COMMIT QUICK: Tony Grimes – UNC Commit

In a much awaited decision,  Princess Anne High School, VA cornerback Tony Grimes,  the #1 rated player at his position in 2021,  chose the North Carolina Tar Heels on Tuesday afternoon. Grimes becomes the 17th commit in Mack Brown’s 2nd class in his return to North Carolina.   He is also UNC’s first 5 star commit in this class.  If Brown and the staff are successful in securing Grimes’ ink to paper he’d be the first 5 star signee in a long time.  North Carolina did not have a 5 star signee in the last decade (2010-2020).

Grimes’ commitment moved North Carolina ahead of Tennessee to the #3 spot in the 247 Team 2021 rankings.  What Brown and his staff are doing on the trail this cycle is noteworthy.  During the last decade,  North Carolina had finishes of 23, 18, 41, 28, 30, 28, 32, 29, 20, 30, 19 in the team rankings.  Grimes’ commitment may swing a few more 5 star eyes towards Chapel Hill.

So what makes Grimes so great.  In looking at the tape,  one thing really jumps out at you.  Grimes knows what to do with the ball in his hand.  Like most 5 star defensive backs,  Grimes plays on offense.  With that,  college scouts get the opportunity to see his athleticism which he has no shortage of.  Princess Anne lines him up at wide receiver, running back and at quarterback occasionally.  No matter where the spot,  Grimes shows the ability to crank out long touchdowns.  He’s not what I would call a quick twitch athlete but does have speed.  Grimes produced a 10.97 (100) and 22.57 (200) in the 2019 track season.  Undoubtedly,  he would have lowered those marks had he been able to run track this year.  Grimes stride reminds you of a young Vince Young when you look at it.

So what about his defense,  the side of the ball he will be playing on in college.  Grimes’ length serves him well as a defender.  He is not long on technique but his physical length often bails him out when he’s behind a step on a wide receiver.  Even in a trailing position,  Grimes can often be seen nabbing the interception or reaching out a long hand to bat the ball away.  At the NFL scouting combine every year,  teams make much of a cornerbacks’ arm length and wing span.  Grimes appears to have both in bunches.  He has a cornerback’s build and athletic skill.  Brown has put together a solid staff in Chapel Hill and wherever Grimes is raw,  Carolina has the ability to sharpen up.   Grimes’ defense does not ask him to press much so the only time you really get a chance to see it is at camps.  What you do see on Grimes’ film is his ability to play both at corner and safety.  In this day in age,  a versatile player is a valuable one.

North Carolina is making noise on the trail but they better be prepared to continue the fight for this committed prospect as the likes of Penn St., Georgia, Alabama and others put the full court press on.

Recruiting Law: Thou Shall Love the Weightroom

If it looks like a football player and it looks like a football player that looks like a football player then it’s a football player. That’s not exactly how that saying goes in the rest of the World but it does hold some truth in the world of college football recruiting.  Allow me to show you.

The eyes are a powerful thing.  Even before you can touch or smell something,  the eyes are at work making 1,000’s of computations about a person,  a place or a thing.  It’s why most believe that the sense of sight is the most powerful sense of all.  In that vain the first assessment a college football coach will make about you upon seeing you is whether or not,  through his eyes,  you look like a football player.  You may have grown up on the old adage never judge a book by it’s cover,   nobody told a college football coach that.

The major reason why this is so is because college football coaches and staffs have an overwhelming amount of confidence in their ability to teach you what you know.  While this confidence should also extend to the abilities of the team’s strength and conditioning coach,   it is not the strength and conditioning coach that’s out on the recruiting trail.  Quite frankly,  no college coach really wants to make the guess nor wants to calculate the time it may take for you to get a college football ready body.  Now,  this doesn’t mean that they won’t take a chance on you if your muscle tone is not up to par but it’s far better to have the armor already on when the generals coming looking for soldiers.

Adding muscle and getting stronger is one of the key attributes to your success on the football field and it’s also one of the attributes that you have great control over.  You can’t make yourself taller than your genetic code calls for and acquiring speed can involve some tricky formulas.  Getting stronger and adding muscle is a little more of a simple equation.  Eat more + lift more = stronger / bigger.  It doesn’t get more simple than that.  There is also the added benefit that getting stronger can also aid you in getting faster if combined with the proper speed development program.  Getting bigger and stronger also gives you more confidence out on the field which in turn just makes you a better overall football player.

