Gilbert Williams Field coach Steve Campbell instantly fell in love with the idea when Mesa Red Mountain approached him about having his school be part of four programs in one location during one day in spring football.
Williams Field, Queen Creek and Queen Creek Casteel will be at Red Mountain on May 8 from 5 to 7 p.m., for a spring practice. The Arizona Interscholastic Association signed off on it, as long as the teams didn’t practice against each other. They have to practice separately.
But the concept behind this is for college coaches to have a chance to a number of kids without jumping from school to school, saving time for coaches, while helping smaller colleges who have tighter budget restraints.
This may be a first in Arizona prep football, a sign of the times with recruiting ramping up in Arizona and parents hungry to have their kids evaluated by colleges without spending large amounts of money.
A satellite camp, so to speak, but without having to pay for it.
“It brings it back to the high schools, instead of the people who are making money off of kids in their recruiting,” Campbell said.
20 college coaches say they’ll attend
Dave Lawson, in charge of football operations at Red Mountain, said he has received confirmation from coaches from 20 different colleges that they will attend.
The AIA bylaws don’t allow for schools to compete against each other in a practice during the spring football period, AIA Executive Director David Hines said. And it’s not because it could tempt transfers.
“It’s an insurance thing,” Hines said. “During spring ball, they are covered for catastrophic injury.”
All four schools have players who are being recruited by major colleges.
Red Mountain, which came up with the idea, has plenty of practice space to accommodate four teams.
“We said, ‘How can we generate more recruiting buzz with our own school?'” Lawson said. “How can get more and more colleges to come through? What is within the rules?”
Casteel coach Spencer Stowers said: “It was our intention to create three goals: create exposure for all athletes with FBS, FCS, D-II universities; provide the opportunity to compete in 7s, 1-on-1s; and create a community environment promoting sportsmanship.”
Stowers will have his first senior class this fall, which will be led by two of the state’s top 2019 recruits, quarterback Gunner Cruz and wide receiver Khyheem Waleed. “After meeting with the AIA, we can still accomplish two goals.
“Unfortunately, we will not be allowed to compete against each other under the current bylaws but we can practice on the same field, which will maximize exposure for that single day and create a community event.”
Camp will benefit the ‘bubble’ players
Cambell said all four head coaches have a good relationship to make this work.
Queen Creek coach Travis Schureman is on board.
“It’s a great chance for our kids to get looked at by colleges,” Schureman said. “We are grateful to be part of something so great.”
Campbell has two of the state’s top recruits in 2019 defensive back Noa Pola-Gates and 2020 offensive lineman Noah Nelson. They’re getting Power 5 offers. But Campbell says this will benefit guys on the recruiting bubble, who are close to offers but have yet to receive any.
“The thought process is that these coaches come here, run around from school to school,” Lawson said. “They come here to one location and can look at 25 prospects at the same time. We’ll have dinner for the coaches afterwards.”
All four head coaches have mapped out a practice strategy for May 8. The big men, not just skilled players, will be working out. It could be staggered with big men working out, then the skill players in drills.
“We wanted to have no down time and the coaches focused,” Lawson said. “We want to be an innovation. For years we thought of how can we do an event that is within the parameters of the recruiting time. We formed this idea.”
This could be a trend setter with other schools throughout doing similar things.
Campbell even suggested a school from a rural Arizona area, such as Show Low, traveling to the Valley for a day to work out at the same school as a big school where college coaches can see them.
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