FOOT­BALL

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS FRIDAY - chays@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

likely to wait to make their col­lege se­lec­tions.

“All of this stuff like early com­mit­ments are now like a thing of the past, like we’ve gone back 40 years,” Salem said.

Play­ers who were hop­ing to gain re­cruit­ing trac­tion dur­ing high school spring foot­ball work­outs will be hit hard­est by the coro­n­avirus cal­en­dar changes.

Play­ers such as Win­ter Park run­ning back Ay­ron Ro­driguez, Apopka de­fen­sive back Jaquan Low­man, Edge­wa­ter de­fen­sive line­man Ken­neth Brown, Olympia wide re­ceiver Isa­iah Davis and Mount Dora Chris­tian de­fen­sive end Kevon Ellis were all try­ing to im­press re­cruiters who were sup­posed to visit Florida later this spring.

The play­ers know the COVID-19 cri­sis has been devastatin­g for many peo­ple around the world, but it also could de­rail their col­lege foot­ball dreams.

Ro­driguez was the Class 7A player of the year last sea­son at Win­ter Springs af­ter run­ning for 1,400 yards and scor­ing 22 touch­downs. He needs this spring foot­ball ses­sion, not only for re­cruit­ing pur­poses but to get ac­cli­mated to his new school.

“Spring was go­ing to be like a group­ing time for my­self since I trans­ferred. … a time to build that bond with my new team­mates,” said Ro­driguez, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound ath­lete.

The thought of not hav­ing spring foot­ball is a ma­jor road­block. Even though he had a big-time sea­son as a ju­nior, Ro­driguez still wasn’t gain­ing much re­cruit­ing at­ten­tion. He hoped spring foot­ball would pave the way for schol­ar­ship of­fers.

“It’s a very big deal be­cause ju­nior-year spring is when all of the re­cruiters come in and get a look at the 2021 re­cruit­ing class,” Ro­driguez said. “So it will be hard for the 2021 class to get re­cruited.”

Salem ac­knowl­edged it will be a big draw­back for play­ers still un­der the radar.

“All we can do is re­cruit from film and show up [for] their se­nior sea­son, then around Thanks­giv­ing start watch­ing their tape and start re­cruit­ing them in De­cem­ber,” Salem said, re­call­ing what used to be the nor­mal foot­ball re­cruit­ing cy­cle be­fore the early sign­ing pe­riod was es­tab­lished.

“For the states [like Florida] that do have spring prac­tice, com­pared to the north­ern states, that’s al­ways been an ad­van­tage to the kids in the South.”

Not this year.

In a full-con­tact sport like foot­ball, it’s ques­tion­able whether spring foot­ball will even take place. For now, the play­ers wait to hear some good news. In the mean­time they make up their own work­outs or hit lo­cal gyms that are still open.

“[These] are try­ing times for ev­ery­body,” Norvell said. “All of these guys are in the same sit­u­a­tion. They’re all sitting at home and look­ing for things to do. … They’re look­ing for that con­nec­tion.”

But the bottom line is noth­ing can re­place face-to-face re­la­tion­ships or in-per­son re­cruit­ing eval­u­a­tions, and coaches na­tion­wide are try­ing to fig­ure how to adapt with­out it.

“It’s just go­ing to be harder on ev­ery­body,” Salem said. :That’s just life, so you adapt and you ad­just. It’s strange, but since I’ve been re­cruit­ing a long time, I can say it just goes back like it used to be.”

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