Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For the unsigned, another college football recruiting season begins

LARGO — National signing day has become a holiday at Largo High, where the football program has advanced to the state semifinals the past two seasons.

For the school's top players, the yearlong recruiting bonanza ended Wednesday with a celebration as linebacker Mike Marry (Mississippi) and Mike Lang (Connecticut) sat at a table facing banks of cameras and signed their letters of intent to attend college.

For others, such as Largo quarterback Ryan Eppes, the day after signing day signified the beginning of their recruitment.

Smaller Division I-A and I-AA schools and most of the D-II and D-III schools wait until after signing day before offering scholarships. Simply put, they want to see who didn't get scholarships from the major schools, then they snatch up the best of the rest.

"Signing day is the big splash that everyone sees," said Davidson assistant Brett Hayford, son of Shore-crest football coach Phil Hayford. "But for schools not on the Division I level, it becomes pretty busy because we're trying to get the guys that fall through the cracks."

Even after signing day, Eppes continues to worry about his potential college choices. A few programs seem like good fits. Now he needs to let them know of his interest.

It would help if he had more consistent statistics. Eppes is good. Good enough to start for a program that competes at a high level on a yearly basis. But he was only a full-time starter for one season. And though he stands 6 feet 1, he is about 3 inches shorter than most college players at his position.

"I had a breakout year this season," said Eppes, who threw for 1,313 yards and 11 touchdowns. "I just wish I was able to put up those same type of numbers the year before."

Eppes hopes to land with a Division I-AA, II or III school. If not, he plans to try to walk on at a Division I program.

"I don't know where I stand right now," Eppes said. "First and foremost, I want to go to school on scholarship. I just hope everything works out."

College coaches are prohibited from discussing potential recruits such as Eppes. Jay Davis, an assistant at Grambling and son of Countryside High coach John Davis, said 90 percent of his team's recruiting class is cemented by signing day, though he admits the staff stays alert for unclaimed talent.

"A lot of the Division I schools are getting early commitments from kids," Jay Davis said. "That helps the smaller schools get more of a head start in recruiting. We go at it hard in December and January. We had 14 guys who signed on signing day. But we're always on the lookout for others."

One way small colleges mine talent is by attending recruiting fairs sponsored by local high schools.

East Bay High coach Brian Thornton has held one the past nine years. This year's fair is Feb. 14-15. Thornton expects 50 high schools and 50 colleges to attend.

The way it works is high school coaches show highlights of their respective players. College coaches stop by to watch. If a college recruiter is interested, he sets up an appointment with the player for the following day.

"We should have about 100-175 kids who will sign with a college from the recruiting fair," Thornton said. "There are more kids signing from the fair than on national signing day."

Eppes said he was not planning to attend the recruiting fair. For now, he is sending out highlight tapes on his own.

"I just want to get my name out there," Eppes said. "And then wait for something to happen."

For the unsigned, another college football recruiting season begins 02/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 11:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov celebrates his second-period goal against the Devils, his eighth overall, giving him goals in each of the first seven games.
  2. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start


    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  3. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues


    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  4. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'


    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.
  5. Fennelly: Longtime Bucs fans, we want to hear from you


    Calling all Bucs fans! Calling all Bucs fans!

    Jameis Winston is pressured by Chandler Jones during the Bucs' loss to the Cardinals Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.