High-SchoolFootball: Football Recruiting
The huddle is a sacred place in football, one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.
Senior quarterback Patton Robinette of Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.) discusses how he navigated the complicated recruiting process. A 6-foot-6, 205-pounder, Robinette chose the University of North Carolina over scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Memphis, Northwestern, Purdue, Southern Mississippi and the University of Central Florida.
The signal-caller led Maryville to last year's Class 6A state title with a mark of 14-1, and through 13 games his Rebels haven’t lost and are the No. 20 team in this week's POWERADE FAB 50 ESPNHS Team Rankings.
Finding the right fit for both a program and the college experience was paramount to Robinette. As far as electing to attend North Carolina?
"Three things did it for me," said Robinette, “the overall feel, the academics and the atmosphere."
"At the end of the day, if you don't like the feel of the place that you're going or the campus, the coaching staff and the people that you meet there, then it's just not going to work," he added. "You've got to go to the campus and be around the players. Make sure to visit classes and try to go through the college experience in its entirety to feel what's best for you."
Robinette is considering a major in the medical field. "Probably chemistry, and that fit really well with me, because I think North Carolina has a medical program that is ranked No. 4 in the nation," he said. "They do a lot of research medicine and sports medicine and those are things that I'm very interested in. That really appealed to me, because football is going to end sometime, and you need something to fall back on. There is nothing better to fall back on than a great degree from a top quality school."
Robinette also felt at ease with his campus surroundings at North Carolina, from the campus size to its general facilities and his teammates.
"You've got to like the people who are on the team and to get along with them and be able to interact with them positively," said Robinette. "Also, there are the guys who are coming in with you, so you've got to have a positive relationship with them as well."
Of course, none of that would have mattered to Robinette if he didn't feel as if he could contribute on the field.
"They do a lot of Pro-Style stuff with progression reads, and that appealed to me and the ball-control aspect of it," said Robinette. "North Carolina hasn't really been known for football for a while. It’s always been a basketball school. But they've started to move things in the right direction and they're not a program that you can overlook."
ROLE MODEL: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts "I've seen all the things that he's done for the University of Tennessee. That's all people talk about around here is what he's done. He puts his offense into the correct calls and knows how to make plays. He's definitely someone to look up to."
Each week ESPNHS will shine the light on a few non-seniors who are emerging as prospects to watch on the recruiting radar. Here is this week's Launching Pad.
DB Reon Dawson, Trotwood-Madison (Trotwood, Ohio)
Trotwood-Madison has been emerging as one of the top programs in Ohio ever since former NFL defensive back Maurice Douglass took over as head coach a few years back. This year Coach Douglass could very easily have one of the best secondaries in the nation, led by senior Bam Bradley and 2013 ESPNU 150 Watchlist prospect Cam Burrows.
Junior Reon Dawson has made this group even stronger and has been playing out of his mind since the start of the season. Not too many opponents have been able to pass on the Rams, so midway thru the season Dawson's stats will not do justice to what his impact has been. On the year he has with two interceptions, a fumble recovery and six pass break ups.
When asked about his performance this year, Dawson told ESPNHS, "Everything is going great, I am just trying to play at my highest potential and win games for our group of seniors. We have a big game this week and with a win it would be our fourth straight league crown."
He has made sure to take advantage of playing for Coach Douglass by asking as many questions as possible. "Coach Doug(lass) has been such a great coach, he will do anything to help me reach my full potential. He has really taught me a lot on how to read receivers body language and most important how to watch film to learn and get better."
Currently weighing just 170 pounds, Dawson is prepared to put in the work to get bigger this spring. One huge advantage already going for Dawson is his height at 6-2. He understands that this is something to take advantage of makes sure to watch corners on Sundays who have similar length to see how the attack and play receivers.
As far as recruiting goes, Vanderbilt is his lone offer but schools such as Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are coming on strong, and the one school he most wants to hear from is Ohio State. Dawson currently holds a 3.3 GPA. - Michael White
DE Lewis Neal, James B. Hunt (Wilson, N.C.)
Neal is an ultra athletic defensive end prospect who is making a lot of noise out in North Carolina with his steady play. Hunt is undefeated (7-0) headed into a big game this Friday against Southern Nash (Bailey, N.C.). Neal told ESPNHS that he has been enjoying every bit of his junior season. His opponents on the other hand, can't say the same.
“I feel like I am playing great so far this year," Hunt tells ESPNHS. "I’m averaging at least 9 tackles a game and I don’t let anyone beat me. I don’t care how big or strong they are… I won’t lose because I won’t quit; I always want more.
“We are undefeated and doing very well because we are all playing together. No one puts themselves over the team and we all have each others back.”
Neal is sitting on an early offer from N.C. State and you can expect his list to grow as he gains more exposure. – Nick Ekbatani
OL Evan Voeller, West Linn (West Linn, Ore.)
Voeller is a 6-4, 285 pound run-blocking machine who was part of a group of select underclass offensive linemen who really shined during the NFTC tour in 2011. He has since seen his game reach new levels and is pleased with his overall play during his junior season.
“I trained very hard to get quicker and stronger and it has paid off. I’m a much better run blocker because of it, and my OL coach has been raving about my improved footwork.”
West Linn is certainly benefitting from the talented junior’s improved play. The Lions are 5-1 and have paved the way with their run-heavy offense.
Washington is the first to offer Voeller, and he told ESPNHS that he feels Oregon, Stanford, and Duke might be on the verge of offering as well.
“I have been out to Seattle, and I really like it. I am going to the Oregon-ASU game this weekend. I’ll probably check out a Stanford game as well.” – Nick Ekbatani
DB Shaquille Wiggins, Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.)
The Sandy Creek Patriots have had a great deal of success on the gridiron in the past decade, producing five 10+ victory seasons since 2003, back-to-back state titles over the past two seasons and prominent alumni like NFL star Calvin Johnson of the Lions as well as Redskin DT Kedric Golston and Texans guard Andrew Gardner. This fall it's more of the same for the 6-0 Patriots, and a major reason why is 5-9, 160 pound junior cornerback Shaquille Wiggins.
Wiggins, who moved to Sandy Creek from Atlanta's Westlake High School over the summer, has been an immediate playmaker in the Patriots' secondary, intercepting seven passes and returning two for scores already this fall, while also forcing a fumble and catching a touchdown pass on offense as well.
The play-making corner also impressed this past spring at the Georgia Nike Camp and picked up his first few offers over the summer from Cincinnati, Ohio University, Michigan, Ohio State, Toledo and Ball State after a swing through several college camps in the Midwest.
The offers haven't stopped there for Wiggins.
"My latest offer is from Tennessee," Wiggins told ESPNHS on Monday. "So far this fall I've been to games at Auburn, Florida and Tennessee and I'm planning to go up to the Notre Dame-USC game on Oct. 22nd and also the Michigan-Ohio State game in November."
Wiggins thinks Florida could also be close to offering and he's also hearing from other schools such as LSU, Oregon and Wisconsin. - Brian Stumpf
Know of an underclassman prospect who should be featured in the Launching Pad? E-mail Kynon Codrington (Southeast),Nick Ekbatani (Linemen), Brian Stumpf (national) or Michael White (Midwest/Northeast) with your nominee.