With more than a decade of mining the Peninsula for potential college football talent under his belt, Virginia Tech offensive guards and center coach Curt Newsome has seen boom years in the area in terms of recruiting, and he's also experienced the lean years.
The class of 2012 recruiting year certainly qualifies as the latter for the Peninsula. As the Daily Press unveils its Fab 15 state football recruiting rankings for the '12 class, nary a player from the Bay Rivers District or Peninsula District can be found on the list. On the other hand, there are three players from Southside schools on the Fab 15, which is comparable to Southside production in recent years in the rankings.
It's not the first time Peninsula schools have been shut out in the Fab 15 rankings, and when it has happened in the recent past, the area has bounced back nicely in subsequent years.
Newsome believes this year represents a similar blip on the area recruiting radar, as opposed to the start of a trend. Several quality '12 class players in the Bay Rivers District and Peninsula District seem to fit into the "tweener" category – no natural position – for the college level, along with a few isolated grade point average and standardized test problems.
"There are still really, really good football players on the Peninsula," said Newsome, who was raised in Hampton, graduated from Phoebus High and coached at Phoebus, Kecoughtan and Heritage. "It may be he's two inches short, or it may be an academic issue. I just think it's one of those years. Just because there aren't a lot of Division I offer kids here this year doesn't mean there isn't still a lot of good football players."
As a coach that spends much of his recruiting time roaming the hallways and athletic offices of Peninsula schools, it behooves Newsome not to paint a lasting doom-and-gloom picture. Yet, if recent history is any indication, there's reason to believe his theory may be true.
There were also no Bay Rivers District or Peninsula District recruits on the Fab 15 released in July '09, but the Peninsula District recovered last year and put four players on the Fab 15 (No. 5 Clifton Richardson from Menchville, No. 10 Daquan Romero from Phoebus, No. 14 David Watford from Hampton, No. 15 Caleb Taylor from Phoebus).
The absence of Peninsula players is highlighted by what has become a bit of a trend in the lack of Bay Rivers District talent on the Fab 15 list. Since former Bruton High quarterback Bryan Randall was rated No. 1 on the very first Fab 15 release in '01, only one other Bay Rivers District player (No. 12 Dyrell Roberts from Smithfield High in '08) has made the annual rankings.
Of course, the dearth of Peninsula players isn't the only shortage to be found on this year's Fab 15. For the first time since '06, there are no players in the rankings projected to start at quarterback in college.
Though the Peninsula currently boasts two state champions in Group AA Division 3 winners Poquoson and Group AAA Division 5 titlists Phoebus, success on the field hasn't necessarily translated to rewards in the form of scholarship offers.
As of now, only six Peninsula area football players in the class of '12 are known to be holding Football Bowl Subdivision or Championship Subdivision offers.
Those players are Hampton wide receiver Jamall Brown (committed to Virginia), Lafayette receiver Thomas Smith (offers from Virginia Tech, Ohio, Ball State, Old Dominion, James Madison, Norfolk State and Massachusetts), Grafton tight end Dylan Stallings (offers from Marshall, Ohio, JMU, Virginia Military Institute and Norfolk State), Woodside cornerback Donnell Lewis (offers from ODU, VMI and UMass), Phoebus receiver Romond Deloatch (offer from Marshall) and Phoebus kicker Eric Enderson (offer from Liberty).
A few more players in the Peninsula area '12 class could end up getting offers before the Feb. 1 national letter of intent signing day, including Denbigh receiver Paul Gostomski, Bethel receiver Rashawn Proctor, Hampton running backs Kavon Bellamy and Dallas Cogdell, New Kent running back Storm Parker, Poquoson linemen Dustin Edwards and Nate Rhea and all-purpose back Dylan Hill, and Lafayette center Nick Kepa and running back Will Capers.
Like Newsome, Jason Robinson thinks the relative slump for Peninsula area schools won't last. Robinson is the executive director of a Hampton-based company called Revvsports that specializes in helping parents and students become more aware of academic requirements for college recruitment, preparing athletes through physical training and providing recruiting guidance for parents, players and high school coaches.
As the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Nansemond River High in Suffolk, Robinson also plays an active role in the recruiting process. When he was the coach at Heritage, he had a streak of five consecutive seasons ('05 to '09) with at least one player earning a scholarship.
"I don't know if we have the Virginia or Virginia Tech or national level guys that we've had in the past, but I still think we'll have several potential scholarship guys that will be out there before the recruiting year is over," Robinson said. "When you look at the marquee area AA and AAA teams like Poquoson and Phoebus, they're blue collar. There's not really stars on each team, but you have a lot of solid players. They're going to get opportunities in college, and so will players from other schools."