Since recruiting is the topic of the week right now (we will have to get to the discussion of current football players at some point), I thought I'd share what I would look for if I was a high school junior/senior who was wanted by all the big schools for my football prowess.
1. I Wouldn't Limit Myself to Big Programs. Everyone always says that going to a big program is the road to the NFL. Picking an NFL team at random, the Seattle Seahawks, I see roster players from the following schools: Akron, Carson-Newman, Nevada, Bradley, Idaho, Western Michigan, South Carolina State, Northwestern, Southern Arkansas, and San Diego State. Clearly, if this is representative, you can make it to the NFL from a small school. Of course, your power schools are more heavily represented, but they also get most of the top recruits as well. They send more people to the NFL mostly because they get more NFL calibre players at the front end.
2. If I'm a QB, OL, or CB, I want to redshirt. These are the positions that require, in my observation, the longest learning curves. They require the most coaching of technique and recognition of opposing strategy. As such, I would want the maximum time to learn what I'm doing before getting an opportunity to showcase my stuff. If I'm playing any other position, I want an opportunity to play my first year.
3. I want to play backups and special teams in my (redshirt) freshman year, then have an opportunity to win a starting spot as a sophomore. Particularly if I'm a quarterback, I don't want to be thrown to the wolves early in my career. I want to be eased onto the field a little bit, but I don't want to ride the pine either. Get me on the field as a backup or a situational player (4th or 5th wide receiver, nickel back, etc.) and get me on special teams, and then let me compete for a starting spot the next year.
4. I need a good strength and conditioning coach. Probably more than anyone else, my strength and conditioning coach will pave my road to the NFL by teaching me what I need to know to make myself the strongest, quickest, and fastest player I can be.
5. Try to find a stable coaching situation, but don't choose a place strictly because of coaching. Coaching is unstable. You just have to accept that, but there are degrees of instability. I would probably shy away from a place with a coach who keeps talking about leaving (I'm looking at you Tommy Tuberville). I would want to find a place that looks stable in the head coach and in the position coach for the position I want to play, but I would have to realize that it is never possible to be completely confident here, so other factors will have to be more important.
6. Be very careful to go to a place where you fit into the game plan. If I'm a pure drop-back pocket passer, I avoid a Rich Rodriguez-coached school, because I know I'm a career backup. If I'm a tight end, I avoid any school that relies heavily on the spread, because you won't play a lot of snaps no matter how good you are. If I'm a linebacker, I avoid pass-happy conferences like the WAC. You'll be off the field in favor of another defensive back too often.
7. Go to a place with an active and passionate fan base. For one thing, this may be the most excitement you ever experience in your life, so why not make it as exciting as possible. Big, wild, loud crowds will do that. Plus, most big-time recruits don't end up making their living playing football, even if they have good college careers. When your playing days are over, a good fan base will often include many businessmen and entrepreneurs who want to give you a good job, or a lot of people who'd just die to let you sell them a house, or insurance, or let you handle their divorce for them. You probably don't get this very much if you play at Central Michigan. I realize this kind of contradicts point #1, but I'm willing to live with that.
8. Chicks! Chicks! Chicks!
9. Go to a city school. I'm not talking about Los Angeles or New York City or anything like that. I would just want to go somewhere where there's plenty to do, which can be Baton Rouge, Des Moines or Tuscaloosa. I just wouldn't want to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere with little to do around the area. I can think of few things worse than living in Auburn. or South Bend for that matter. I just want a place with an active night life somewhere.
10. Find a school that does not have significant conflict. You don't want to ruin your college experience by getting onto a team that has a lot of cliques or a lot of unfriendly rivalry. It is reported that the LSU teams of the early '90s had a lot of racial tension. I would avoid that like Ebola. Not only would it ruin the fun, but it would also lead to underachieving on the field, which also wouldn't be fun. To me, it looks like Miami is a team where the players gave up, and that signals to me that there is probably a pretty bad locker room there. I would steer clear.
11. Win! Whether you're in the SEC, the Sun Belt, or Division II, find a place where you're going to have a chance to win. If you're in the Football Bowl Subdivision, find a school that will compete for conference championships and one that will probably go to a bowl game even in a disappointing year. For one thing, it will be more fun to win. For another, the extra practice time you get with a bowl game will be valuable to you. I'm not saying you need to go to a powerhouse, but I would avoid a place like, say, Minnesota, where you aren't going to make it to a lot of bowl games and you don't have much chance of winning the conference.