A few years ago, the walk on player was an extra athlete to help out in drills, fill in when the scholarship kids were hurt or sick, and maybe, maybe get a couple rotations of play in a match every now and then.
But, because there are so many good players in today's club volleyball world, many athletes are happy to walk on at a quality school. This has resulted in walk on spots becoming very competitive, with a very distinct down side - there is no safety net for a walk on. College coaches don't have to worry about paperwork or AD's or Campus Committees when they decide to replace one walk on with another!
What is going through their heads is "when do I get to leave the this gym to go get something to eat or to go home......".
College coaches are very good about taking that mass of volleyball chaos and breaking it down into manageable parts. We will walk into a gym with a pre-set list of athletes (which can easily number into the hundreds at a Qualifier or AAU's), which because of the numbers and the timing of the matches/waves, we may only have 10-15 mins at a time to evaluate an athlete.
Because of this recruiting equation, college coaches develop the ability to quickly analyze the strengths and weaknesses of recruits; this is our profession and when you do something so often, you become adept at doing it quickly.
Within just a few minutes of watching warm-ups and a match, a college coach evaluates physicality, armswing, approach, passing, defense, blocking and court movement. What takes longer, and a reason college coaches will see an athlete multiple times over a weekend or at multiple tournaments is they are evaluating the non-physical side of the recruit.
The elite level DI's are concentrated on the Open division of Qualifiers because these Open level teams tend to garner the tallest, most physical recruits. But, all programs of all college playing categories will look at any and all levels of club volleyball - College coaches are constantly looking for talent. In that search for talent, they will put new recruits into their database but that is now the exception with the older groups. The discovery of new recruits is now focused on the 8th and 9th grades of club.
Or, the college coaches are just waiting to go get something to eat.......