Wednesday’s spring football practice at Corona del Mar High may have looked like a typical practice, until you noticed all of the men on the sideline wearing polo shirts and jackets with college football team logos on them.
CdM head coach Dan O’Shea and offensive coordinator Kevin Hettig took a page from the college football playbook and held the school’s first showcase.
The showcase, similar to a college pro day, was an opportunity for CdM players to perform in front of college coaches in the hopes of continuing their football careers on the next level.
The group of coaches hailed from more than 20 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision schools, as well as junior colleges. They included representatives from Pac-12 schools Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington, as well as from Air Force, Fresno State, Boise State, Utah State, Portland State and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
In the last few years, colleges have followed CdM’s success and players.
The Sea Kings have played in five CIF Southern Section championship games in the last eight seasons, including the Division 4 final in 2018. O’Shea and Hettig, who have been on the CdM staff since 2011, helped build the Sea Kings into one of the top public high school football programs in Orange County.
For O’Shea, the showcase was a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for our kids to bump into and say hello to a coach and introduce themselves like gentlemen,” said O’Shea, who led CdM to a share of the Sunset League crown and a runner-up finish in the section playoffs last year. “And for college recruiters to see a school like CdM, which years ago [didn’t have] a potential [Football Bowl Subdivision] prospect here, [is huge].”
Garbers’ younger brother, junior quarterback Ethan Garbers, as well as junior wide receiver and safety John Humphreys and junior tight end Mark Redman, are the current CdM standouts to have been heavily recruited.
Setting up the showcase also helps O’Shea, who teaches U.S. history, and Hettig, who teaches social science, with their teaching duties. Both coaches had to take time from their classes to meet with colleges interested in their players.
“This past winter during the six-week [visiting] period, we had 87 colleges visit us,” O’Shea said. “Coach Hettig’s helped me meet with these guys because we will not turn a coach away. We will find a way to meet with them.”
The showcase allowed both coaches to devote more time to their players and provide them more opportunities.
Hettig said CdM is following the lead of larger Southern California schools that have players who have the potential to play in college.
“We feel like we have some players that maybe go under the radar a little bit,” Hettig said. “Because of the big three that are being recruited by so many, we just wanted a chance to get eyes on the other guys as well.”
CdM’s big three has already verbally committed to colleges, Humphreys to Stanford, and Garbers and Redman have verbally committed to Washington.
Garbers hoped to put the spotlight on his teammates.
“That was definitely the goal, making everyone around us look good,” said Garbers, who threw for 4,135 yards and 55 touchdowns in 2018. “We have some good players, some players on par to play Division I next year and the year after that.”
Junior receiver Simon Hall made a big impression Wednesday catching two deep passes during practice. Hall is being heavily recruited to play lacrosse in college, and his two-sport ability has made him a potential football recruit as well.
In 2018, Hall was the Sea Kings’ fourth-leading receiver, behind No. 1 Humphreys and No. 3 Redman. Humphreys, the Daily Pilot Football Dream Team Player of the Year, finished with 103 receptions for 1,783 yards and 28 touchdowns, all CdM single-season records, while Redman had 54 catches for 598 yards and nine touchdowns.
“[Hall’s] a good athlete,” said CdM receivers coach Karif Byrd, who also trains college and NFL players. “From a natural athletic standpoint, he may be the best one in the group, and that’s saying a lot considering the guys we have here.”
Sophomore right guard Jake Trachtman also stood out with his size at 6-foot-7 and ability.
Trachtman said he felt no nervousness performing in front of college coaches.
“I was happy to be back out on the field with my brothers and my teammates,” he said. “It’s different, but you have to have the same mindset every practice, no matter who is watching you.”
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ANTHONY CIARDELLI is a contributor to Times Community News.