When a college coach sees you at camp or comes onto your campus to visit you in school or out at practice,  a well put together body sends off an important signal.  It is a big indication to that coach that you are a hard worker.  If you’ve read my popular article You Thought You Loved Football Then They Gave You A Scholarship then you have an idea of how much hard work must get put in as a college football player.  Nothing says you may be up for the challenge more than a coach seeing you chiseled up in your polo during a school visit or busting out of your team issued practice jersey.  It sends off the same signals white teeth give off when that chic you’ve been eyeballing smiles at you or the chiseled up teammate standing next to you.

Many a college football prospect has gotten the eyes turned to him at a recruiting camp just by looking the part.  Of course,  you still need to be a player (for the most part) but when there are 300, 400, 500 guys at a camp,  it’s nice to start the attention machine when you are at the check in table.

So how are we going to get bigger and stronger?  Here are 3 quick ways that I have observed having major success

(1) Don’t Miss Workouts

While you are striving for that scholarship offer,  working out is life.  You don’t skip a day of eating right?  Well don’t skip a day of lifting. Make it your lifestyle.  First of all,  make it to all of your team’s scheduled workouts.  If missing was unavoidable,  don’t just call it a day off.  Get the workout out in later and if that is not possible at school then give your best simulation at home.  Pushups, situps, pull ups and lunges have built many a durable body.

(2) Eat, Eat, Eat

If you are getting regular meals at home because your mom or dad or grandma can throw down in the kitchen like a 5 star chef then cool. If your home situation is a little hectic then it is in your best interest to learn how to cook.  Skipping meals is a surefire way to get nothing out of a workout.  The muscles that you breakdown in the weightroom need to be built back up  to grow with food.  There is no excuse for not learning how to cook.  There’s the Food Network on TV (where I learned how to cook) and that wonderful invention called YouTube.  You don’t need to be a chef.  You can learn to cook simple meals with the required protein, fats and carbohydrates to sustain your growth project.  You can also learn how to create meals with a small budget if finances are an issue.  Don’t let not knowing how to cook be an excuse.

(3) Protein, Protein, Protein

Your growing body needs this essential element.  Muscle Milk is a great addition to your diet when you are a potential college football prospect.  If not Muscle Milk then there are tons of other protein powders on the market.  If you don’t have the money,  find a way.  Call one of those family members that will be sitting on the couch on draft day and tell them what you need.  The best way to see results fast from your dedicated workout regimen is by adding protein shakes to your regular daily meals.

College football is all about standing out in a crowd.  Perhaps you are best with some other attributes that college coaches like but like I said getting bigger and stronger are definitely in your control.  When that coach comes to meet you and starts the college scout pat down on your arms and shoulders,  make sure he’s feeling something screams D1.

VIDEO of the Day: Keilen Washington – Dixie HS, St. George, UT

There are hotbeds for high school football prospects in the country.  Off the top of your head you can name a few like Florida, Texas and California.  No matter how long I let you think about it,  you won’t ever mention Utah but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good prospects there.

Case in point,  2020 defensive back Keilen Washington from Dixie High School.  For starters,  his GridironStuds profile says he runs a 4.37 forty.  Now we all know that high school 40 times are to be taken with the utmost grain of salt.  The good news for Washington is that he moves fast enough on film for you to believe it.  Washington patrols his corner position for Dixie HS in addition to handling return duties for the team.  It is in the return game where he show off his speed.  His film will reveal his ability to see a gap in the coverage and hit it with passion launching him through and onto the other side in short order.  When no hole is present,  Washington can run around a defender as good as anyone else.  Schools love defensive backs that can contribute on special teams,  especially the return game.

When it comes to defense,  what you’ll notice and like about Washington is his ability to not only tackle but lay the wood.  He’ll run through a wide receiver or ball carrier in a minute.  Often times it’s violent and causes the man with the ball to suddenly no longer possess the ball.  Washington’s highlight video features several forced fumbles stemming from high impact collisions.  Of course he brings all the other tools that a cornerback should have also like speed and sticky coverage.  He is starting to get solid D1 interest this offseason and I predict that this will only increase in this his senior season.  Tall cornerbacks with long arms,  speed and an ability to help in the return game don’t come a dime a dozen.  As such,  expect Keilen Washington to be firmly planted on the radar in the Fall of 2020.

Recruiting Law: Know When to Fold ‘Em

If you learned one thing about recruiting from me on this blog it’s that self awareness can be your biggest asset or your biggest weakness.  Failing to have it will undoubtedly lead to you making a series of bad decisions that will likely turn your college football career (if you even have one) into a nightmare.

In that same vain,  today’s discussion in this blog post is directly related to having good self awareness.  Football is a sport where quitting is frowned upon.  A never say die attitude is needed in training and certainly on Friday nights when things aren’t going your way.  It’s a strong life lesson that every football player should stuff in their pocket and carry with them.  However,  there is quitting and there is steering yourself in the right direction.

