The recruiting game

Wednesday, Feb. 7 was the NCAA’s national signing day for prep football players and college transfers. Fifteen high school players and one transfer student signed letters of intent to play for Head Coach Jimmye Laycock and the Tribe in the 2007 season.

p. Signing day marked the culmination of a whirlwind period for Laycock and his staff, as they traveled throughout the country to convince possible recruits to attend the College in the fall.

p. “You start working at recruiting in the spring and the summer and it’s broken down into different phases over the year, but it’s something that you are basically working at year round,” Laycock said.

p. The recruiting game is vital to the success of all football programs at the collegiate level. As standout players graduate and move on, the onus is on a college’s coaching staff to ensure that their teams don’t miss a beat. The irony of developing a strong program is that recruits want to attend a school with a storied history in their sport, as well as a school with a proven track-record of success. However, without the right recruits in the first place, colleges have trouble fielding winning programs. The College has not had to worry about this over Coach Laycock’s tenure, as the Tribe has compiled 18 winning seasons over the last 23 years, but unlike other schools recruiting similar players as the College, academics is a major factor.

p. “Our pool of candidates is much smaller then the other people we play because of the academic requirements, but once you find somebody in that pool, if they are looking for a quality education it is going to take precedent over how many games you won or lost each year. Grades are very important,” Laycock said.

The Tribe fielded a young team in 2006, as 14 of their 22 starters will return for the 2007 campaign, but only six of those will come from the defensive side of the ball as defensive standouts Josh Wright, Alan Wheeling, the McLaurin brothers and others have all wrapped up their careers for the Tribe. The College will suffer three losses on offense as tight end Matt Trinkle, center Cody Morris and running back Elijah Brooks have exhausted their eligibility. Kicker/punter Blair Pritchard is also graduating this spring.

p. By signing 13 players who have had some experience on the defensive side of the ball, Laycock has taken strides to address the loss of five of the team’s defensive starters. In fact, the only incoming players not to see time on defense in high school are quarterback Terrance Schmand, punter/wide receiver Bret Ploucha and running back/wide receiver Ryan Woolfolk.

p. “We felt our numbers were getting skewed more towards the offense then the defense so when push came to shove we [recruited more defensive players],” Laycock said. “A number of guys that we signed have the flexibility of going either way, but we wanted to make sure they could play defense.”

p. Five of the 16 signees are offensive/defensive linemen, with the largest being Jake Marcey of Gainesville, Va. Marcey, who is listed at 6’4’’ and 280 pounds, was named first team all-state by the Virginia Independent School Football Association during his senior year. Linemen Dan Donker of Voorhees, N.J. and Harold Robertson of Richmond, Va., weigh in at 285 and 295 pounds, respectively.

Linebackers Marcus Hyde of Manassas, Va., and Jake Trantin of Severn, Md., carry perhaps the highest accolades of the 2007 recruits. Hyde was named the AAA State Defensive Player of the Year by the Virginia High School League Coaches Association and named a first-team all-state pick by the Washington Post. Trantin was named a first-team all-Met linebacker by both the Post and Baltimore Sun while the Post also named Trantin their county defensive player of the year.

p. Despite every recruit’s solid credentials, Coach Laycock doesn’t feel like there is a clear-cut first-year starter among them.

“I’m pleased with them all, but I don’t know if there is anybody I can jump out and say he is a definite player as a freshman. I’ve been surprised too many times,” Laycock said.

p. This past year, the Tribe’s roster sported 50 players from Virginia, constituting 52 percent of the team. While Laycock and his staff have taken strides in recent years to recruit more from outside the Commonwealth, as evidenced by ten of this year’s 16 recruits coming from out of state, the coaching staff’s main focus will continue to stay in the region.

p. “We are going to look at the Virginia [recruits] first and then we are going to expand out and try to find as many as we can. The Middle Atlantic is probably the biggest area for us because that’s where players know about us and parents can come down and see games,” Laycock said.

p. Every new recruit will begin workouts with the team over the summer, and by the time the College’s late August opener nears, expect each freshman and the rest of the Tribe to be ready to play.


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