Red Mountain hatched the idea and hosted the first event. Desert Vista was next. And Saguaro soon followed. Multiple high school teams gathering at one school to practice in front of college coaches. The spring football showcase is the latest way to try and get Arizona players on the radar of college recruiters.
“This came about because Red Mountain had the foresight to think this might be a good way to attract colleges to one spot. They proposed it to the A.I.A. (Arizona Interscholastic Association) and the A.I.A. approved it. As soon as that came out Centennial called me, and about 10 minutes later Higley called me, and said ‘Hey, do you want to do something. We’ll come to your place’. So it kind of fell into our lap those were the first two teams that reached out, and I thought those were two great teams to work with just because they always have Division 1 players.” Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns said.
— Dena_Luv 🎒🎧🏈 (@Dena_Luv) May 11, 2018
Between Saguaro, Centennial, and Higley there were more than 20 players on the field who already have Division 1 offers, with Saguaro leading the way with 15. “I think that’s the key, the more Division 1 players the more coaches that are going to show up. We wanted to keep it to three teams. I think it would have been too much to have one more team or more teams on one field, and I think it was important to keep it on one field so that college coaches could see everybody and not have to travel and move around.” Mohns said.
Saguaro has won an Arizona record five straight state championships, Centennial has won 3 state titles in the last 4 years, and Higley has made the state semifinals the past 2 seasons. On a Thursday night in Scottsdale, the three high school powerhouse programs had a total of 180 players on display in front of coaches from more than 30 colleges, including Oklahoma, Stanford, Utah, and Iowa State.
Arizona Spring Football Showcase:@saguarofootball LB @cmsoelle works on his footwork in pass drops. Soelle with 5 INTs last season is one of the most athletic LBs in the state. @AZHSFB pic.twitter.com/ojL6Hj0Cmb
— Cody Cameron (@CodyTCameron) May 11, 2018
“For college coaches it allows us, with as many schools as we have to travel to each day to recruit, and as few days as we have to recruit, to come to one central location and be able to look at the kids and evaluate them.” ASU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Donnie Yantis said.
“This is a unique situation. We have a west side school (Centennial), a Scottsdale central school (Saguaro), and then we have a southeast valley school (Higley), so it helps the coaches that come down here to recruit, and they don’t have to go all over the valley.” Higley head coach Eddy Zubey said.
“I think it’s really good. I know that the recruiters enjoy it. It’s like going to Walmart, one stop shopping. You get to see a lot of good athletes, and I know that every single athlete out here is practicing as hard as he can, so it’s a really good practice.” Centennial head coach Richard Taylor said.
The players were all on the same field the entire time, and stayed within their own teams going through drills, and eventually finished up with 7 on 7 action. The teams were not allowed to compete against one another. “It was great just because you could see other kids competing, and how they compete in practice. It gives you a little bit of a taste of what it’s going to be like in the 7 on 7 season, and then going into the actual season.” Saguaro class of 2019 athlete Connor Soelle said.
Higley class of 2019 defensive end Ty Robinson (6’6″ 285 lbs), has more than 20 offers including Alabama, Georgia, Florida, USC, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Washington.
Stanford just offered Higley DL Ty Robinson
— Jason Jewell (@jason247scout) May 16, 2018
Robinson is already a known commodity, but for some of his teammates this was an opportunity to get noticed. “This is a special thing. I’m glad they’re finally starting to do this kind of stuff and get more exposure. Not all of these coaches know about these kids, so it’s great to finally get them the exposure that they deserve.” Robinson said.
Within 24 hours after the showcase, Robinson’s teammate, class of 2019 QB Spencer Brasch, picked up an offer from SMU, and Damian Sellers, Saguaro class of 2020 athlete, was offered by Oklahoma.
— Damian Sellers (@damian_sellers) May 11, 2018
Yantis, who spent 14 years as the head coach at Paradise Valley High School, and 2 seasons leading Arizona Christian University, before moving on to ASU, has seen Arizona’s talent level rise over the years. “Just by sheer volume in the last 30 years the Valley has grown so much, and so many new high schools have been built, which tells you about the growth. You see these coaches from other parts of the country, I mean far away parts of the country. It speaks to the volume of the type of talent we have here.” Yantis said.
Tim Kish, Oklahoma’s inside linebackers coach adds. “From having been here for 8 years at the University of Arizona, and that was 7 years ago, the talent level back then, you would see all of the Division 1 guys going to the FBS schools or FCS schools, and it would be a short list. Now you’re seeing a big list, and the talent has definitely been upgraded, and I think the coaching here is really, really good. I’m impressed with what’s happened here in the last 10 years.”
All of the coaches and players I spoke with thought the night was a huge success, and hope showcase events like this will continue in the future.
“I sure hope they allow us to continue to do it. I’m sure there will be some discussions if they’re going to allow it or not. I know there are discussions where spring ball won’t really be spring ball anymore, since there’s no regulations on practice. I think the key is if they allow these to continue, the Arizona Football Coaches Association has to get together, and has to put some structure to it, as far as the times, and the dates, and when you can do it. What we don’t want it to do is have a bunch of competing showcases. I think it’s important to have them spread out, so there’s only one showcase a day. I think it’s important to do it at night. The reason we did ours at 6:00, is because one, it’s cooler, but two, everybody else is practicing after school hours. So coaches could still go and see two or three schools and then come to the showcase. When you do the showcase at 4:00, you’re not really seeing anybody else. The coaches that were here today, they were at three or four other schools and were able to still come. I think we just need to put some regulations on that, because we don’t want to take attention away from schools. We want to bring more attention to kids at schools.” Mohns said.