It may only be May, but the football field at Hurricane High School had a certain August feel to it on Saturday after an idea spearheaded by Hurricane head football coach Jeremy Taylor and Redskins defensive coordinator Jason Pratt came to fruition.
On Saturday, more than 150 kids representing more than 15 in-state teams took part in a joint practice at Hurricane High School, which was aimed at giving the student-athletes within West Virginia a better chance at exposure.
“We put this together in less than 45 days,” Taylor said. “When you can get 150-some kids through 40s, long jump, broad jump, drills, shuttles, one-on-ones and basic camp drills in three hours. Each kid got looked at by somebody and, if you stood out, there were some kids that walked out with offers. We keep telling our kids that free college is a blessing. I heard nothing but good things from the high school coaches and the college coaches involved.”
Taylor credited Pratt’s experience at the collegiate level for knowing what college coaches are looking for, and for the implementation of the event, which takes on a combine-type feel but has two major differences: (1) it was of no cost to the participants and (2) the high school coaches involved all got together and used one of their flex days allotted by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission while leading the instruction of the camp, which makes it a flex day instead of a combine.
That is important because college coaches are able to attend spring practices of football teams, but NCAA rules prohibit them from attending combines. This time of year is a major recruiting time for college coaches, who scout the nation in search of talent during the NCAA calendar’s open recruiting period from April 15 to May 31.
As a whole, West Virginia has struggled to get coaches into the state during this crucial recruiting period because the difficulty traveling within the state and the limited pool of players compared to bigger cities. This concept brought everyone to one location, which appealed to college coaches.
According to area coaches who attended the joint practice, the event could be a game-changer for recruiting in the Mountain State.
“It is something that West Virginia has needed,” Spring Valley head coach Brad Dingess said. “Jeremy and Coach Pratt, their defensive coordinator, came up with the idea and reached out to everybody in the MSAC. I think all but one or two jumped on board with it. We reached out to some other schools from around the state, as well, but it all started with Taylor and Pratt. They got the ball rolling.”
Huntington High coach Billy Seals credited Taylor and Pratt for the unique vision to bring coaches together to one location so they could see the state’s prospects perform. The result was having more than 20 college coaches on site over the duration of the joint practice.
“Man, it was a great event,” Seals said. “It was well-ran and all the coaches there were impressed. They did a great job with it.”
With more than 150 student-athletes on site, Dingess said the key to the event’s success was the planning of Taylor and his staff, who organized different stations, which allowed high school assistant coaches to work with the athletes while the head coaches were freed up to speak with college coaches about players of interest.
“It was very efficient,” Dingess said. “Everything stayed on schedule and there were over 20 colleges there. A lot of kids picked up some offers at the event. Because it was ran as a flex day, it enabled college coaches to attend, unlike a combine.”
Those with Coalfields and Co. — a social media account whose intent is to promote football talent within West Virginia — were in attendance at the event and keynoted some players who were already on the radar that enhanced their standing, such as Capital’s Chance Knox, Spring Valley’s David Livingston and Huntington’s tandem of Brocton Blair and Terrance Pankey.
Others who were lesser-known that are now on the radar, according to Coalfield and Co’s posts, include Poca’s Ethan Payne, Hurricane’s Bomani Brooks and Abel Cunningham, South Charleston’s Romello Taylor and Huntington’s Max Wentz.
Marshall, represented by offensive line coach Greg Adkins, was the lone Football Bowl Subdivision school in attendance at the event, but a few Football Championship Subdivision schools, including Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky and others, were on-hand to scout the prospective student-athletes. In addition to those schools, nearly all of the in-state Division II schools were in attendance, which meant the opportunities grew for local talent to stay in-state for their collegiate career.
In addition to the benefits for student-athletes, the coaches also reaped the benefits of the joint practice as they got to share tips and ideas with each other — almost like a coaching clinic — while networking with some coaches that they may have never met before.
Considering that the combine saw success despite being put together in just over a month, Taylor said that there is no reason that the event can’t become an annual staple to help the area’s recruiting with even bigger results in the future.
“It’s worth it for all the future kids who are looking to get seen,” Taylor said. “I think next year is going to be even better.”