When recruiting starts for a high school football player whether that is actual offers or the desire to obtain offers,  everyone has their favorite school.  Everyone also starts off wanting to play big time football and why not.  Growing up you may have dreamed of playing on TV in the big games that you saw on CBS, ABC or ESPN.  To you,  that is college football but in reality college football is much more than that.

College football is also Yale vs. Harvard,  North Dakota St. vs. Georgia Southern and Mount Union vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater.  In other words,  on college campuses across America on a Saturday in the Fall,  football is being played.  Just because Lee Corso and friends are not at your school putting on mascot hats in pre-game doesn’t mean it’s not college football.  I’m here to tell you that you can enjoy a college football experience at Grambling just as much or even more that you do an experience at Clemson.

In the beginning of your college football scholarship journey,  it’s fine to pursue the big name schools that everyone is gunning for.  However,  it is important to know when the gig is up and it’s time to set your sights on a different set of schools.  Even if you are being pursued by Power 5 schools but not necessarily by the one(s) you had in mind,  it’s time to know when when to fold ’em and get focused on the ones that really want you.

Every recruiting cycle is filled with guys who forced the issue by pursuing the big time schools too long or waiting too long to get the proper attention from their all time favorite.  What results is being left at the altar by all schools or a decision being made to go to a school that doesn’t really want you and is not a good fit.

So,  how do you avoid this.  First and foremost you are going to need that all important thing,  self awareness.  Be honest about your current skill level,  attributes and ability to contribute.  It’s ok to believe in your potential but realize that potential doesn’t last long when you arrive on a college campus.

Over the last couple of decades,  the speed at which players move through a college program has escalated at a blinding pace.  Whether it has been more and more players declaring early,  dropping out or hitting the transfer portal,  things happen quickly for athletes in college football programs.  You know what else happens quickly?  Recruitment of your replacement.  Even when you are great,  coaches are looking for your replacement after year one.  They figure you will be leaving in another year and a half.  Sometimes they get your replacement on campus,  you get an injury and there goes your replacement in there doing things to make them forget you.

With things happening at a more rapid pace,  your decisions must come quicker and be more precise.  High school football players who recognize early where they stand in the whole recruiting puzzle are the ones who land the limited amount of scholarships that are available.  Here are some tips to help you realize where you stand.

First,  honestly assess what kind of interest the schools you are interested in are showing you.  If you have been playing varsity football for over a year and you have not received an offer from those top tier schools,  start thinking about the level or two below that.  If you’ve completed two varsity seasons (sophomore and junior) and those schools have not offered then it’s time to get serious about the smaller D1’s and D2’s.  Secure your place.  If you happen to blow up as a senior and they come calling then you can take a look at the situation then.  It still may not be in your best interest to accept the offer.   Power 5 football programs try to sew up their classes by the end of the players’ junior seasons for the following season.  This often means they have been actively pursuing the prospect for a year or two (sometimes more).

Second,  assess your physical attributes  and compare them to the players that are highly recruited.  If you’ve read my blog post Recruiting,  Like Beauty Contests, Has A Lot to Do With Looks then you know that programs really are recruiting primarily off of physical dimensions.  College football programs want height, they want weight and they want speed.  Where do you stack up in that department compared to the highly recruited?  Go take a stroll through Rivals or 247sports Top 100 for your class.  Do you measure up to the prospects favorably in those areas?  If you do then you may stand a reasonable chance of being recruited if you are willing to put the work in.  If you do not then realize that you are facing an uphill battle if your growth gets stagnant.  You may turn out to be an awesome high school football player but just don’t meet these requirements similar to not having the necessary SAT score to get accepted to Yale.  Start making a plan to court the attention of schools at a lower level.

Third,  take a serious look at how much you have played.  Experience in life is an important factor.  Having it certainly helps.  Going about getting it can be tricky.  Those who are savvy about it,  tend to be the ones who prosper.  If you lack the physical attributes and you don’t have much experience playing,  you 100% need to set your eyes on lower level D1, D2 and D3 football.  It is what it is as they say.  Go where you can play,  gain the experience and have a career.  If you have the physical attributes but have not played much for some reason,  then you can consider things like junior college.  Junior college can allow you to gain the experience,  up your skills and catch a big schools eye with your physical attributes.  Whatever the case may be,  make this assessment quickly,  preferably by your junior year.

