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High school football: College coaches rely on technology to keep recruiting pipeline intact during COVID-19
Lakeview Academy quarterback Ben Puckett is sandwiched between Riverside Military’s Lamar Gordon, right, and Tyler Gilchrist Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, during the first half of their game at Maginnis Field. - photo by Scott Rogers

As industries around the country shut down amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus, one pillar of collegiate athletics has kept moving steadily along: football recruiting. 

Even as universities and high schools have closed down, college scouts remain in their film rooms, scouring hours and hours of game tape in an effort to keep their programs competitive on the other side of this pandemic. 

Riverside Military Academy coach Nick Garrett said he’s even seen an uptick in emails and Twitter DMs from scouts and coaches over the last week as they look to stay ahead of the recruiting game. 

In a normal year, spring football recruiting would be comprised primarily of college scouts visiting spring high school practices to get introduced to players and put faces to names. 

It’s an important step in the process, but not one that is typically make or break for the majority of recruits. North Hall coach David Bishop said he’s not expecting the cancellations to have much of a negative effect on prospective recruits.

“You’re losing a little bit of that relational piece, but today, with all the technology you have, coaches can get anything they want remotely,” he said. “They can get highlights. They can get game film from all of your kids. Other than that relational piece, personally I don’t see that it’s awful from that perspective.”

Recruiting will go on, but with no in person visits from scouts, it’s important that high school football players with aspirations to play at the next level be proactive during their down time. 

According to Derrick Lucas — recruiting coordinator for the University of Pikeville who makes spring trips to Georgia regularly — standing out without being able to make a physical visit is all about using technology to create relationships with coaches and scouts. 

“Twitter has helped us out a lot,” he said. “There’s a lot of kids that we can’t go out there and see face to face. But it helps us when they send us their film through Twitter and talk to us through Twitter. That’s a relationship builder there.”

Keeping grades high while attending school from home is also an important factor. High grades reflect high character, according to Lucas, and make athletes more viable. 

Lucas would also urge young athletes to make their interest in a college program known if they hope to someday receive an offer. With thousands and thousands of talented high school athletes graduating every year, it’s easy for players to fall through the cracks — especially when it comes to smaller schools with smaller recruiting staffs. 

“If you’re interested in a school, go on Twitter, follow that coach; DM him your film,” Lucas said. “We can be interested in you, but another half of it is you’ve got to be interested in us.”

With most colleges currently closed down and recruiters around the country staying home, free time will be a bit easier to come by than during a typical spring. 

School may be out, but college scouts are still staying in contact with players online in an effort to stay ahead of the game. It has not been the most conventional spring, but high school football players looking to get their name out there have every opportunity to make that happen.  

“(Coaches) have an overabundance of extra time to spend on recruiting,” Garrett said. “I’ve been dealing with a lot of phone calls and emails and responding to Twitter as far as our 2020 class. It’s a very, very unique time, and it’s important to take full advantage of it.”

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