team and scouting opponents, to performing video analysis and recruiting, a college coach’s schedule is jam-packed. With so little free time, something (or someone) needs to be really special to catch his attention.

That's why it’s critical for athletes to create quick, effective highlight videos. Make one or two mistakes and the coach is moving on.

We enlisted the help of Ryan Gunderson, the Nebraska director of player personnel and former Oregon State quarterback, to learn how coaches watch highlight videos and find out what athletes should avoid doing in the process. 

Make It Brief but Impactful

Gunderson emphasized the importance of brevity. Time is one of a coach’s most valuable assets, and the staff doesn’t have the patience to watch every player's 10-minute highlight reel. A recruit has a few precious seconds to stand out.

“Always put your best stuff first,” Gunderson said. “Don’t save your best stuff for last. Put it up front. You may only get 30 seconds or a minute of somebody’s time and if that doesn’t impress them right away, they’re not going to turn your film back on.”

Coaches rarely make it to the end of even the most impressive highlight videos. Gunderson said coaches will typically watch a good video for two to three minutes, then turn to game tape to see if the athlete is consistently dominant or just has a few explosive plays.

Gunderson recommended a limit of five minutes for a highlight video, and added that elite prospects won't need that much time to prove their worth.

“Depending on who the kid is, he may need to show only ten plays,” Gunderson said. “Some guys just need a ten-clipper or a five-clipper. It’s five plays and it’s not even hard to tell the kid is a stud. If you can get 25-30 plays on a tape, that’s probably plenty."

Take Derrion Grim for example. His highlight is long, but Grim starts it with six straight touchdowns, all of which show off different strengths. A coach doesn’t need to wade through Grim’s entire video to see what he has to offer. It quickly becomes apparent why Rivals ranked him as the nation’s No. 37 athlete in the 2016 class.

Add Variety to Your Highlight

Athletes should use different types of plays to put their full array of skills on video. It’s a mistake to include ones that highlight just one part of a player’s game.

For instance, showing a series of 50-yard runs when a running back bounced to the perimeter shows off his speed. But to give a coach a full understanding of his skills, the back should include clips of him breaking tackles, juking safeties and catching passes.

“It’s good to showcase your speed, your variety, your change of direction, all that type of stuff,” Gunderson said. “You need to find the plays that highlight those things."

Josh Rosen provided a good sample of this in his senior video. He starts by displaying his arm strength with a couple of deep throws, but also proves he can execute seam, fade, corner and slant routes, and he has ability to move in the pocket and make tough throws under pressure.

And show plays that finish in the end zone, especially early in the highlight. Getting tackled isn’t a way to impress prospective recruiters.

“Our wide receivers coach (Keith Williams) always says, ‘I don’t want to see you getting tackled at the beginning of your highlight film. I’m not impressed by you getting tackled,’” Gunderson said.

Think About the Music Selection

Hudl gives users music options to create a unique highlight experience and wow friends and family. According to Gunderson, that’s fine—for the most part. Just don’t expect it to get coaches too hyped up. 

Gunderson typically watches highlights on mute, so music doesn’t affect him one way or the other. But he's noticed a few times when recruits included tracks with vulgar lyrics, a move that caused him to question their judgment.

“You just think about it and you’re like, ‘You know you’re sending this out to college coaches and they’re going to watch it,’” Gunderson said. “‘Are you dumb? Why would you do that?’'"

Quick Hits

Here are a few last tips from Gunderson.

  • Don’t interrupt a play to spotlight yourself. If you do use a spotlight, do it before the play begins. Pausing mid-play interrupts the video and makes it tough to judge fluidity and athleticism.
  • If you play both sides of the ball, feel free to share clips from multiple positions. For example, if a linebacker prospect also plays running back, Gunderson recommended including some highlights on offense. Those clips can showcase flexibility and catch a coach’s eye.
  • Construct highlights before your senior season. But if you aren't getting the offers you want, Gunderson recommended making another video from the first three or four games of your final year to try and generate new interest.

Your highlight is often a coach’s first exposure to you as an athlete and can play a critical role in the recruiting process. Now that you know what coaches are looking for, it’s time to get started on your video.