Finally and this is mostly for the players who do obtain division I or even Power 5 offers.  If you are not the ideal height or speed,  go through the history of the school you are considering.  Have they had success with a player like you before?  For instance,  has the school you are looking at had a successful 5’9″ slot WR like yourself?  If so,  then they will likely have more patience in bringing you along if you remind them of someone else that worked out.  However,  if they haven’t and you aren’t good early,  they will be really quick to replace you with someone more ideal.  Forcing your square self into their round hole can be very painful.  It’s cool to get an offer from your dream school but going there isn’t always best.

Sometimes in the recruiting game,  as in life,  the deck is stacked against you.  What matters most is how you handle it.  You can cry about it,  get frustrated and force yourself into a bad decision that can leave you busted emotionally.  Or,  you can quickly assess the hand that has been dealt to you and make the wise play by changing course.  A great country singer once said ” You gotta know when to fold ’em.”

The Real Price of Becoming a Recruited College Football Prospect?

I was in my senior season at the University of Miami.  As luck would have it,  the Super Bowl was in Miami that year.  The San Diego Chargers were taking on the San Francisco 49ers.  Even more luck was upon me as the 49ers were using our facilities to prepare for the big game.  What I learned from that experience stayed with me for a lifetime.

We weren’t allowed to see the 49ers practice as those things,  for the most part,  were top secret.  However,  on one day,  a couple of us players stepped into our head coach’s office where we could see the practice field.  Already legendary for his work ethic,  I expected to see Jerry Rice working up a sweat.  I did not expect to see a maniac.  Rice sprinted to the end zone on every pass he caught and as you could imagine,  he was thrown many of them.  He would then turn around and run back down to catch his next rep.  When the first team came out,  guys grabbed Gatorade.  Rice grabbed a trainer who threw him balls continuously until the first team was back in again.  It was insane to watch.  Rice was in his 11th year as a pro and nowhere close to getting cut but was behaving like he was told he was on the chopping block.

Working almost as hard on the defensive side of the ball was Deion Sanders who was then a 49er.  Sanders would sprint to the other side of the field on a run play and get back to his spot for the next play.  This was the king of coverage making sure he was where he needed to be on a run play.  When the horn sounded to change periods,  both Sanders and Rice would sprint to the next field they were required to be on for the ensuing period.  Two future Hall of Famers,  blessed with God given ability in bunches,  not taking anything for granted.  I left our coach’s office saying the 49ers by 50! There was no way the Chargers could contend with a team where the two best players worked as hard as this.

As I have reflected on that day throughout the years,  I am reminded of the cost there is to achieve a goal.  The greater the goal,  the greater the cost.  Over my time as a coach,  I witnessed many a kid earn a football scholarship but many more who didn’t.  At times,  I have seen those who didn’t,  perhaps out of jealousy,  throw shots at those who did.  “Oh he’s just tall” “He just had good genes.” “He’s just fast”.

When I hear those things,  I just think of two of the best athletes the NFL has ever had,  busting their tail to be the best.   There’s a cost to be a college football prospect.  It means intense weight training.  This means constantly trying to add more weight to the bar and surpass today what you did yesterday.  It also means doing more than what the coach wrote on the board as today’s workout.  It means doing pushups and lunges at home while others are playing Playstation.

When everyone else is pacing themselves through a conditioning workout,  a college prospect is probably running at a faster pace even though, like everyone else,  he really doesn’t want to.  A college prospect is getting some extra running in too most likely on the weekend,  at night or even bright and early in the morning. He’s doing this while others are enjoying their Saturdays and Sundays or laying in bed late.

Speaking of Saturdays and Sundays,  those times are made for rest and relaxation.  That is not the case if you are a serious college football prospect.  Your weekends are made for running and extra position work.  That prospect is either playing another sport,  at a track meet or playing in a 7on7 tournament often out of town.  If he’s not doing that,  he’s working with a trainer to raise his level of play.  This is going on while you are at the mall or on the yacht or at the beach.

You know how you go on a vacation with the family to some European destination,  historical American city,  lovely mountain or fun lake in the summer? Not the college football prospect.  To earn the scholarships he wants,  he’s going on a tour of colleges to participate in their camps against 100’s of others trying to catch the eye of the college football coach.  He’s in the sun,  sweating it out,  pushing and pulling against another athlete willing to die for an offer.  Around the time you are on the boat making a tight turn around the buoy in the lake laughing with friends,  the college prospect is bending around a sweaty offensive tackle grunting to bury his face in the turf.

