In the land of football recruiting, there is little doubt that college coaches at the Division I level are looking for the prototypical sizes out of players at each position. They know what height they are looking for at quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive back, and every other non special teams positions (I have to admit that it does not matter much with kickers and punters). This topic is something I have broken down in the Position-by-Position Recruiting PDF.
But the truth is that there are many undersized athletes out there that can play. Go to any state and just about any conference. There may be a 6-foot-1 offensive tackle who just dominates the opposition. Or there may also be a 5-foot-10 quarterback who is unstoppable throwing and running the ball. But will Division I college coaches look over these athletes?
Let me start by being completely honest and schools like Ohio State, USC, Florida, and many others will likely overlook athletes because of their height. The two positions where there may be room for smaller athletes is cornerback and running back. LSU recently had players listed at 5-foot-4, 5-foot-5, 5-foot-6, and 5-foot-8 but each one is a skill player. What sets these athletes apart is their athleticism and skills. Few athletes throughout the entire country have the athleticism that these shorter players have.
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But what about quarterback? The good news is that there recently have been some standout quarterbacks who have excelled despite being 6-foot or under. The prime example of this is a Division I quarterback who proved doubters wrong. Despite throwing for 3,343 yards and 41 touchdowns in a ten game season, college coaches looked elsewhere. The obvious knock was that he was only 5-foot-11.
In the end, he proved his doubters wrong by excelling for the at the major Division I level. But being from Texas, he heard very little from the multitude of Division I schools in his State. The good news is that his accomplishments should help open the door for successful quarterbacks under 6-foot in the future.
In the end, it really just depends on position. For example, it is very hard for a Division I school to take a chance on an undersized offensive linemen. They want these big boys as large as possible and the taller the better. If the coaches think you can play but are a bit undersized, they will likely move you to center where height is not as important as tackle or guard.
Division I college coaches are also looking for size along the defensive line. Once again, the taller the better. The reason is that the taller linemen have a better chance to bat down passes. One ACC program used all 6-foot-8 of an athlete at defensive end and he ended up as a first round pick in the NFL draft.
In the end, height does matter in the eyes of college coaches. They may overlook a prospect if he doesn’t fit the perfect size that they are looking for but in the end, if a player can play, it doesn’t matter how tall he is. You may end up at the Division I-AA or II level because you are three inches taller than the prototypical player at your position but that hasn’t stopped these players from succeeding.