College football’s national signing day opens up at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning and runs through Friday. After that, any high school player not signing will not be eligible to sign the national letter of intent until the first Wednesday in February.
While there will be a flurry of activity at several high schools in the area, there are no scheduled signings at either Richmond Hill or Bryan County with one lone possibility.
“If we have anyone sign, it will be Smush (Austin Clemons),” Bryan County Coach Cherard Freeman said. “He flew out to Middle Tennessee (last Friday) for his official visit. We’ll know more about that when he gets back.”
Richmond Hill has several players who will and have attracted the attention of recruiters but they are underclassmen. Bryan County, on the other hand, was a senior dominated team.
In addition to Clemons, several other Redskins players have attracted some interest from FBS and smaller schools but their fates won’t be known until February. Those schools normally wait to see what’s left after the larger schools make their decisions, especially in looking at what they’ve lost in the transfer portal.
While most fans look at the portal from the standpoint of who their favorite team may have picked up or lost, it’s looked at in a totally different light by high school coaches who see it making it more difficult for their players to be recruited.
“I hate the transfer portal, I absolutely hate it,” Freeman said. “That and NIL. It’s hurting college football and really hurting high school recruiting. It’s hurting it because college coaches can go out and get a college player who is ready to go."
“We’ve got good players,” Freeman said. “Claxton, Metter and Portal have good players, too, and they’re getting overlooked. I feel like Sean Kelly Hill, Kris Martin and Jacari Carney are three kids on our team who can play at the next level but they’re getting overlooked.”
Freeman and his staff have spent the year working to attract college recruiters to come visit and check out their athletes.
Last spring, for example, Redskins coaches put together video highlights of their players which they took with them to a recruiting fair in Brunswick. They contacted college coaches throughout the summer and during this past season and last week held a recruiting fair at the school.
Interest, to say the least, has been minimal.
“Some of it has to do with our history here,” Freeman said, alluding to the school’s poor football past. “But we’re building a winning program here now with good athletes who are deserving of more than they’re getting.”
The portal opened on Dec. 4 and will be open through Jan. 2 followed by another open period of April 15-30 in which players can opt to transfer.
Last year, according to most tracking services, more than 3,000 players entered the portal. Currently there are more than 2,000. On the first day this year the NCAA showed 1,127 enter the portal, a 44 percent increase over a year ago, with 305 players from the Power 5, 233 from Group of 5 teams, 416 from FCS schools and nearly 100 walk-ons.
The University of Georgia, for example, currently has 16 players in the portal, and there’s no question coming from an elite program such as UGA they will land somewhere. That will, Freeman said, impact high school players.
“I’m not saying we have kids good enough to play at UGA,” Freeman said. “Someone is going to pick up those kids and that leaves 16 John Does up in the air. It’s not fair to the high school athlete regardless of the sport.”
This past season was an exceptional year for Bryan County football. That success was fueled by an exceptional senior class who spent four years building toward the season.
“We’ve got the Region Player of the Year (Austin Clemons), one who was Region Defensive Player of the Year twice (Tanner Ennis) and others who were all-region at least twice,” Freeman said. “Not one school in the state of Georgia came by. All of their offers have been from out of state schools."
“This is terrible,” Freeman said, “So much of it is because of the portal. It’s hard for small schools like us to get their players recruited.“
In the meantime, Freeman and his staff will continue to their efforts to find landing spots for their players hoping they find a landing spot.