Thursday, 15 October 2020 14:23

RSHS football recruiting efforts continue amid pandemic

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Trevor Moss (86) is one of several seniors who is immersed in the recruiting process despite COVID-19. Trevor Moss (86) is one of several seniors who is immersed in the recruiting process despite COVID-19. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Eight months ago, the Richmond Senior High School football program had 13 players sign letters of intent to play college football. 

This winter’s National Signing Day could look a whole lot different for the Raiders, and it’s not because Richmond lacks talent on the football field or interest level from colleges across the state.

Instead, Richmond, along with programs all across the country, are seeing recruiting efforts impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Raider football has proven to be the pulse of the county on fall Friday nights the last 47 years, but currently due to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s ruling, high schools won’t hit the gridiron competitively until February.

The Richmond County Board of Education, along with Richmond County Schools officials, opened play back up in early August after five months without sports. Since then, the Raider football team, along with over a half dozen other programs at the school, have started voluntary workouts and conditioning.

Fourth-year head coach Bryan Till, who has helped send over 20 Raiders to the college circuit during his short tenure, says the coronavirus has temporarily stunted the most important aspect of recruiting.

“Not playing right now hurts, but our players not being seen by coaches in person is what’s hurting our seniors the most,” Till said. “With states like Georgia and South Carolina playing (high school) football, our guys aren’t getting the chance to put together new film or go to camps.

“Meeting on campus with coaches lets players’ abilities be fully appreciated,” he continued. “During the pandemic this hasn’t been an option for our kids, especially our seniors. They are the ones who are being hampered the most.”

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced earlier this fall it was halting its recruiters from meeting in-person with prospective student-athletes until after the new year. Till said they are allowed to communicate with players through virtual means like Zoom, social media, emails and phone calls.

Although there are several Raider players involved in the limited recruitment process, five seniors have already verbally committed thanks to recruitment efforts ahead of the pandemic. 

Those players include quarterback Caleb Hood (UNC), wide receiver Jakolbe Baldwin and offensive lineman Jaleel Davis (N.C. State), wide receiver Dalton Stroman (Appalachian State) and linebacker CJ Tillman (Liberty).

But throw in the mix seniors Tremel Jones (wide receiver), Jaron Coleman (running back), Mack West (kicker), Trevor Moss (kicker) and Kaleel Brown (defensive lineman). These players, with the possibility of others, are missing clutch recruiting opportunities because of the hiatus in high school sports.

“By this time, seniors usually have four or five games of film to show their progress,” Till said. “Now they aren’t getting that exposure, especially to FCS or Division II schools. 

“Our kids have grown quite a lot since last season,” he added. “But (college) coaches are having to look at film from last year and our kids can’t showcase their improvements.”

To combat the lack of new resources from game film, Till and his staff have encouraged Richmond players to take to Twitter and share personal drills and workouts online. He’s also been working tirelessly from his end to keep their names in the spotlight.

“I’ve been calling and texting coaches who recruit in our area and have been sending out film from last year. I tell them not to forget about our kids, who are much faster and stronger than a year ago.

“I’m advocating for our kids to do things on social media, and post things to Twitter to show how they’ve improved. That’s keeping the fire stoked a little bit for them.”

For a lot of high school sports, a player’s junior season is a crucial time for college recruitment, and football is no different. Till said that a handful of juniors are already receiving interest from an influx of college programs, and that a “delayed season” in the spring will still give them an opportunity to garner attention.

Juniors Jaleak Gates (linebacker), Kellan Hood (wide receiver) and J.D. Lampley (defensive lineman) all played significant minutes as 10th graders. Because of that, Till noted that all three have collected interest from college teams.

Lampley has received official offers from Liberty, East Carolina and South Carolina, and has gotten interest from a handful of other schools. Hood has been in contact with Coastal Carolina and Columbia, while Gates has picked up interest from Wake Forest, Liberty and Coastal Carolina, as well as an offer from East Carolina.

“These three had varsity film from last year so that’s helped them get noticed,” Till explained. “The juniors are being delayed by not playing now, but playing in the spring will allow them to be seen and help their chances.”

Another benefit for rising sophomore and junior varsity players at Richmond by playing in the spring will be the opportunity for college coaches to visit more freely since their seasons will be over.

Till said that during normal football seasons, college coaches are limited with visits because of the college season. This spring he anticipates college programs to be able to “see us at practice, in games and in the playoffs” because of the offsetting schedules.

Last modified on Thursday, 15 October 2020 15:18
Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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