Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Prospects, Coaches Get Creative Amid COVID-19 Recruiting Restrictions

April 21, 2020

Ahmad Ayoub just wants to be noticed. The 2022 prospect from Michigan figured he’d benefit from visiting a variety of campuses and meeting coaches this spring and summer before going on the camp circuit. Now it’s unclear what the future holds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted recruiting in more ways than one. For Ayoub, it means taking ownership over his recruiting process. With the current halt on any in-person evaluations or on-campus visits, recruits and coaches are left to become more creative in how they get in front of recruiting staffs nationwide.

It goes beyond prospects and parents not being able to visit college campuses though. Those visits are important in building relationships with coaches but there is now an evaluation piece that is completely missing. The Huskers, for example, use events like Junior Day and camps to see recruits in person. That helps verify that measurables match up with what is relayed by high school coaches.  

“We look at pretty much every kid as a staff,” tight ends coach Sean Beckton said last spring. “There are some guys we say yes, go full bore after. There are some guys that we want to recruit still but we need to see a little bit more out of. A lot of times we need to see more. Sometimes we need to get eyes on a kid at a camp. There’s a process to it. Some guys stick out right away and some guys are on that fence and we have to see them with our own eyes to see him do things or work with them so we can see how they tick a bit. I think it’s a case-by-case basis.”

Getting in front of prospective college coaches is a key part of the process. The inability to do so right now has changed the way players approach their recruitment. More and more recruits—and their parents—have been sending Hudl film and information to college coaches and recruiting staff members. 

“We've seen an increase in athletes creating reels in Hudl despite there being no games being played,” Kelly Mosier, Director of Hudl Studios, said. “That's probably for a variety of reasons but recruiting is likely one of them. Athletes don't stop.”

The extra time likely means college coaches are able to watch more of the film that crosses their desks though. For more heavily recruited players nationwide, that may not be quite as big of a deal. It is for the prospects trying to get on the radar of those coaches.

Ayoub is the type of prospect who would benefitted from those visits. The Dearborn High School running back is now just hoping that the entire summer of camps isn’t lost. It’s how he hoped to make a name for himself. In the meantime, he’s sending more of  his film to coaches via social media and email.

Another prospect in the same boat is Zachary Thomas of Coral Springs, Florida. The 2021 linebacker for Coconut Creek High School has been doing what he’s able to get his film out there too. With all of the different camps and colleges in Florida, he was hoping to springboard his recruitment in the coming weeks. Now he is just trying to do what he can to get in front of recruiters.

Prospects like Ayoub and Thomas are left to deal with the added stress due to upheaval of the recruitment process. Cal Fullerton, the head coach at Clovis High School in Clovis, New Mexico, is seeing it firsthand. It’s different for every player, but he has some student athletes feeling the stress.

“We have four kids who are 2021 that I think can play D1,” Fullerton said. “Our quarterback has offers from UNM and Colorado State and is now gaining more attention. Jeston [Webskowski], our running back, is a little stressed. Our outside linebacker fits the description in every category to go big time. [He’s] 6-foot-3, 215, long, fast, athletic and physical. He hurt his knee last year and now that camps are being canceled, he is a little stressed. We also have a tight end/defensive end who is 6-foot-3, 245 that has gathered some D2 offers and interest.

“So I would say at a place like Clovis, a rural community where coaches don’t come to very often, it is a little stressful thinking they may not get seen.”

Colleges are feeling the pressure too. A recruiting staff likes to have as much information as possible about its future players. The hope would be for summer camps to happen as much as possible, but it’s hard to predict how realistic that will be. Notre Dame, for example, became the first notable school to cancel its entire summer of camps. 

The restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic have put prospects are the country in a difficult position. What was once a clear path with visits and camps has now become murkier. 

As a result, those recruits—alongside their high school coaches and their parents—will be forced to get creative. For many, they are already taking up the task.

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