Murphy: Early signing day needed for college football
Attention parents, coaches
We want your signing day photos
As part of our comprehensive coverage of National Signing Day, The Times will publish all photos of signing ceremonies on gainesvilletimes.com. Just send your photos to sports@
Also, check the Web site today for updates on local prospects as well as the signing classes for Georgia, Georgia Tech and other major universities around the Southeast. Then in Thursday’s paper we’ll have a recap of all the local signees as well as a look ahead at the prospects of future signing days.
For more than 30 area football players — and several thousands nationwide — today marks the culmination of years of hard work and dedication at the high school level, and the beginning of what they hope will be a prosperous college career.
Today is national signing day, where high school football players around the country take off their pads and pick up a pen to sign their names on the dotted line of a football scholarship. Some are headed to big-time schools like Georgia and Georgia Tech, while others will be signing scholarships to play at Air Force, Northeastern and the like. But regardless of where they’ll be playing football next season, today is a day to be celebrated, as their years of dealing with the recruiting process will have paid off.
"It’s definitely a weight off your shoulders," said Flowery Branch senior and Georgia Tech commit Izaan Cross.
Cross, like several other players, first started getting noticed during his junior year. His first offer came from the Yellow Jackets and several more followed. His mailbox filled with letters from prospective colleges, his coach’s office filled with scouts vying to acquire his services.
"It’s just really humbling," Cross said of the recruiting process. "It makes you feel good when a whole bunch of schools call you and your coach. It makes you feel wanted, and that’s always nice."
The majority of those schools didn’t find out about Cross because they attended games at Flowery Branch. Instead they relied on highlight films sent in by his coach Lee Shaw and that can be found on recruiting Web sites like Scout.com, Rivals.com and Georgiapreps.net.
"So much of it is Internet-driven now that the biggest thing you try and do is get film out on the kids," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "I’ll have school’s call me and say that they’ve seen so and so, and I’ll be like,
‘really? How’d you see them?’ And they’ll say the Internet."
Miller has worked hand-in-hand with Darby Chaney of georgiapreps.net, a site dedicated to promoting athletes that is free for high school players and coaches.
"With the advent of YouTube and recruiting services like ours, recruiting is faster," Chaney said. "When we first started we only cut highlights of seniors, and this year was the first year we cut freshmen highlights. That’s how fast it is now."
As the recruiting process has spread across the Internet, players are reaping the benefits.
"Coaches may not ever visit them if they don’t see our Web site," said Chad Simmons, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com. "Any publicity is a good thing."
That publicity leads to scholarship offers, which in turn leads to the arduous recruiting process by college coaches. In the past, the process has come under fire from critics who say college coaches make too much contact with prospective recruits. But the players have a different view.
"The coaches just wanted to say hey to me and hear my voice," Cross said of the phone calls he got. "It never got overbearing for me, I just enjoyed the process."
As is Gainesville junior Tai-ler Jones, one of the state’s top-ranked wide receivers and holder of 16 Division-I offers.
"It’s been a great process for me," Jones said. "It’s something I’ve always dreamed of and it never gets old."
Jones, as well as his teammate Blake Sims, have benefited from a Gainesville coaching staff that relentlessly sends out highlight films to recruiting sites. Led by assistant coach Todd Wofford, the Red Elephants have four coaches in place to help with getting their players noticed by college scouts.
"You’ve got to look at it as this is helping that kid, hopefully to get a better life and go to college where hopefully mom and dad don’t have to pay for it," Miller said. "Being a small-town person myself, going to college opened up a whole new world for me."
Gainesville isn’t alone in making sure their players get noticed. Every area school provides information on their players to the recruiting sites and participates in recruiting fairs that are often attended by more than 100 college coaches.
"I talk to high school coaches every day," Simmons said. "Players, parents and coaches, that’s what I do. I’m here to get your kids exposure."
Some places, like White County, have trouble getting exposure.
"We may not get as many college coaches come though because we haven’t had those caliber of kids," Warriors coach Gregg Segraves said. "But the bottom line is, if you have a kid that they know about, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of Gwinnett County or up in the mountains in White County, they’re gonna come look at him."
One of those players that coaches came to look at was White County senior defensive lineman Tasi Suavva, whose recruiting process went somewhat awry.
After being officially offered by the University of Western Carolina, Suaava waited for his scholarship to arrive, but it never did.
"They were waiting on him to commit, and while they waited, other kids committed that played his position," Segraves said.
When notified that Suaava’s position at Western Carolina was filled, the coaching staff scrambled to get other schools to look at the lineman. The scrambling paid off, and Suaava will sign with Northeastern today.
Not committing early could cause a player to lose a scholarship offer, but not being academically eligible could cause a player to never receive one. In that case, there’s nothing a recruiting site or coach can do for a player.
"Kids have to realize, and parents have to realize that if the academics aren’t taken care of, then my hands are tied," Miller said.
Sims is finding that out right now.
"They tell me I’m a great athlete like people have been telling me my whole life, but without the grades they say they can’t do nothing and I can’t go to the next level," said Sims, who holds offers from West Virginia and Arkansas. "As more college scouts kept telling me that it made me want to work even harder on my grades."
Sims can take heed from his teammate Jones, who along with his 16 scholarship offers, carries a 3.6 GPA.
"All the times my dad said that grades matter, it’s finally showing that he was right," Jones said. "I know there’s life after football, and without the grades you can’t have much of a life."
His high academic standing and stellar football skills has Jones ranked as a four-star wide receiver on Scout.com, but according to the 6-foot-1 junior, that isn’t important.
"I know they have me as a four-star, but if I don’t perform on the field that means nothing," he said.
Jones isn’t alone in his opinion of rankings.
"I honestly don’t believe in the rating systems," Chaney said. "The college coaches may pay some attention to it, but to be honest with you they don’t. They don’t care if a kid’s a five-star or a two-star. If they can play for them, they can, and if they can’t, they can’t."
Today, whether they were ranked as a five-star or no-star at all, thousands of players across the country will realize they can.