UT recruiters target high school winners

Study: Success carries over into college

6/13/2013
BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Listed in an online recruiting profile is an entry of little interest to many but one to which University of Toledo football coaches are paying close attention this summer: A prospect’s high school.

Though less enthralling to the general page-clicker than, say, a 40-yard dash time or star ranking, the athletic upbringing of a recruit is linked often to college results, according to a study conducted by Rockets coaches.

Campbell
Campbell

At the command of head coach Matt Campbell, staff members a year ago analyzed Toledo rosters from the last five seasons or so to identify traits shared by successful players as well as common features of underperformers. Results indicated those who come from winning high school programs are conditioned better to attain success in college, particularly as a freshman. A broader study, looking at players from around the Mid-American Conference, yielded the same conclusion.

That Toledo recently landed commitments from two multi-time state champion quarterbacks appears to be by design.

Campbell said the research — conducted by recruiting coordinator Scott Isphording and director of high school relations Bryan Gasser — is "something I knew I always wanted to do."

"What we found is a lot of times these guys that come from successful programs already understand what makes good football teams," Campbell said. "It’s all those other intangibles other than skill development that are really important. The learning curve isn’t as big as somebody who hasn’t been in a [winning] program."

Thus far, the 2014 class is meshing with that axiom. Linebacker William White plays at Detroit Cass Tech, the two-time defending Division 1 champion in Michigan. DuVal, the Maryland school of cornerback Jamal Woodland, is trending upward after ending a five-year playoff drought last season. The latest pledge, quarterback Travis Smith, guided Ithaca to two of its three straight Michigan Division 6 titles. Ithaca has won 42 straight games. Alabama transfer Phillip Ely, who is enrolled at Toledo, quarterbacked Florida power Plant to consecutive titles in 2008 and 2009.

The 2014 class figures to cap at 16 or 17, Campbell said. It will not come as a surprise if Toledo continues to mine Washington, D.C. The study revealed the staff should expand their attention to that talent-rich area. Three D.C. prospects signed in February, and Woodland is maintaining the pipeline.

"It’s not an exact science," Campbell said. "But I think you can help yourself and make sure you’re bringing yourself closer to getting the best prospects you possibly can."

There are contradictory results. Running back David Fluellen, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards in 2012, came from a middling program near Buffalo. South Broward, the southern Florida school that produced linebacker Junior Sylvestre was winless last year. Locally, Springfield struggles to win games, which was true even when Rocket great Eric Page came through.

At the opposite end are those from powerful programs, like Cleveland Glenville’s Andre Sturdivant or Indianapolis Ben Davis’ Keith Suggs, who contributed little at Toledo.

"Some people will say a guy who comes from a great high school program is tapped out," Campbell said. "Where is his ceiling? He might already be there."

Toledo is not tempted to subscribe to that theory. Just look at the defensive line. Jayrone Elliott played at Glenville and yet his past genuflects to that of the three other line starters. Orion Jones comes from Jenks, the 13-time Oklahoma state champion. Carl Albert, another Oklahoma power with 10 titles, counts Christian Smith among its alumni. Warren Central, the Indianapolis home of Elijah Jones, has captured seven state crowns.

"I don’t know if you can ever be 100 percent, but I think you can help yourself identifying those people who can be positive impacts on your program," Campbell said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.