NCAA recruiting ban creates “virtual” opportunities for high school football stars


MARYSVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Marysville’s Gabe Powers intimidates opponents, despite his youthful age. Powers is finishing his sophomore year at Marysville, yet he’s already 6’4” and 220 pounds with excellent speed and football instincts. That’s why he’s a 4-star rated recruit as a linebacker, and 21 universities have already offered Powers a scholarship.

How some of those schools have offered those scholarships represents a new era in recruiting during the pandemic.

“It affected my recruiting a lot,” Powers said. “I was going to make a decision maybe before my junior year and when this hit it’s not going to be until next summer before I make a decision.”

NCAA schools are currently in a recruiting dead period, which extends until June 30. It’s a ban on off-campus and on-campus recruiting. The ban took effect in March as the coronavirus outbreak forced colleges to shut down their athletic programs for the school year. Since then, coaches have done all of their communication with recruits through Zoom meetings, texts and calls. For players like Powers, that makes developing a relationship with a coach more of a challenge.

“You don’t know how they get along with players, how they get along with anybody, so you can’t really go down to visit,” he said.  “It’s not face-to-face, so you don’t see how they coach. It’s a lot different.”

Last week, USC offered Powers a scholarship despite having never met with him in-person, nor having watched him play in person. Powers’ head coach at Marysville, Brent Johnson, says he’s been in frequent contact with schools via the same technology.

“He wants that relationship. He’s a good kid, comes from a great family and he wants that,” Johnson said. “As colleges come, where they’re at a disadvantage . . . You offer a full ride scholarship to a kid you’ve never seen before.”

In Powers’ case, Johnson says schools can just watch his highlights posted to and other recruiting sites to see why he’s earning so much interest.

“I think his length and athleticism and his intelligence of the game are all very strong,” Johnson said. “So, that’s easy for colleges to see that part of it on tape.”

Some programs have actually surged in recruiting during the pandemic. Ohio State has landed seven football commitments since early March and its class ranks No. 1 in the nation for 2021. Last year, Ohio State offered Powers a scholarship and the Buckeyes stand as one of his preferred teams.

“It’s always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid.,” Powers said. “It boosts your confidence a lot as far as motivation. I have motivation to work harder for my dream and goal.”

Johnson says the lack of in-person opportunities elevates the role of high school head coaches to communicate with schools.

“I think coaches are very important that they’re honest in the process, we are telling them kids’ strengths and areas of improvement,” Johnson said. “That relationship between the head coach and the college coaches is important.”

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