Recruiting is the life-blood of college athletics.
It’s a never-ending task in which football coaches throughout the country travel coast to coast in search of prospects. They pore over transcripts, study film, visualize and project. They schmooze with players and sit in living rooms, where they vow to parents that they’ll take care of their sons.
Sacramento State coaches and recruiters know the routine well, looking for promising players.
But one misconception dogging the Football Championship Subdivision program through the years has been that Sac State doesn’t recruit its home base hard enough.
For decades, the Hornets have scoured the region for talent, from the Bob Mattos coaching days of the 1980s, to the John Volek tenure of the 1990s and early 2000s, to Marshall Sperbeck’s recent run, to Jody Sears’ current regime. Some athletes stay home to play for Sac State, and many leave, seeking new challenges out of town or state.
Sac State’s haul this winter is shaping up to be another big one. The Hornets have verbal commitments from a number of players who will compete in Saturday’s Sacramento Bee 58th Optimist All-Star Classic at 12:30 p.m. at Folsom High School. From the South team: Matt Jimison, quarterback, Vista del Lago; Bailey Laolagi, linebacker, Folsom; Manny Scott-Anderson, linebacker, Elk Grove; and George Uribe, lineman, Vista del Lago. From the North team: Caelan Barnes, cornerback, Antelope; Mister Harriel, running back, Antelope; Brian Lee, lineman, Woodcreek; and Malcolm Thomas, wide receiver, Woodcreek.
Players can sign national letters of intent beginning Feb. 4.
Scramble mode – The sobering totals for parents, coaches and athletes are these: More than 15,000 high schools in the United States field football teams, meaning tens of thousands of players scramble for scholarship offers. About 1 percent of high school students receive scholarships.
“I know I feel fortunate,” Harriel said. “It’s very hard to get one of these, so I’m super proud. And it feels good to stay home. I feel there’s an obligation to my family, to those who supported and backed me. We can do great things at Sac State.”
Chris Guillen of Christian Brothers will share quarterback duties with Jimison for the South Optimist team and hopes to catch someone’s eye. With good grades and skills, Guillen has received feelers from Sac State to Florida and schools in between, but no offers.
“That’s a head scratcher because he’s very good,” South coach Mike Johnson said. “It happens to a lot of guys. But he’ll land somewhere. The good players always do.”
Other options – For those who don’t realize their dreams of gaining an athletic scholarship, there are other options.
Teams in NCAA Division II and III, NAIA and community colleges are filled with talent. Most games are played in front of meager crowds, and forget about the bright lights of ESPN. Still, we’ve heard from an army of area players through the years who enjoyed their small-college experiences.
Michael Lahey from Christian Brothers set passing records at D-III Chapman in Orange and called it “a perfect experience.” Trent Spallas, a quarterback from Franklin, started for small-school powerhouse Willamette in Salem, Ore. More than a dozen area players were on the Southern Oregon team in Ashland that just won the NAIA championship.
Locally, American River College, Sacramento City College, Sierra College and Yuba College feed on the overlooked or undersized.
Final high school rankings: No. 1 De La Salle finished as Cal-Hi Sports’ Team of the Year for a record 17th time since 1992. Folsom finished second in the state for the second time since 2010.
Cordova is the only area team to finish as the Cal-Hi Sports Team of the Year. The Lancers earned the honor in 1975 and ’77, leading the country in victories for that decade.
State honors – After setting state and national passing records and leading a 16-0 state Division I championship team, Folsom quarterback Jake Browning is one of four finalists for the Cal-Hi State Player of Year award. Area winners are Folsom quarterback Dano Graves in 2010, Cordova running back Kevin Willhite in 1981 and Grant quarterback Don Burnside (later Don Doll) of Grant in 1943.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.