So, you saw the lists of high school football players from Maryland headed for various Division I colleges on scholarship this week in the local newspapers. Did you ask the same question I did -- where are the Anne Arundel County players?
There were none.
College coaches went out calling Wednesday on national signing day with pens and scholarships, but none found their way to Anne Arundel County.
Apparently county public schools have no running backssuch as Larry Washington (Randallstown, Baltimore County) and Raphael Wall (Wilde Lake, Howard County) or tight ends like Kevin Washington (Dunbar, Baltimore), all of whom are headed for the University of Maryland.
Such county residents as quarterback John Kaleo, linebacker John Taliaferro and running back Joe Aben opted to attend high school elsewhere to get that kind of scholarship opportunity.
Kaleo transferred from South River to Bowie High in Prince George's County his senior year "to get to throw the ball" and went on to set the world on fire for two years at Montgomery Rockville Community College before recently accepting a full ride to Maryland.
Taliaferro and Aben chose DeMatha High, a Catholic school in Hyattsville, and are twoof 14 DeMatha Stags who received scholarships this season. Taliaferro is going to Notre Dame and Aben to Virginia to play football.
Why don't the county's public schools have someone to brag about?
The question is one that needs to be addressed.
Certainly, I am not an authority on college football recruiting and why many county kids do not earn Division I scholarships, but I've got a few ideas. Hopefully, these ideas will get this subject some attention and at the same time provoke some ideas of your own.
Your ideas are welcomed on the 24-hour Sportsline, 647-2499.
Several questions need consideration:
1. Are the kids academically prepared?
2. Do they have the talent and skills to play Division I football?
3. Are the coaches doing what they can to help and promote the kids?
4. Could the county Rec and Parks youth football program help more?
The academic part of it is a serious problem, and my opinion is shared by local football coaches. And not only are we lacking in academics, but skills as well.
"Usually the first thing college coaches want to know when they come around here is not how good are your players, but,'Do they have the grades? What are their college boards?' " said Annapolis coach Roy Brown, whose Panthers are a perennial county power. "If a kid doesn't have the grades, they don't even bother to look at the films no matter how good he is.
"In addition, people don't realize how good a kid has to be to play Division I football. I've beenat Annapolis 10 years, and in that time, we've probably only had about five kids of Division I caliber, talent-wise. Most of them didn't have the grades."
Severna Park's veteran football coach Andy Borland asks his players, "When the bell rings, will you be able to answer?"
He is referring to academics.
"I think one of the main problems is the course loads the kids take," said Borland, one of whoseproteges, Jamie Bragg, is in his second year at the University of Maryland, while several others are at Division III Frostburg College.
"Too many of our kids don't understand how important the CORE curriculum is until it is too late. My opinion is that the kid who doesn't take algebra by 10th grade is in trouble. He should be taking pre-algebra freshman year, algebra in 10th, geometry in 11th and algebra II in the 12th grade."
Borland said academic counselors need to monitor student-athletes in each school. That tells me that some guidance counselors in county schools may not be doing their jobs. They get paid to give students good advice on college, and I question how many of them really do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Guidance counselors are there for all students, not just athletes, but maybe a counselor dealing strictly with athletes could enhance academic performance in the kid who does more than just attend class and that ultimately could increase scholarship opportunities.
St. Mary'sfootball coach Brad Best cites 6-foot-4, 240-pound offensive guard Chris Smith as a good example of what good grades can do for a prospect.
"His grades have drawn coaches in to talk to him, and his bestfootball is coming," said Best, who expects Smith to end up at a good school because of his 3.6 grade point average and 1,200-plus score on his college boards. "Academics is the thing that has really helpedChris."
Such division I-AA schools as Bucknell, Cornell and Princeton all are very interested in Smith.
In contrast, the Saints' 6-6, 280-pound two-way tackle, Adam Funk, who will receive the Al Laramore Outstanding Lineman Award from the Annapolis TD Club by vote ofthe county coaches, has not yet received a solid offer. Funk qualifies academically, but he is not as outstanding a student as Smith.
A lot of kids only know themselves whether they did their best in the classroom for four years. That's an individual decision based on one's background, Brown said.
