Academics the biggest selling point at recruiting fair

DULUTH -- An assistant coach from Millsaps College approached the Duluth table at the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett Recruiting Fair on Monday.

Duluth head coach Corey Jarvis looked up and asked a simple question.

"What are you looking for?" Jarvis said.

"Anything and everything," the Millsaps coach replied. "We're a high academic school."

"OK, I've got something for you," Jarvis said.

Jarvis quickly went through a stack of folders, each for a different senior football player. He quickly narrowed down the potential players that could fit Millsaps' academic requirements. Just like that, the two began talking about which players might fit in their system.

"I give them a transcript first," Central Gwinnett head coach Todd Wofford said. "That's the No. 1 seller and then film. Kids want to go to combines and stuff, but you need grades and film to get you in the door."

At the recruiting fair, it wasn't about how fast a player can run or how many tackles he made. Grades, test scores and academic eligibility came first before touchdowns, rushing yards and interceptions.

"They'll look at their GPA and transcript before they look and see if they can play," South Gwinnett head coach John Small said. "They don't want a kid that can play, but doesn't have the grades."

Those sentiments were echoed by nearly every coach at the recruiting fair held at the Gwinnett Civic Center. The annual event has become a hot bed for college recruiters. Coaches can check out the top talent in not only Gwinnett, but in surrounding counties. More than 55 high schools from metro Atlanta, including the 22 from Gwinnett, were attendance and more than 100 colleges were represented throughout the day.

"It's a great way to hit a lot of schools in one day," Small said.

High school coaches love the recruiting fair because it gives exposure to their players all in one day. Instead of calling and emailing college coaches about potential players, they can talk to them face-to-face. What's even better is they then can go over the players highlight film right there and discuss the players strengths.

"It's tremendous for a coach to come in and look at a kid and not have to travel," Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe said.

Most of the Gwinnett schools had information sheets of their senior prospects, which included height, weight, GPA, test scores, phone numbers and mailing address. Many school had big screen projectors or computer screens to show players highlights.

In the past, many schools would burn a copy of the players highlight tape right there to a DVD. Now they just send them a link to an online video web site called Hudl.

"It's a marriage saver," quipped Flowe. "You don't have to have anything but a computer."

High school coaches review film with colleges and if they like a player, the high school coach will email him the Hudl link of the highlights.

The online recruitment makes it easier schools at the Division I-FCS (formerly I-AA), Division II, Division III, junior college and NAIA levels to check out high school talent.

"It's good for us and all of the schools without big revenue budgets," second-year Lanier coach Billy Wells said.

Gwinnett County has more than two dozen players committed to colleges for next year. The number will likely grow to the 70-80 range by Feb. 1, 2012 for National Signing Day. That's the first day a player can sign a National Letter of Intent. Gwinnett County had 85 players sign last February.

The Touchdown Club of Gwinnett Recruiting Fair was the first for Brian Montgomery. The former North Atlanta head coach had attended other recruiting fair's in the past, but was impressed with the Gwinnett version.

"The best thing is it's not shared with anyone," Montgomery said. "It's been good exposure for us and I've talked to a lot of schools here."