Pandemic may help Arizona athletes’ recruitment chances The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Pandemic may help Arizona athletes’ recruitment chances

Pandemic may help Arizona athletes’ recruitment chances

By Brandon Jones
Cronkite News

Many high school seniors competing in fall sports have aspirations to play in college and the pandemic may have helped their dreams.

For those in states where sports are on pause, that goal might be difficult to reach if they don’t already have offers – creating opportunities for Arizona athletes.

“We’ve had three guys that have committed already and 24 guys (on our team) that have Power Five, (lower) Division I, Division II, (and) Division III offers,” Chandler High School coach Rick Garretson said.

He said being able to play in their senior year was important to athletes. “I think your senior year is without question your best year. You’re the biggest and the strongest and the most experienced that you’ve (ever been).

“It’s gigantic that the kids are going to be able to play and have an eight-game season and then put together whatever string of playoff games that we have there as well,” Garretson said.

Five in the West and Southwest and 11 others have opted to not play sports in the fall, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, while Arizona and 20 others have shorter schedules and later starts.

Although Brandon Buckner, Chandler’s outside linebacker, is committed to Oregon, he said this season is still important.

“I feel like it’s pretty important, just solidifying and seeing all my four years of coming through Chandler,” Buckner said.

“Just putting the icing on the cake, just playing well last season with my friends, just going out and get in another championship, and just accomplishing our goals and expectations that we have for this year.”

Buckner seemed more excited for his teammates than he was for himself now that they know they’ll be able to play this season.

“It’s going to be helpful for them to show off their own talents and abilities,” Buckner said. “Because we are going to be able to play this fall, so I’m just happy to see all of them succeed and just see on-ball out this year. I feel like they’re really going to step up and just make plays on Friday nights.”

While there’s a clear advantage for athletes who are able to compete this fall over the athletes who can’t, Garretson believes it’s not all bad for the athletes who won’t be able to go out and compete.

“The college coaches have had a chance to really sit down and evaluate, I think film, that maybe in the past, they haven’t been able to do so,” Garretson said.

“It’ll hurt some kids, not having college recruiters on campus, like in the springtime when they can actually eyeball them and see what they can actually do in a live situation.”

The recruiting process for the next year or so will shift more to watching recruits’ film instead of watching them live in person.

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards understands how this can cause angst for some athletes.

“The thing that I’m learning probably more than anything else is a lot of these young men are worried about maybe in their area, there might not be high school football,” Edwards said.

“So, kids now are committing a little early. Because they might not have senior film if there’s no football,” he said.

Arizona high school players will try to make the most of the situation.

“Your film is your resumé, and our kids are fortunate to have the technology, with our huddle system and the highlights that go along with it to show what they can do on the field and then ultimately get to film themselves as a senior if they haven’t made a decision yet,” Garretson added.

As for golf, the recruiting scene has been very different during the pandemic. Brophy golf coach Jon Shores and his seniors are adapting.

“I just approached this year with an asterisk on it because we all know that 2020 is going to be the COVID-19 year and lots of crazy things have happened,” Shores said. “I think that’s especially tricky for seniors with what college is going to look like and then those that want to play college sports.”

For an individual sport like golf, much of the recruiting happens away from the high school team matches.

Almost every elite high school golfer in Arizona competes on various junior golf tours, which is where they get their recognition and attention from college coaches.

College coaches have very few interactions with high school coaches, instead contacting the golfers directly.

Fortunately for high school seniors, most junior tours resumed tournaments this summer, allowing college coaches to watch the leaderboards. ′

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