"What people don't realize is that the pattern for study habits is set before high school, in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and the parents have to share some of the blame," he said.
Too many kids receive emotional jolts in their senioryears when they realize they have the physical ability to play big time, but can't get in the front door academically. You can't cram four years of academics into one to lift grades.
Big-time football also takes more talent than people realize.
"Before I came to Severn, I was an assistant at Calvert Hall for five years and we were ranked No. 1 in the metro area four of the five, but we only had four (Division I) scholarships in that time," Severn head coach Doug Williams said. "I think our kids in this county are good enough, but there are only 95 scholarships (per college) available. That means you have to be exceptional and be a lineman who runs 4.6. Take Severna Park: Great team, but they all look alike, like 200-pound clones (but don't run 4.6)."
Local coaches will tell you that unless you are 6-4, 220 pounds or more, forget it as a Division I lineman, and as a running back, you've got to be at least 5-9 or 5-10 with a big frame and run 4.5 or less.
"People don't realize how good of an athlete you have to be," Brown said.
Local coaches are trying to expose those who are good athletes with Division I potential by writing letters and contacting college coaches by phone. In addition, the Maryland Coaches Association, which assembles the Maryland team for the Big 33 Seniors All Star Game against Pennsylvania, has contributed.
"For the past two years, we (the association) have held a film session for 50 different college coaches in December," Borland said.
The association assembled a tape on the top college prospects, and each countyis represented in a separate room with its film for recruiters to see. The coaches can't talk to the kids during that time, but they lookat film and get pertinent information.
As for the final factor, youth football, every local coach I have talked to over the last yearwould love to see an unlimited youth football league for seventh- and eighth-graders or eighth-graders.
This is done in the football hotbeds of Pennsylvania and Delaware, for instance, because it gives the smaller skilled kid a chance to play against the bigger kids he will meet a year later in ninth grade on the jayvee level. And it gives the big, bulky kid who goes through the pre-teen years too big for the restricted weight leagues a chance to play at least a year beforehigh school.
"Love it, it would be great," said Borland, who wasseconded by Brown, Best and Williams. "If it ever happened, it oughtto be no age, but go by grades.
"I had a kid back in the '70s bythe name of Kerry Hithon, who went on to the Naval Academy, but never played until 10th grade because he was always too big for youth football."
Best, who is from Central Pennsylvania, said youth football is a reason why so many Division I prospects come out of that state.
"Nearly every school up there has a ninth-grade team where seventh- and eighth-graders play," he said. "I've noticed down here you have to teach some kids how to put their pads on."
All the coaches I have talked to over the last year agree that such a league would improve the quality of play and possibly increase the potential for scholarships.
"It's a great idea and just like anything else, if enough people ask for it and get behind it, showing a need for it, maybe it could happen," Brown said.
Now if only we can get Rec and Parks interested by calling or writing them to support the idea or have the Anne Arundel County Youth Football Association ask for it, it may one day happen.
If only we can get the kids to be ready for that bell academically and to get youth football to help out physically, we might start making those signing lists. Of course, it is easier said than done.
NCAA ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIP REQUIREMENTS
The National Collegiate Athletic Association requires a 700 combined Scholastic Aptitude Test score or a 15 on ACT, as well as at least a 2.0 grade-point average in 22 CORE classes in math, English, science, social studies and foreign language, including:
* At least four semester classes each in math, science and social studies.
* At least six semesters in English.
* Four more semesters in any of the four CORE studies.
Important: Some individual NCAA institutions have higher entrance requirements. Also, Proposition 48/42 creates some latitude for student-athletes who have at least a 2.0 GPA in CORE subjectsbut who scored below 700 on SAT or 15 on the ACT.
For instance, the University of Maryland and most of the Atlantic Coast Conference requires not a 2.0 in CORE subjects, but rather a 2.3 with an 800 on the boards. Towson State University, a Division I-AA school (below I-A), has a 2.5 and 800 as its mandatory qualifications.
Maryland does allow four to five student-athletes with a 700, but that's it.
Attending prep school can help the Prop 48/42 student-athlete to qualify for college with all four years of eligibility.
Division III schools cannot give athletic scholarships, but do give financial aid based on need.