Changing Landscape of High School Football Scholarships Due to NCAA Transfer Portal and COVID Eligibility

Arizona’s top high school football seniors signed their national letters of intent in December during that early 72-hour window.

On Wednesday, additional Arizona high school football seniors scrambling to find scholarships to pay for their college will be signing.

Most of them will be signing with lesser-known schools such as Langston University, Western New Mexico, University of Sioux Falls, Arizona Christian, Lake Forest or Fort Hays State.

This is how the recruiting game has changed. The NCAA transfer portal and the immediate eligibility it provides college players is a factor. So is the impact of additional eligibility years granted to players because of COVID, another key factor that has changed the landscape of high school National Signing Day, as established college players can move to other schools easily and play longer, limiting opportunities for high school seniors.

“The good news is there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Desert Edge co-head coach Mark Carter, who, with his brother Marcus, will honor 18 football seniors during a signing ceremony Wednesday evening, from Division I to NAIA scholarships. “This last bit of the COVID kids (extra eligibility) is almost done.

“The biggest beneficiary are the small schools who aren’t so frequently in the portal. They’re getting top D-I kids, because it’s so congested at the top. These kids have to see the smaller opportunities that help them get their school paid for,” he said.

“The process can be stressful but with anything, if you have a plan, it will work out.”

Many players used the last several days to pin down their college destination, such as Desert Edge wide receiver Jaqua Anderson committing to Southern Baptist University, and Boulder Creek defensive lineman Dax Monestime accepting the preferred walk-on from Northern Arizona.

Several players finished their high school academic requirements in December and already are enrolled at their college, such as Mountain Pointe running back Christian Clark at Texas, Sunnyslope quarterback Luke Moga and Salpointe Catholic defensive end Elijah Rushing at Oregon, and Centennial DB/WR Kenny Worthy III at Washington State.

Five players from the Valley enrolled in January at Arizona: Desert Mountain wide receiver Dylan Tapley; ALA Gilbert North wide receiver Brandon Phelps; Apollo running back Adam Mohammed and his top two offensive linemen, Matthew Lado and Michael Watkins; and Basha quarterback Demond Williams Jr.

Since then, with Jedd Fisch leaving UA to become Washington’s coach, Mohammed and Williams followed him to Seattle after entering the transfer portal.

With Washington coach Kalen DeBoer leaving to become Alabama’s coach, Centennial defensive end Noah Carter got out of the letter he signed in December and will sign Wednesday with Alabama, following the guys who recruited him to become a Husky.

Former Perry quarterback Brock Purdy was fortunate in late 2017, when the NCAA allowed football seniors to have a small December window to sign early. He found a college in February 2018 after most major colleges had signed their guys.

Purdy-mania: 49ers QB Brock Purdy bringing light to Arizona high school football

Coach Preston Jones, the Perry coach at the time, said that Purdy was everybody’s second option. He ended up with a full ride to Iowa State and six years later he’s starting this Sunday for the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 58.

“Purdy might have been left with no scholarship back then,” Brophy Prep coach Jason Jewell said, had the portal recruiting landscape been the way it is now back in 2018.

Jewell ran a recruiting website before he became Brophy’s head coach. Jewell himself could relate to players left behind in recruiting. After finishing his high school career at Phoenix Washington, he walked on at Glendale Community College, before eventually landing a scholarship as an offensive lineman at New Mexico State.

“Honestly, I hate what the portal has done to high school recruiting,” Jewell said. “It is really hurting our kids. But ultimately, all anyone needs is a chance.”

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at[email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter:@azc_obert

2024-02-07 00:55:45
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