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Football recruiting strategies revealed

Into the valley of death rode the 60/Arthur Ward
Into the valley of death rode the 60/Arthur Ward

Rams focus on character and physical attributes with new recruits

Being the premier high school in Regina, and being open to students from any part of the city, it is no mystery why Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School is producing more Rams football players than any other schools in the city by a wide margin. Another reason LeBoldus is producing so many players for the Rams is, unlike a lot of other schools, they are able to bring in a coach instead of having a teacher volunteer to coach. One school that is a bit of a mystery, however, that has produced a number of high-calibre players over the last few years, is Bert Fox Community High School in Fort Qu’Appelle. Right now, there are two players from BFCHS on the Rams and another few who chose to go play for the Regina Thunder instead of pursuing a Rams career. Why this is so strange is that Bert Fox is roughly half the size of the smallest schools in Regina, plus it doesn’t even have a very good football program. This anomaly got me thinking of how the whole recruiting process goes, so I decided to talk to Rams Head Coach Mike Gibson to see how he and the Rams organization goes about the recruiting process.

What I learned is that Coach Gibson and his two coordinators, Mark McConkey, offensive, and Paul Dawson, defensive, do the recruiting. Gibson and McConkey handle most of the watching of players, and off-campus stuff, while Dawson handles the on-campus stuff like meeting players and parents, introducing the players to professors, among other things.

I asked Mike about how the Rams actually go about scouting and recruiting.

“We get in touch with the high school coaches in the area and ask them who they think could play at the next level,” said Gibson. “From there we watch some players on film and others in person.”

As far as attributes they watch for, obviously it is different for each position. For example, when it comes to linemen, they look for big guys, clearly, but they look for guys who still have potential to put on more weight.

“These are guys who are big, with broad shoulders and wide butts,” Gibson explains.

Another example is receivers. They look for height and speed, along with body control. They want guys who catch with their hands as opposed to their bodies. Beyond that, they even look into the team to see if they are a pass-first school, so they know if the player has a solid foundation of skills.

“These are the guys you want to watch in person,” according to Gibson. “Receivers tend to disappear on camera due to the poor quality of a lot of the films.”

When asked about attributes they look for in every player across the board, Gibson didn’t hesitate.

“Number one priority is guys who will be able to handle their schoolwork.”

Essentially, they are investing in these players and don’t want a player that will leave after one year because they couldn’t handle the schoolwork. After academics, Gibson mentioned character and all-around good people as aspects they focus on.

“No one with a criminal record,” he says with a laugh.

To finish up, I asked coach Gibson if it was strange to have the amount of high-calibre players from the same small town all within a few years move on to the next level of football. He told me that there are good athletes from every school, and after the recruiting is done, it is on the players to make their decision of where they want to play.

Talking to a few of these players from Fort Qu’Appelle who are continuing their football careers in one way or another, it dawned on me that the biggest things in decision making is the option of staying close to home and feeling wanted.

For lineman Lyndon Smith, who had a couple offers in the States, one in California and one in Montana, being able to stay close to home was the deciding factor.

“I wanted to stay in Saskatchewan. I like it here,” Smith said. “Being close to home, allows my family and friends to watch me play and be involved.”

Matthew Degelman, another offensive lineman for the Rams, made his choice based on the feeling of being wanted by the Rams.

“The Rams showed commitment to me, unlike my other options, and with a smaller roster, there was opportunity to play right away,” said the third-year Ram.

Matthew Baber, a first-year Regina Thunder player, and yet another lineman, had the skills to pursue CIS football, but chose to go to the Thunder for the same reason Degelman chose the Rams. The Thunder simply wanted him more.

“Had I got an offer from the Rams I think I still would have chose to go with the Thunder,” he explained to me. “From the first day, I felt very welcomed by the veteran players and the coaching staff, plus it doesn’t hurt that they have an expectation to win.”

With a new head coach, the Rams have a new style and outlook when it comes to recruitment for the first time in a long time. It is going to be interesting to watch the changes that will happen over the next few years with the Rams as the team shifts from former head coach Frank McCrystal’s recruits to Gibson’s. I’m not going to predict major improvements just yet, but it will, nonetheless, be something interesting to keep an eye on in the coming years.

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