RECRUTING NOTES: Academics the deciding factor in recruiting

One of the biggest factors in college football recruiting isn't decided on the field or the weight room.

You won't see it listed on a player's profile on a recruiting Web site and it's often the part of the process most overlooked by high school players.

It's academics.

Yes, highlight plays are important. Yes, a good 40-yard dash time is impressive. Yes, bench-pressing 300 pounds looks good. But sometimes it's numbers like 2.0 and 1010 that can be the difference in a college scholarship.

"It used to be height and speed, now it's grades," Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. "You've got to have a 2.0 core GPA or it's not worth recruiting you. For a lot of colleges it's not worth the risk."

At last week's Touchdown Club of Gwinnett Recruiting Fair, before a college coach even asked to see a player on film, he asked what his grades were like. Was he eligible by the NCAA? Could he get into their school academically? Those questions were posed before a single highlight was played.

"That's the biggest thing is what they do in the classroom," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "It's hard to show them a player if you know they haven't qualified. The first thing you talk about is academics, how close they are to qualifying, have they taken the SAT or ACT, what's their score."

To be eligible to play Division I football, a player must have a 2.0 core grade point average and a 1010 on the SAT. To play at Division II, a 2.0 GPA and an 820 SAT are necessary.

"The first thing they do is ask if they have a 2.5 GPA and 1050 on the SAT or better to get into school," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "It's like when you get ready to shop for a car. Do you shop for a Porsche first? No, you go for one you can afford. They want good players that qualify for school. There's some schools the grades can be skewed a little bit, but you have to be really good athletically to make that happen."

It's the academic side that can hurt players when choosing a college to play football. They can have the talent level to play at a Division I school, but if the grades don't add up, a lower-level school is the only option. Sometimes a school can make an exception and get a player into its school with sub-par academics. But those cases are rare and for the average football recruit are not a possibility.

By the time a player is a junior or senior and realizes he has the potential to play at the next level, he's often already dug himself in a hole academically. It's difficult to improve a poor GPA from freshman and sophomore years, but there are online classes that allow you to make up courses.

It's the academic side that many coaches around the county have trouble relaying to their players. Parents and fans wonder why the team's top player is not going to a big school to play college football. Often times it's bad grades and test scores that are the hindering factor, not the efforts of high school coaches.

"You play hard, you work hard in the weight room, but you ignore the third leg, which is academics," Crews tells his players. "No one will recruit you because you don't have good grades. A lot of guys don't realize the third leg to get into college."

Hamilton Garner was the top offensive player for Duluth this season, but an injury hindered his play the second half of the year. At the recruiting fair he was one of the biggest draws by college coaches with his 3.9 GPA.

"That opens a lot of doors," Duluth assistant coach Chris Patterson said. "No matter how much we tell our juniors and sophomores about grades, they don't believe us until they see it."

South Gwinnett has had several players receive scholarships over the last few years because their academics were in order. It's those numbers like 2.0 and 1010 that make it easy for coaches to get players to the next level.

"It's easy to promote guys that are on track in the classroom and those are the ones coaches look for," South Gwinnett head coach John Small said.

Pemberton commits to Austin Peay

Grayson running back Ean Pemberton, still spurned by major colleges despite a record-breaking high school career, committed to Austin Peay on Tuesday.

The senior hasn't been a hot target in recruiting predominantly because of his size -- he's 5-foot-4, 140 pounds. Grayson's all-time leading rusher had a county-best 1,775 yards as a senior with 17 touchdowns.

He also ran for 1,949 yards as a junior, totaling 4,749 rushing yards his final three high school seasons with 38 TDs.

"We're happy that somebody had the sense to offer the kid a scholarship," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "In my opinion as a coach, at some point you've got to measure results and productivity and not just size. You can't measure heart. You've got to look at what he's done on the field and that kid's made more big plays than any running back I've seen."

Curry to sign today with Auburn

While close to two months remain until National Signing Day, Buford's Jessel Curry will have his signing party much earlier.

The senior plans to sign his letter of intent with Auburn today so he can graduate early and enroll at the SEC school in time for spring practice. He will be honored with a noon ceremony today in Buford's fieldhouse.

Curry was a major force at linebacker, running back and punter this past season, helping the Wolves to their third straight state championship this past Saturday.

Norcross' Kent commits to Baylor

Prince Kent, a senior on Norcross' 2008 team, committed to the Baylor football program on Tuesday.

The standout defensive back originally signed with Miami on National Signing Day in February, but failed to qualify academically. A three-star recruit by Scout.com, Kent attended Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia this fall to qualify to play football.

Grayson to take on challenge

Grayson head coach Mickey Conn confirmed last week that his Rams would play in the National Football Challenge at North Gwinnett next season. Grayson's opponent has yet to be determined. Central Gwinnett played in the event the previous two years.

The two-game event will take place in August after the Corky Kell Kickoff Classic, which North and Grayson were selected to play in earlier this month. North will play Lassiter and Grayson will take on Kell in that event.

Opponents for the National Football Challenge have not been set for North and Grayson, but organizers have expressed interest in Bob Jones (Ala.), St. Thomas Aquians (Fla.), Prattville (Ala.), Northwestern (S.C.), Dorman (S.C.) and Don Boscoe (N.J.).