This was supposed to be the time for Zac Janz to determine his future.
The Farmington junior running back, a 5-8, 190-pound bundle of power and explosiveness with a time of 4.54 in the 40-yard dash as a calling card, had a full spring planned: camps, junior days, combines, workouts and trips, all in support of his college football recruitment.
The plan was to get his name in circulation, meet coaches and recruiters and build relationships. And if all went well, weed through scholarship offers to pick the right one.
Until recently. Now, his fast-track spring has slowed dramatically because of the response to the coronavirus epidemic.
“Starting in a couple weeks, I was going to be hitting a lot of junior days. It was going to be a busy time for me,” Janz said. “Drake, North Dakota, Yale, UMD, Southern Illinois. I was going to do all of them. But they’re all canceled and no one has rescheduled any.”
Spring is prime football recruiting season for athletes such as Janz. Camps and combines have proliferated in recent years, both those affiliated with college programs and not. Two of the highest-profile ones — Nike’s “The Opening” regional combines and Under Armour’s high school and middle school camps — have been postponed, as have pretty much all lesser-known combines and trials.
“Everything has slowed way down,” Janz said.
Hutchinson’s Jordan Titus is one of the state’s top interior defensive line prospects. At 6-1 and 284 pounds, the junior is a widebody with a low center of gravity, above-average speed and an explosiveness off the ball that puts opposing linemen on their heels.
Titus made the rounds to camps last year after his sophomore season. He built a solid reputation, largely stemming from an impressive showing at Iowa’s camp last summer.
But reputation and word-of-mouth carry only so far. The roadblock in Titus’ recruiting path is the inability of coaches and recruiters to see him up close, an important factor for big guys.
“Coaches usually will travel to see a player. That’s where major evaluations are made,” Titus said. “They handpick the workouts they have you do so they can see what they want to see. Now, they’re not able to see you personally.”
The situations of Janz and Titus have become the norm in the COVID-19 reality. Recruiting, once a hands-on process, has become an internet-based, social-media and cell phone-based proposition. For many players, their entire interaction with a recruiter can take place without ever meeting face-to-face. Most offers are being made by phone.
Oliver James West, a recruiting analyst for the Northstar Football News, said without being able to personally scout a player, recruiters are wandering into risky territory.
“One of the first things to go has been the eye test. How does he look when he’s right in front of you?” said West, who played college football at St. Olaf. “That’s hard to see on film. For a lot of coaches, it’s becoming more of a guessing game. Without face-to-face workouts, they’re dependent on what [players] did in their junior year.”
While many future college players are finding their recruitment bogged down, that’s not the case for all of them.
Tartan junior defensive back/receiver Dorian Singer made a big enough impression on recruiters before the virus hit.
He’s still receiving offers, albeit over the phone instead of in person, including ones from Southern Illinois and Air Force, and now has 10 Division I offers.
He figures no official workouts just means recruiters will have to be satisfied with what they see of him on video.
“I was planning on going to a camp in May in Chicago, but it got canceled, and probably to one in Houston that got canceled, too,” he said. “I don’t think it affected me. It gives coaches more time to see my workout videos and gives me more time to practice my agility.”
Working out is all most football recruits can do right now. With schools and gyms closed, even that has been difficult.
“I’ve got a set of weights at home,” Titus said, “and I’ve been doing some speed workouts outside, but you just can’t match the resources they have as school.”
Janz and a few of his teammates have come together for informal workouts after school. But even those might be curtailed if restrictions are extended.
Despite the obstacles, many of the state’s best players are finding ways to work on fulfilling their collegiate football dreams,
“It’s slowed down, but I don’t think its stopping,” Janz said. “I’m still going to be ready when things pick back up.”