FCS and JUCO teams taking advantage of CoVID exemption in recruiting

Photo courtesy SFA Athletics

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Last week, senior writer Mike Craven wrote about how the CoVID exemption, not the transfer portal, is to blame for the drop in high school players receiving scholarships to FBS schools. Craven pointed out that 289 high school seniors signed to Texas FBS programs during the last recruiting cycle before the pandemic. That number fell to a low of 203 in 2021 and has begun to rebound in the previous two years.

What the FBS schools have lost by squeezing out high school players due to scholarship limits, the FCS coaches have been welcoming these players with open arms. Every coach I’ve spoken with recently has noticed a rise in the talent available from the high school ranks, and they’re using it to their advantage.

“There's no way four years ago that half of these players we signed in our class this year would be available at our level,” one FCS coach said to DCTF. 

It doesn’t go unnoticed by the coaches that the number of 3-star and 4-star players signed by FCS teams began after the pandemic allowed each player an exemption year. The extra year of eligibility has limited how many high school players an FBS team can provide a scholarship. Nearly every coach will choose a veteran and proven player over a high school player with some unknowns.

“Our focus on recruiting high school players is paying tremendous dividends,” another FCS coach added. 

Some coaches believe there is value in having a player in your program for four or five years, especially in the current age of the transfer portal.

“This is their first experience, and they become loyal guys when you get them out of high school,” one FCS said. “Sometimes it's easier to transition them into a winning program and a winning culture when that's all they know.”

Speaking of the transfer portal, some coaches discussed how building a relationship with a player who signs with an FBS school can pay dividends in the near future.

“If he has a good experience with you and your staff, how many other people is he gonna tell about his experience,” One FCS coach said. “It's all about creating fans, and we want to make sure that we leave all those kids with good feelings about us.”

Many FCS coaches also mentioned the talent level they see in junior college football has risen. Not only are the junior colleges benefitting from signing players with higher talent, but many of those players are better academically than the inaccurate stigma that’s followed junior college football for years.

“There are even better players going into the junior colleges in Texas and all across the country,” One FCS coach said. “The junior colleges actually have better academic kids and better players than many transfers.”

Will the talent available from the high school ranks dry up as the effects of the pandemic extension year fade into the distance? Possibly, but FCS coaches also know the relationships they’re building with the recruit and their families could lead to years of success.

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