Return to normalcy: Local football coaches excited to see end of recruiting dead period

UConn head football coach Randy Edsall.
  • The normal college football recruiting process returned to normal on Tuesday.
  • For the past 14 months, recruiting has faced numerous COVID-19 restrictions.
  • In-person visits and college camps are now again permitted by the NCAA.

When Randy Edsall signs a football recruit, he’s essentially investing hundreds of thousands of dollars of the University of Connecticut’s money, with the hope that the player will produce for the team.

So, naturally the Susquehannock High School graduate would like the opportunity to meet the recruit in person before he commits a scholarship offer. After 14 months of doing all of his recruiting through Zoom and Hudl, Edsall and other college coaches across the nation finally can get back to the old way of doing things.

Tuesday marks the first day that programs and players can meet in person since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports. That means on-campus visits and college camps can resume, giving coaches a chance to see players with their own eyes again.

“I'm investing that in a young man to come to our program and I want to know as much as I can, I want to minimize the mistakes that maybe could come with recruiting,” Edsall said. “So, not having the in-person stuff, I think that kind of took away from it a little bit from maybe doing the job the best you could. So, that's why I'm really anxious to have the opportunity now to get back to having our camps, having official visits and getting them on campus and spending that time with them to really get the best evaluation possible.”

Body language important: Central York head football coach Gerry Yonchiuk agrees with Edsall’s assessment about the importance of seeing players in person.

He added that body language is something players can’t hide and can either shoot them up a team’s recruiting board and sink them, depending on how they act at camp or on a visit.

In addition to getting to see how players behave on campus, Yonchiuk said the ability for colleges to view players work out in person could produce more interest than just looking at Hudl highlights or workout videos.

Central York High School football player Parker Hines.

Central York sophomore wide receiver Parker Hines has an invite to a camp at NCAA Division I South Carolina, which will have several other schools in attendance, and Yonchiuk believes that if his Panthers teammates, Judah Tomb and Josh Gaffney, were able to play in front of coaches last year they would have received more scholarship offers. Tomb (Saint Francis) and Gaffney (Albany) are both headed to Football Championship Subdivision programs, formerly known as Division I-AA.

Yonchiuk has made sure Hines knows how big this chance can be for him.

“Both Judah and Josh would have been (Football Bowl Subidivison) 1-A guys if they had that opportunity that these guys are getting this summer,” Yonchiuk said. “Same thing with Randy Fizer from Red Lion, if he had an opportunity to run as fast as that kid is and let the college coaches look at him as a receiver running routes and exploding in and out with his speed, he probably would have been a (FBS) 1-A kid. So, having this opportunity it's like, man the door is smacked wide open.”

Fizer committed to FCS Wagner.

Central York head football coach Gerry Yonchiuk.

Challenge for the coaches: While it’s exciting for the players to have camps on the schedule again, it’s a challenge for the coaches to plan out which ones they can attend.

Combined with practices and scrimmages, there are camps every weekend in June. For York High head coach Russ Stoner it’s difficult to make it all work.

“It's just a real balancing act because you're trying to get 7-on-7 in to give your kids some continuity playing together, plus you're trying to do your lifting and all of that,” Stoner said. “So, this year it's just a whole heck of a lot more important in terms of getting your kids out and getting them seen, because they haven't been seen in a year. So, we're trying to do whatever we can to get our kids seen.”

For schools such as York High and Central York, it’s easier to miss a day of practice in the offseason because their teams return several key starters, but that can be harder for new coaches or young teams.

Both coaches have prioritized camps where multiple programs will be in attendance from different levels to give their players the best chance to earn an offer from a school that fits them. With every program trying to get their visits done before July, it becomes a real challenge to pick which camp offers the best opportunity and isn’t a waste of time and money.

York High head football coach Russell Stoner.

Bearcats headed to Happy Valley: Stoner and the York High Bearcats will begin their return to normal recruiting this weekend with a trip to Penn State’s camp at Beaver Stadium.

For the players on the team, it will be their first real recruiting experience and Stoner expects it to serve as a symbol as the end of a 14-month struggle and the start of a return to a normal recruiting experience.

“I think once they get there on Saturday morning and we pull into Happy Valley and they see the stadium, I think they're all going to realize what they're about to do,” Stoner said. “I think at that point, (the players will feel) 'it's finally over.' I think that will be a great start for our kids.”

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