Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

A little bit of help crucial in recruiting

Prep coaches not returning next fall pitch in to help players looking for a shot to play in college

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Following a high school football season that was plagued by ineligible player violations and forfeits that left four of the county’s best teams in the stands for the playoffs, several potential Division I players could be sitting on the sidelines this fall.

With the annual signing day for fall sports approaching Wednesday, Eleanor Roosevelt High School interim football coach Dan McMunn is still scrambling to help many of his current seniors get into school this fall, and he is hardly alone.

While the colleges come calling for top-notch recruits, it often takes considerable offseason work on the part of high school coaches to help potential Division I-AA or Division II players get noticed.

The only Roosevelt seniors who have finalized their college plans are Okachukwu Okaroha (Boston College) and Delonte Wallace (Buffalo). McMunn said more than two dozen other schools are still looking at Roosevelt players.

In any other year, former Roosevelt coach Rick Houchens, who recently accepted the head football coaching position at Archbishop Carroll in the District, would have been helping his players with the recruiting processd. But when Houchens was suspended for the season on Sep. 14 after allegedly supplying a former player with a false address in order to enroll at Roosevelt, many current Raiders’ players suffered long-term repercussions. Since then, the weight of the college recruiting tasks has fallen squarely on McMunn’s shoulders.

‘‘Over the past two months, I have probably sent out films and transcripts to 25 or 30 different colleges,” McMunn said. ‘‘In the past, Rick Houchens was always very good at making sure the schools had plenty of film on any kids that they were recruiting. It’s something that was very new to me, but the timing of it probably hurt more than anything. A lot of schools have already filled all of their available scholarship slots. It’s really the kids who got punished this season more than anybody.”

After three seasons as the football coach at Bowie High, Jae Jackson decided to step down after the Bulldogs went 5-5 and just missed reaching their second consecutive 4A South Region postseason berth in 2007. But Jackson is still active in attempting to get Bowie’s seniors into college. Three of his top players — De’ Von Richardson, Rodney Hill and Shane Stevens — are still holding out hope for the fall.

‘‘The first thing is to make sure that all of the kids meet the academic requirements of the colleges,” Jackson said. ‘‘A lot of the Division II and Division III schools are much more focused on academics. They know they’re not getting the best athletes, so those kids have to be very, very good students. Most of those schools require a 3.2 GPA and 1100 SAT score, which is not easy.”

Richardson is aiming for the U.S. Naval Academy, although Jackson noted that his quarterback may enroll in a prep school in Rhode Island for one year before heading to Annapolis. Several Division I-AA schools, including Marist, have an interest in Hill, while Stevens, who also plays for Bowie High’s baseball team, is still looking at Towson University, Albright University and Washington & Jefferson.

‘‘I think a lot right now depends on what kind of grants I could get,” said Stevens, a Gazette-Star first-team selection who plans to major in criminal justice in college. ‘‘I know the two [Division III] schools can only offer me academic money. If I go to Towson, I would focus on football. I just took my SAT again [Saturday], because my score was low the first time. My GPA [3.4] is good, but I need to bring up my SATs.”

Henry A. Wise High coach DaLawn Parrish did not have a large roster while he was the football coach at DuVal High, and his first season with the Pumas in 2006 was played without seniors. But Parrish now has 60 players in his weightlifting program and will graduate his first crop of seniors this spring, which has helped him get prepared for college recruiting seasons to come.

‘‘I probably have seven Division I-caliber players who would need a 980 SAT or a 3.2 GPA to get into school,” Parrish said. ‘‘My best player, Maceo Smith, is getting a lot of Division I looks, but his GPA is low. He retook the SAT [on Saturday] to try and bring that up. This was my first senior class and it was different. A lot of these kids can play in college, they just don’t have the GPA or the SAT. Our rising seniors are in excellent shape academically. A lot of them already carry a 3.2 or 3.3 GPA.”

Although Houchens left Roosevelt, McMunn admitted that he is not interested in taking the job at the Greenbelt school on a permanent basis. He plans to become as assistant coach at a high school in Carroll County, where he resides. But in the meantime, much of his time and energy is spent speaking with college coaches on behalf of Roosevelt players.

‘‘It’s been a rough two months, but like they say, whatever doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger,” McMunn said. ‘‘It’s really taught me a lot about the process. There are a number of kids that won’t be signing next week, but they still have a chance of getting some good offers in April or May. All of the Division I spots will be taken, but a lot of these kids can play I-AA or Division II next year. They might be walk-ons next year, but after that there is always the chance a scholarship slot will open up for them.”

E-mail Ted Black at tblack@gazette.net.