It was a blow that echoed through the hearts of students and coaches around the state. The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) announced on April 2 that all GHSA activities and sports were canceled for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. GHSA activities and sports were initially ordered to temporarily halt on March 17 with the understanding that as soon as the COVID-19 situation improved they would resume as normal. However, the pandemic kicked into high gear across the state forcing the GHSA’s decision to fully cancel the remainder of the school year.
What a lot of people do not realize about that April 2 order is that it effectively canceled all in-person spring football practices. The spring football season is a vital evaluation period for any high school football team as they get their first look at new players, gives them the opportunity to start instilling team values and plays, as well as, a jump start in forming trust and a brotherhood that will come in handy during the real season. It is also a time for players to get back into top form and team trainers are busy working with each player to help them improve their physique to fit their position.
For players that dream of taking their football careers beyond high school, the spring season can make or break their chances of making their dreams come true. College football recruiters rack up the miles during the course of a normal spring season bouncing from high school to high school evaluating their players.
To better understand the impact of college recruitment during the spring high school football season, I was able to speak with the college coordinator at Buford High School, Coach Fyrone Davis. Davis also serves as the team’s running back coach and is also the head coach for the track and field team at Buford.
Buford High School with its winning tradition and reputation for producing top quality players is a magnet for college recruiters. With 12 state titles under their belt, the most recent with Coach Bryant Appling at the helm, Buford is a “must stop” for colleges looking for new recruits. During Buford’s 2019 spring season, an estimated 140 colleges had representatives stop by to evaluate their players. That is nearly double the participation by college recruiters as the February recruitment period where Buford saw 85 schools stop by the school.
The entire football program at Buford High School is having to adjust to their new reality and are adapting to the situation. Players are doing workouts and drills at home with guidance from their coaches. Zoom meetings are the new way of “face to face” conversations. And from the recruiting end, Coach Davis, other coaches and football staff are putting in the extra hours to help their players’ chances of getting that top-notch college offer even in the face of COVID-19.
The football staff and players have been busy working every avenue open to them to get Buford players the attention necessary to get those college offers coming in despite the challenges. Buford football staff have been busy pouring through the hours upon hours of game footage that was taken during the 2019 football season to make videos to showcase player talent. Coaches and players then take those videos, upload them to websites that are made to showcase player talent for recruitment purposes like Hudl, and share them on Twitter. Davis has encouraged the players to be more active in this side of recruiting. “I am getting the kids to help me push their film as well because we have so much downtime,” relates Davis. “All these [college] coaches got all this time to watch the film now so we can push the volume everywhere now.”
After being the No. 1 high school in the state for college football recruiting for the last 10 years, Buford has built up relationships with college football programs. Davis can often be found working his contacts list, chatting up these programs to determine what player positions they need in order to fill their rosters. “It helps having great players but the relationships… people [college coaches] wanna come in because we speak high volume, we are gonna speak the truth about our kids and we are going to try to put kids where they fit and not oversell a kid,” Davis explains.
Buford football has seen approximately 170 players receive college offers in the last 10 years with close to 80% of them offers from D1 schools. It’s clear that Buford’s recruiting efforts have worked in the past and no doubt staff will continue to adapt to their new reality to see that their players have the best chance around to bring in those college offers in the future.