Spring football offers college coaches chance to see prospects in action

Last season, Drew running back Marquis Terry rushed for 936 yards in an injury-shorten season. He is hoping to net his first college offer this spring. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Last season, Drew running back Marquis Terry rushed for 936 yards in an injury-shorten season. He is hoping to net his first college offer this spring. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

This spring, high school coaches across the state were given the option to either hold spring football or play two scrimmage games at the beginning of the season.

Clayton County athletic officials decided that all its schools would hold spring practice. Drew coach Jarrett Laws says that was a good move that will benefit the players.

In addition to practicing for 10 days to get ready for summer workouts, Laws said that college prospects will be the big winners during the spring practices.

With this being a live evaluation period for college under NCAA rules, Laws said players get the opportunity to show what they can do in front of coaches.

“It’s their first chance at some exposure leading up to the summer,” Laws said. “They get a chance to possibly earn an invite to one of the camps, and that is where a lot of them get their first offers. I just don’t see us not having a spring practice. It really helps the kids.”

Many scouting experts agree.

“The live evaluation period is extremely important,” said Scott Kennedy, Director of Scouting for Scout.com. “Despite the fact that offers get thrown out like confetti at a parade these days, a coach isn’t going to accept a commitment from a player until he’s actually seen him in person for the most part.

“The pre-evaluation offers are a college’s way of saying ‘We’re interested in you.’ It’s also a great time for the coaches to see the younger players. By the time May can roll around, teams are looking at sophomores. There’s no substitution for meeting a player and seeing him in person.”

Jonesboro is one of those schools that is receiving a lot of attention from colleges about its sophomore and freshman classes. Cardinals quarterback Zerrick Cooper, a sophomore, has already landed four scholarship offers from Miami, North Carolina State, Kentucky and Clemson.

Also, defensive back/wide receiver Jordan Griffin picked up his first offer from Kentucky last week. Both attended the Wildcats’ spring game last weekend in Lexington.

“I’m definitely ready for spring practice to begin,” Cooper said. “I think it’s going to be exciting for me, and the entire team.”

In a surprise move two weeks ago, Miami and Clemson offered freshman James “MJ” Walker. This past basketball season, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder helped lead the Cardinals to the Class AAAA title. He hasn’t played football since his eighth-grade year in 2011 when he was a quarterback at Rex Mill Middle School.

“Spring football is going to be fun,” said Walker, an all-region and all-state selection in basketball. “I’m just going to approach it as a time to learn, and not worry about who is watching. I’ve had experience in basketball in playing in front of a lot of college coaches. I’m just going to approach it like I do in basketball.”

While the spring evaluation is key for some players in getting scholarship offers, Kennedy said it’s not at all a “make or break” situation for the players.

“In general, no, especially if the process leading up to the in-person evaluation has been honest,” Kennedy said. “If I walk up to the 6’1 corner I’m interested in, and he’s 5’9, then yes, it will break him. But typically, coaches are looking to confirm what they’ve already seen on video.”

Drew running back Marquis Terry is hoping for a lot of looks this spring, especially from some mid-major Div. I programs. The senior missed five games last season with a wrist injury, but still rushed for 936 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Laws said a good spring coupled with a good ACT score next month, should get him some offers this summer.

“We expect his recruiting to pick up a lot in June,” Laws said.