As restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic remain in place in relation to NCAA sports, college football teams are managing to remain as active as ever.
Players are working out on their own at their respective houses and online video meetings are allowing the various meetings for teams, players and position groups that normally fill the schedule preceding fall camp.
However, there is one aspect of the summer months that has had to change drastically. From the end of spring practice up through the long days of June and July, most college football coaches are racking up the mileage as they attend camps and start to make contacts with recruits they hope to sign at the end of the season.
Several members of the Georgia Southern coaching staff joined a Zoom meeting on Tuesday where much of the discussion with media members was centered on how the team is continuing to recruit despite no visits allowed and few opportunities for athletes to showcase their skills.
“I’ve tried to embrace this as an opportunity,” GS associate head coach and running backs coach Chris Foster said. “I think I’m a little more tech savvy than some others and things were leaning towards more technology even before (the virus). The teams who are going to succeed are the ones who are going to adapt.”
Coaches may not be able to see prospective recruits go up against live competitions, but the advancement of cheap video technology and the explosion of social media over the last decade allow many hopeful high-schoolers to provide colleges with expansive highlight reels. That sort of accessibility allows coaches to evaluate film in their meetings and make informed decisions on who to pursue and what to focus on in their game.
There is also a silver lining for the coaches as meeting with a dozen recruits over the course of a few days is now as easy as setting up a streaming meeting instead of putting hundreds of miles on a vehicle and waking up in a different hotel every day. Still, there are new issues as meetings have had to work around school and work schedules for athletes and their parents.
“Depending on when you can schedule a meeting, there have been some 14 and 15 hour days,” GS defensive coordinator Scot Sloan said. “We’re still doing all of our homework. We’re meeting with these kids and the high school coaches have been great about keeping us in touch and getting us in contact with teachers, counselors and anyone else who we might want to talk to about a guy.”
The recruiting game has certainly been turned on its head. If anything, it could become a net benefit for smaller schools like Georgia Southern.
No matter how good GS coaches are at evaluating prep players or selling them on the Eagles, they don’t have the ability of larger schools with much larger budgets to employ dozens of people to scour every corner of the country. And Georgia Southern certainly doesn’t have the luxury of some schools to put a coach on a private jet straight into a player’s backyard on a moment’s notice in order to gain an edge in the recruiting battle.
The playing field has leveled in that regard, meaning that originality and innovation off of the base model of Twitter highlights and Zoom meetings is now something that can make a school stand out to a prized recruit.
That’s where defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Victor Cabral gets his chance to shine.
While he regrets that certain personal aspects of coaching and recruiting can’t transmit through a computer screen, he’s also a high-energy presence on social media that gets plenty of attention from recruits via conversation with fans, mixing it up with rivals, plenty of topical memes and constant promotion of Georgia Southern.
“It’s not difficult, just different,” Cabral said. “You want to emphasize building relationships and that personal touch, which can be tough on a computer. But we’re adjusting. We use Google Earth in our recruit meetings to give them a sense of the campus and GATALifestyle has been coming out with great videos to keep things entertaining.
In Saturday’s edition of the Herald, we will focus on the aspects of Tuesday’s meeting pertaining to how players have been spending the last two months, the possibility of returning to campus soon and the protocols that will have to be in order to ensure health and safety.