Today, head coach Phil Jones and his assistants, who this year have found themselves in full-fledged competition for players with other schools, will find out if the recruiting seeds they’ve sown bear fruit when the much-anticipated annual National Signing Day takes place today.
“It’s hard and it’s very tiring,” Jones said. “We were still kind of transitioning (from the NAIA to the NCAA) last year.
“This year, we’ve been totally immersed in it.”
“The top thing that jumps out for you as far as what’s more different is the competition for players,” he said.
“If you do your homework and become involved in recruiting players who are Division II caliber that you think will help the team, you’ll also find out that there are three or more schools after the same player.”
Jones, however, feels confident in what the day will produce.
“We feel it’s going to be a quality list of players,” he said. “We’ve gotten positive responses from recruits, but we know the best ones have other schools after them.”
What has helped the staff in its recruiting search, one headed by recruiting coordinator and offensive line coach Paul Pitts, has been a clear-cut game plan.
“You have to assess what you needs are,” Jones said, noting that the Hawks’ priorities on both sides of the ball are taken into consideration, “and not recruit someone that everybody else wants.”
“Our coaches have done a great job,” he said. “They’ve been everywhere and gone to school, after school, after school.”
At the same time, as every NCAA team that has football scholarships — Division II programs are limited to 36 — relies on, Shorter knows it has to frugal in how the funds are used and uses both academic and need assistance to help meet each student-athlete’s financial needs.
Most of all, Jones said, what the Hawks are looking for even are players who will find a home at Shorter not only on the football field but off of it as well.
“We are very cognizant of bringing in a true student-athlete,” the coach said. “We’re still about relationships and that’s the kind of player we want – one who will be a good teammate.”
Just how well the Hawks’ relationship foundation and teamwork mentality works was evident last fall during Shorter’s first outing as an NCAA DII squad and now the 6-5 overall record for the season, one that ended with two straight wins over Gulf South Conference teams, is paying dividends.
“It generated a turn in confidence for us,” said Jones. “In those last two games it changed our attitude of hoping we could do it to we can do it.”
On Wednesday, the Hawks are just as confident they can do it with its newest class of recruits.
“The day can be very crazy,” Jones said. “You just have to pray about it and hope that the Lord leads you to the right people.”