The Brunswick High Pirates may not have advanced in the state football playoffs as far as they would have liked, but coach Sean Pender said the players still accomplished a lot this season.
As many as 11 of the 31 seniors on the team — more than a third of the team’s graduating class — are expected to sign college scholarships Feb. 3, National Signing Day.
“I think it’s the best class I’ve ever had,” he said.
Among those players are Jaylen Jackson, who has committed to Georgia Tech; Aubrey Williams, who is considering offers from Rice and the Naval Academy; John Cano, who is considering the Citadel and others; Sharrod Frazier, who is considering offers from Marshall and Colorado State; Kam Futch, who turned down Division 1 offers to stay closer to home and play for West Georgia and George Mincey, who will sign to play at Valdosta State.
Junior Warren McClendon is also attracting lots of attention from college scouts.
Other seniors will also get offers after signing day by schools looking to fill their rosters. Some players are talented enough to play at the next level but they need to improve their grade-point averages and standardized test scores to get an offer.
“I tell players, ‘If you’re willing to travel, we’ll find you a place to play,’” Pender said. “I want them to be successful. It’s gratifying to see players reach their goals.”
Pender and his staff work with players to put them in the best situation possible to be recruited. They have held seminars to caution players about what to post and not to post on social media, they conduct classes to help build character and leadership skills and have advisors to help students meet their academic requirements.
“They’re looking for reasons not to recruit you,” he said.
Another obstacle to more players receiving scholarship offers is geography. It’s easy for college scouts to see a large number of teams in a densely populated area like Atlanta. It’s a lot more time consuming for scouts to travel to Brunswick to scout players during practice or at games.
That means he spends lots of time networking with college coaches to make sure they know about players who they may be interested in evaluating.
“In Southeast Georgia, you can’t wait for the colleges to come to you,” Pender said.
Camden County High School football coach Bob Sphire said Jeremiah Compton is expected to sign an offer from Kennesaw State University and he has several other players who are expected to receive offers by signing day. One problem this year is many players were late to register in the national clearing house to receive college offers, and some were late in taking their standardized tests.
“Some of the kids put it off too long,” he said.
Sphire said he expects some players to be disappointed they didn’t receive an offer to play at the next level, but some will receive college offers in the weeks after signing day.
“The February signing date is the starting point for a lot of guys,” he said. “There’s a whole other push after signing day. A lot of kids don’t understand that.”
Some colleges get openings when a committed player chooses to accept another offer or to play another sport, rather than football, he said.
Sphire, who coached in Gwinnett County for more than a decade before accepting the Camden County job a year ago, said Southeast Georgia is under recruited compared to the Atlanta area, where college scouts are often in the grandstands.
“Without question, a player can be under recruited, compared to if he played in Gwinnett County,” he said. “Here, you don’t get as much traffic. You’re not as quite in the loop.”
Sphire said he had 34 former players in Division 1 football this year from his time at North Gwinnett. His goal is to build the Camden program into one that attracts recruiters from some of the top colleges across the nation.
“It’s pretty gratifying to have a hand and see them reach their goals,” he said. “It’s pretty cool when you watch those games.”
Frederica Academy coach Brandon Derrick said it’s uncertain if any seniors will get offers by signing day, but he has three juniors, Jashawn Sheffield, Jaylin Simpson and Harry Veal who are already being recruited by D-1 colleges.
“I think we’ll have a couple of players to go,” he said of his current group of seniors.
Derrick said he and his coaching staff emphasize academics to all players to put them in the best position to succeed at the next level on the field and in the classroom. Good grades are also a way to get offers from rhe best college football programs.
He tells his recruited players to be open minded about the offers, to look for stability in the coaching staffs, establish a good open dialogue with the coaching staff and know the environment where they are going.
“We want to make sure they’re a success,” he said. “It’s great for the kids to know they’ve accomplished it.”
Glynn Academy coach Rocky Hidalgo estimated as many as 10 of the 22 seniors on the team will sign scholarship offers on signing day. None of the players are being recruited by Power 5 schools, but they still get the opportunity to play at the next level and get a college education.
Hidalgo said he helps players by explaining the recruiting process and giving advice, including when they have more than one offer and are uncertain which one to accept.
“I tell them it’s a personal decision,” he said.
Hidalgo said some of his players are under recruited because they play in Southeast Georgia.
“Atlanta is easy to recruit because there are so many schools,” he said.
There will be players who get offers after signing day. Hidalgo said he and his staff call college coaches to let them know about players they think could help their teams.
“A big part of it is calling coaches,” he said. “I think teams that invest the time and recruit here get a better quality kid.”
Hidalgo said he looks forward to signing day because it’s gratifying to see his players succeed in high school enough to earn a scholarship, but it’s also bittersweet.
“It’s awesome to see them get there and do that,” he said. “They played their last game for us. It’s sad.”