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Recruiting Rivalry Shaping Up Between Schools
The schools are a day away from becoming rivals on the football field. But are William and Mary and Old Dominion also beginning a heated recruiting battle for Hampton Roads talent?
No more so, say officials at both universities, than any other in-state programs.
“From a recruiting standpoint, I really feel like it’s us, William and Mary, Richmond and JMU, the four of us, all waving that CAA flag to the kids,” ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. “I say that with all due respect to the two MEAC teams (Hampton and Norfolk State) that are in-state and the two Big South teams (Liberty and VMI) that are in-state. We’re trying to wave that CAA flag, so we are competing for the same kids.
“Now, you get kids that are at different levels of interest in the school, kids who want a city school, or a liberal arts school, or a private school. But we’ve all waving the same flag.”
Since his February 2007 hiring as the Monarchs’ head coach, Wilder has been vocal about heavily mining Hampton Roads, known by its 757 area code in recruiting parlance. The Monarchs, in their second year of FCS play, have 37 players from high schools in Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth or Virginia Beach.
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William and Mary, which first fielded a football team in 1893 and went 11-3 and advanced to the FCS semifinals last season, has 12 local products, including freshman offensive lineman Baron Goodman of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. The school’s stringent academic standards, though, have long required the Tribe cast a creative recruiting net.
“Our recruiting pool is pretty small, all over Virginia and all over the middle Atlantic and all over the country,” said William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock, who said he couldn’t speculate on the impact of ODU’s program on his team’s recruiting. “Our pool of players that we can actually recruit here is much, much smaller than most people.”
Senior Tribe wide receiver Chase Hill, out of Princess Anne High in Virginia Beach, kept track of the Monarchs’ 9-2 record in 2009, knows several ODU players and understands the appeal of playing for a Southside school that will join the highly regarded Colonial Athletic Association in 2011.
Even so, Hill said, “If ODU had their team back when I was getting recruited, I would not have changed my decision. I feel like, when it comes to William and Mary’s academics, we stand above everybody – not saying that ODU is a bad school, but we’re traditionally known, and they had the majors here that I wanted.”
For the record, that would be process management and consulting and physics.
Sophomore cornerback B.W. Webb, out of Warwick High, is similarly happy in his surroundings.
“It’s just a group of guys I love being around,” he said. “The education here is next to none. I like everything about William and Mary.”
School administrators know, though, that the Tribe can’t stick its head in the recruiting sand.
“I think (ODU is) competition for anybody who’s playing football who recruits on the Peninsula,” William and Mary athletic director Terry Driscoll said. “We, with our academic standards, limit our recruiting pool a little bit, so we probably would not be going head-to-head with them as much as some other schools are. (The Monarchs) are going to have access to some kids that, quite frankly, are just not going to be able to get into William and Mary, and that’s just the way it works.”
Hill also pointed out that ODU, as a fledgling program, will likely draw more transfers than William and Mary, where players often redshirt as freshmen and stay for five full seasons.
“Coach Laycock just has a different philosophy, and the tradition we have here — it’s been a stable program for so long,” Hill said. “The way Coach Laycock runs his program here — I would have come here regardless. I wouldn’t change anything about it.
“The kids in the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area, they’ll probably lean ODU way, but this is the school to be at.”
By Melinda Waldrop, Newport News Daily Press