The world of college football recruiting has changed drastically in the last 10 years. College coaches have many different options available to them, from summer camps to highlight videos, the information for coaches is plentiful. With information, at times, comes misinformation -- like inaccurate 40-yard-dash times or generous height and weight measurements. And it has created a growing quandary for coaches, leaving them wondering ... how do I know what's real? That quandary is what sparked the American Football Coaches Association to begin the National Athletic Testing System (NATS). A combination of standardized skills tests, the NATS combine is being touted as the "SAT of athletic testing." In conjunction with the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association, the first NATS combine is being held today at the Everest Training Center in Norman. "One of the biggest problems (with summer recruiting) is having so many combines," said Edmond Memorial coach Mark Walker, who is the test director for the Oklahoma NATS combine. "When there are that many, you don't know how legitimate those times are. Anyone can run a 4.3, but how do you know they ran a 4.3? Are they really 6-2 or are they 5-11? This is a good deal because it's standardized." Westmoore quarterback Ryan Fightmaster and teammate Zack Tolliver are among several Oklahoma high school football players who will participate in the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill, short shuttle drill, bench press and broad jump at today's combine while also getting accurate body and weight measurements. The key to the physical drills is the standardized, unbiased method of keeping the results. "There is a NATS rep who verifies the scores," Walker said. "Either they are legitimate or they're not. They (NATS Staff) legitimize it by bringing a separate entity which has nothing to gain doing it." At the conclusion of the combine, the players will be added to a online database which is available free-of-charge to college coaches around the nation. The searchable database on the NATS website (www.nats.us) allows college coaches to find superior athletes, who they may not have heard of, which allows them to narrow down the athletes they are interested in requesting film from. The combine doesn't involve any one-on-one, seven-on-seven or other common football drills, it is simply body measurements and physical tests to determine a player's size, speed, quickness and strength. It is not intended to replace the need for coaches to watch film of a players' performance under the lights on Friday nights, it's simply intended to find which players are superior athletes. "You can run fast and do all these things," Walker said. "But if you're scared to hit, it doesn't matter. You can look like Tarzan but play like Jane." After participating in today's combine, each player will also have access to the NATS website, which over 362 colleges have used for initial evaluation of prospects, and their own individual online profile. The database has academic records, career statistics and contact information for every player who has participated in one of 14 different NATS test around the country, allowing the player to get an unbiased evaluation of themselves compared to other high school football players in the nation. "It allows the kid to see what they need to work on," Walker said. "It can be a reality check. They can see they're competing against kids all over the United States for scholarship." The main focus of the NATS program has been preparing the athlete for college, both athletically and academically, and giving coaches access to standardized test results for players across the country. "A lot of Oklahoma football players get overlooked," Walker said. "There's a lot of good football played in Oklahoma and these kids aren't seen because they're name is not out there. Kids work too hard to get overlooked." Walker believes the NATS is the best combine option for coaches and players alike. "We shouldn't have anything else going on in the state of Oklahoma as far as a combine," he said. "We are sponsored by the NFL, AFCA and OFCA. There's only one combine you should go to."
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