In the midst of all this extra work,  that legit college prospect must find time to focus on and complete his classwork to maintain the required GPA so that he can even accept a college football scholarship when it is offered.  I played major college football and for national championships.  I myself was a guy who had pride in putting in extra work.  Even still,  I was shocked at how hard Rice and Sanders worked.  So when I write this,  I am not writing it to the common student (though the message is for you too if you like to criticize athletes).  I am writing to you guys on the football team who bitch about not getting a scholarship and think the guys who did EARN them got them by being lucky.  You thought the bare minimum was enough.  You were wrong.  You thought just practicing and playing the game was enough. You were wrong.  You thought that you could play ball,  sacrifice nothing and still get what the next man got.  Again,  you were wrong.  Each year over 300,000 people want what you want.  If you thought it was going to be easy,  I’m here to tell you one more time,  you are wrong.

How to Get Recruited During the Coronavirus

You were finally coming around.  Things were starting to fall in place.  You had a plan for your spring semester as well as summer trips planned to the colleges.  The only thing that could mess this up would be a virus that affects the entire World and causes our entire country to shut down putting the football season in jeopardy.   There’s no chance that could happen.  Oh well guess what?

With the college football season being an uncertainty and the 2020 high school football season in many states being on life support,  the 2021 class is getting one heck of a raw deal as it pertains to college football recruiting.  Those highly ranked and with solid offers in place are not feeling the pinch. However,  prospects who are on the bubble and still waiting for their first committable offer have their hands nervously hovering over the panic button.

We are in unchartered waters but if there is anything that we have learned in this society during this Covid-19 epidemic its that having a plan is the key to life.  For under-recruited and non-offered ’21 prospects,  disaster has struck.  You do not have the ability to be evaluated during Spring football and you do not have the ability to be evaluated on campus at college summer camps.  This means getting that offer is going to be difficult.  What it does not mean though is curl up into the fetal position and die.

Here are three things you need to do to help yourself in recruiting during this pandemic

(1)  Make Sure Your Hudl Video is Well Put Together

Now more than ever,  your Hudl highlight video is important.  Without any of the other ways available for a coach to really evaluate you,  the eye in the sky is going to be your biggest friend.  You must have a highlight video already put together right now.  In fact,  if you don’t,  you are basically telling the colleges that you aren’t really serious about football.  There’s just no way around that.

No serious football player entering into their senior year does not have their highlight video put together.  If that’s you then I am telling you that you aren’t serious about ball.  Just having a highlight video is not enough though.  The highlight video must be done right.  Follow the simple rules.  Put your best plays first.  Show all that you can do in the first minute of the video.  Edit the clips if they show too much before and after the play.  Highlight yourself before the snap, etc.  I have written multiple articles on how to make a highlight video that sells you. Type “highlight video” in the search bar of this blog and read away.

(2) Film Workout Videos

It worked for the the prospects in the 2020 NFL draft,  it’s bound to work for you.  Perhaps you were injured your junior year or you,  for whatever reason,  do not have much in terms of highlights.  Again,  don’t curl up and die.  If you are a good athlete,  film your workouts.  Are you fast,  show yourself sprinting.  Are you agile,  film yourself doing your position drills.  If you are strong in the weightroom, film yourself moving some weight.  Yes,  I know it’s hard to find a gym or park space right now but where there is a will there is a way.  Show something you are strong at doing.  Do not film,  with the intent of distributing,  video of yourself doing something that you are not very good at doing.  Play up your strengths.

Once you have captured video of yourself doing those things that you are exceptional at doing,  start posting them on social media and getting them out via email or DM to college coaches.

(3)  Send Messages to Coaches

This leads to the third,  final and most important thing you need to do.  Develop a serious list of schools that you wish to target.  Then compile a list of coaches from those schools you need to get in touch with.  For the most part,  you should get contact info for three coaches at the school you are interested in.  First the recruiting coordinator.  Second the position coach.  Third the coordinator for the side of the ball you are on.  You can throw in the head coach if nothing else works but he’s like the big boss at the end of a challenging action video game.  You have to get through all of the other guys first.

Limit your enthusiasm in this list making.  With precious little time and evaluation,  be smart about your list.  Sure go after some dream schools but include a healthy amount of schools you think you have a good shot at and those you know you have a shot at getting offers from.  None of us know how these next six months will go.  A bird in the hand is worth a dozen in the bush right now.  Secure a scholarship offer.

Send those coaches a nice but short note detailing your intentions.  Flat out ask them to watch your video(s) and evaluate you.  Be bold,  ask for what you want.  Send them your well put together Hudl video.  Supplement that with your workout videos showing what you can bring to the table as a player in their program.  Certainly detail your high points including high academic achievement.  This is no time to be shy.  The same way people were getting punched in the face for toilet paper two months ago,  is the same way the frenzy over the remaining scholarships will take place over the Summer and Fall.  You better have your guard up and know how to throw a right hook.