Dec. 8—The national early signing day for high school football players is Dec. 21.
As the date approaches, there will be all kinds of media coverage on where this five-star quarterback or this four-star linebacker is headed.
But the high school football world involves more than players with four- and five-star rankings. There are hundreds more players looking for an opportunity to play college football. The biggest obstacle is usually making the connection with a college that’s the right fit.
Making that connection possible is the idea behind the annual North Alabama Recruiting Expo held Wednesday at Decatur High School. The event is sponsored by the Alabama Football Coaches Association.
“It’s a great way for the high school coaches to get the word out on their players. It’s a one-stop shop for college coaches,” said Jere Adcock, who is retiring as Decatur High head coach.
Adcock has been hosting this recruiting expo for more than 10 years. This year’s turnout included 53 high schools and 30 colleges. Most area high schools were represented. Each high school has designated seating among the long rows of tables in Decatur High’s indoor baseball facility.
The college coaches walk the floor making stops at each high school. There are handouts available from the high schools with key information on their players. There’s even the opportunity to watch video on a player. The college coaches offer handouts about their schools.
NCAA rules don’t allow Division I FBS schools to attend. It is an open market for NCAA Division I FCS, Division II and Division III along with NAIA schools.
The shopping experience can differ for the colleges. Sometimes it’s a school looking for a student-athlete that would be a great fit for the academics. Sometimes it’s a school looking to fill a need at a certain position.
Academics is why you saw Madison Academy head coach Bob Godsey talking with Calvin Pearce, an assistant coach from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“We’re one of the top engineering schools in the country,” Pearce said. “We have players from 30 different states on our roster and we would like to have some from Alabama.”
The Rose-Hulman Fighting Engineers are a DIII school with red and white colors that use an elephant for a mascot. Yes, it reminds you of a certain school in Alabama, but there’s a difference.
“We’re big on academics so we need guys that are the right fit and want to be engineers,” Pearce said. “They won’t be playing in the NFL, but they will be making a lot of money after college.”
West Georgia assistant coach Ashly Salomonsky is on the hunt for linemen on either side of the football. The former UNA player from Hazel Green knows the lay of the land for high school football in north Alabama. The Expo allows him to contact a lot of coaches in one day.
“We have a lot of really good high school football players in Georgia, but every school in the country recruits Georgia,” Salomonsky said. “We want to recruit in north Alabama where it’s not so crowded with college coaches. Hopefully, I can find one that might fill one of our needs.”
College recruiting has changed greatly in recent years because of the transfer portal. The top prospects are still in demand, but the players ranked below four and five stars face slim pickings in the way of options.
Moody High head coach Jake Ganus has seen the situation up close. This is his first year at Moody near Birmingham after being an assistant coach at Thompson, which just won its fourth straight Class 7A state championship. Thompson has plenty of four- and five-star players come through the program.
“It’s a difficult situation for college coaches,” Ganus said. “Do you sign the high school kid that can help build your program’s future or do you go to the transfer portal and sign a kid who has two-years of learning from Nick Saban under his belt and can make an immediate impact?”
Moody went 10-2 in Ganus’ first season. He said four of his players will sign with Division I schools.
“I have nine other players that I’m trying to help find a place to play,” Ganus said. “In the first 30 minutes I was here, I made contacts with 12 coaches. Hopefully, something will work out for one of our players. If not, I have college contacts that could help in the future.”
Brett Mask is a former Decatur assistant coach now at Florence. He spent five years as head coach at Colbert County.
“In my five years at Colbert County, we had one Division I prospect,” Mask said. “We had several other players that wanted the opportunity in college. Those are the kids that can get helped the most from something like this. It can make a big difference in a young man’s life.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.