Hand and his fellow coaches are often left squinting at grainy, dark, or out of focus images of players they are trying to make a first evaluation on, which can be a trying experience. Some clips look like they were generated for Russian television in the 1960s, and can leave coaches with little more to work with than when they started.
However, Hand notes that there's almost always something to be learned from tape, and that what coaches look for isn't what the average fan might see.
"When you are looking at video and watching it, there's two things that you have to keep in mind. The first thing is that those are most often highlight tapes," Hand explained. "You and I could go out here right now, strap on some pads, get after each other, have someone take some closeup shots and we might get a scholarship offer somewhere. So, you have to remember that everyone is going to look good. It's our job to get all the film, not just the highlights, and evaluate it all, so we know what we are getting.
"The other thing to remember is that the coach's eyes, for the most part, are going to see some different things than the fans," Hand continued. I don't mean that to sound arrogant - it's just that we know what we are looking for."
Those items may include how well a player moves, his reaction times, what he does when the ball isn't coming to him or when it's not on his side of the field - things that many fans don't see as they watch the ball instead of other action.
Hand, like many coaches, is sometimes frustrated by the Internet, but he has turned a potential negative into a positive by using resources there that he might not be able to find elsewhere.
"I use that Internet film too,' Hand admits. "Sometimes I can't get tape on a prospect, but his film might be on the Internet. Of course, I keep in mind that I'm watching a highlight tape. But it's almost what recruiting film is going to, because it's a lot easier to deliver. You can capture film digitally, slap it on the Internet or put it on a DVD, and it's a lot less bulky and easier to get to."
WVU like many schools, subscribes to recruiting services that provide information on potential prospects, and Hand has seen changes in those services as well - again influenced by the Web. Rather than having to wait for video tapes in the mail, the Mountaineer staff now receives some video online.
"I was talking to Coach Stewart about this the other day," Hand related. "We were watching film of a player from a recruiting service that we had downloaded, and I said this is really what recruiting is going to. Coach Stew said 'Hopefully not 'til I get out!'"
One recent phenomenon that Hand is not in favor of is the production of slick marketing DVDs and promotional packets that prospects have to pay for. Several companies have set up services that make carefully crafted and professional quality video presentations and accompanying text packages for potential recruits. These packages, which often include music, special effects and flashy graphics, can cost upwards of $1,000.
"If there's a service out there that is charging the player to make a package for them, we will not subscribe to that service," Hand declared. "I don't want a high school player to have to pay to have a highlight tape made. Just because you put music on a highlight tape doesn't make the player any better. I could throw some music on right now, but it wouldn't make me a better dancer," Hand joked. "We will buy our information from recruiting services that we have had yearly dealings with, and that don't do those sorts of things."
Hand has seen a few of those packages, and while he obviously doesn't rule a player out because he has a fancy recruiting package, it doesn't carry any additional weight with him in evaluating the prospect.
"We have seen some of those, but I don't like that," Hand reiterated. "What I would recommend for a player that wants to get film out is put together a highlight tape of 15 or 20 plays, but then after that add a complete game film or two. That would be the best for coaches to see. I want to see highlights first, because if a player can't play in a highlight tape then he's probably not a player that can help us. Then once we get that, we want to see game film."