Geoffrey Jamiel was excited to showcase his skills at college camps this past summer. The 5-foot-9-inch, 172-pound slot receiver had smashed school and state records over three seasons at Dennis-Yarmouth, but facing smaller MIAA schools did little to boost his stock with recruiters.
So he planned a road trip with his father, Joe, to one-day camps at nearby colleges including Boston College and Joe’s alma mater Brown, where he could match up one-on-one with top cornerback recruits.
When those camps were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jamiel had to advocate for his own recruitment by sending homemade videos to colleges, eventually scoring an offer from Merrimack. But it became increasingly clear that he had to make a change in order to get more looks.
This fall, Jamiel transferred to Deerfield Academy and re-classified to the Class of 2022. That gives him an extra year of eligibility, a chance to play against elite competition in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC), and even an outside shot at games this fall.
“Obviously everybody’s in a different position,” Jamiel said. “But being an undersized guy, you look at what I did at D-Y and I still wasn’t getting the offers. I couldn’t have done anything different.
“Once we had a clear picture of what the MIAA season was going to look like, and with all the uncertainly due to COVID, I made my decision.”
Few programs can offer the opportunities Jamiel is getting at Deerfield. With boarding students tested twice weekly, the football team can engage in padded practices, and may schedule games through November against other NEPSAC schools that are testing frequently.
So how are public school recruits adjusting to stay on the recruiting radar?
In July, Andover football coach E.J. Perry III set up his own combine, with a professional trainer, and ran his seniors through the usual drills as well as drills specific to their position groups. He then sent the film to a long list of college coaches, and watched as offers eventually trickled in for linemen A.J. Heidtke, Ben Entner, Tomas Loureiro, and wide receiver Jolfy Frias, who recently committed to UMass Dartmouth after an informal visit with former Andover great and current UMD coach Mark Robichaud.
“We were down bad, before the season,” said Frias, who broke his ankle last season and was looking to raise his stock as a senior. “What Coach [Perry] did for us, with the combine, it’s unbelievable.”
However, some athletic directors can’t sanction that level of activity if their towns are seeing high numbers of positive COVID-19 tests.
At Brockton, Peter Colombo laments how the school’s sparkling new weight room sits idle and Marciano Stadium is enlivened by only soccer or field hockey games this fall.
“It’s tough everywhere right now,” Colombo said. “It’s not just the [top] recruits. It’s the kids who work three years to play as a senior and never got on the varsity field. That’s the kid I feel for most.”
Boxers senior quarterback Devonte Medley was in line to break records this fall that had stood for more than a century at the winningest program in state history. Instead, Medley is suiting up for the Brockton field hockey team to stay in shape for a potential Fall II season (MIAA football is postponed to a period from Feb. 22 to April 25).
When he’s not playing his new sport, Medley films football workouts with fellow recruits Ademola Faleye, Noah Olowu, Rodrigo Lima, and Nayvon Reid, the core of a highly touted senior class.
Medley is considering a post-graduate year in the hopes more scholarships will be available next year. With a bevy of options to consider, the 5-10 dual threat quarterback said he’s making the most of his extra time this fall.
“It’s actually been a little bit easier going through the recruiting process because sending film and communicating with college coaches is easier,” Medley said. “It would’ve been good to see what [the Class of 2021] could do, but since we don’t have a [football] season, we have all this down time to focus and get your grades up.”
Student-athletes across the state are getting creative with their workouts.
Franklin kicker/punter Parker Cheuvront was generating interest from Division 1 colleges before the pandemic, but then communication ceased, so he took to Twitter, asking Division 3 coaches what their kickers do during a typical practice. Then he emulated the drills, sent video back, and is now choosing between Fitchburg State, Springfield College, and University of New England.
Some recruits, such as Everett wide receiver Ismael Zamor, were able to solidify their options before the pandemic. Zamor recently committed to Boston College, choosing the Eagles over Michigan, Syracuse, and others.
But his good friend and teammate, Samy Lamothe, is still waiting for the right offer. For a 5-10 defensive back with Ivy League interest, filming one-on-one battles against Zamor is the best way to stay on the recruiting radar.
“You have to try to make your own combine for yourself,” Lamothe said. “You have to tape yourself working out and send it out to every college. Other than that, I don’t see another way to get recruited right now.”
Zamor was able to visit BC in person back in February, meet first-year coach Jeff Hafley, and eventually determine that the program would be the right fit. That critical part of the process is missing for colleges this year.
“It makes it really hard when you can’t get anyone on campus,” Hafley said. “The lack of meeting face-to-face, shaking someone’s hand, and sitting down with their families, is really difficult.”
“We’re trying to stay on top of the kids we liked, and want them to keep sending us drill work, 7-on-7 film, or anything we can do to continue evaluating them.”
Natick quarterback Will Lederman is leading his squad in the non-contact 7-on-7 league that has been running pool play at Milton High under volunteer coaches the past few weeks.
Lederman was on a trajectory to earn an offer from Army, Fordham, or Holy Cross before the shutdown, but like Jamiel, he needed to show up in person and run a fast 40-yard dash to cement his scholarship opportunity.
Now he’s considering joining forces with Jamiel by taking a post-graduate year at Deerfield. Lederman said he’d be thrilled to compete for the starting quarterback job at Bentley next year, but is also still wondering if he can earn a shot from Army.
Like most things in 2020, his choices are clouded with uncertainty.
“Usually with a senior season, you play, and if you play well you’re at an advantage,” said Lederman, a 5-11 dual threat who led Natick to an undefeated regular season as a junior.
“But now all your connections are through the phone and are based on your old film. It’s different, and more time consuming, but you kind of have to think that everything is for a reason, and all this does is put a bigger chip on your shoulder.”
▪ The MIAA Tournament Management Committee voted, 15-0, Wednesday to recommend to the Board of Directors that no postseason tournaments be held for winter sports after the upcoming season. The MIAA expects guidance from state offices by early November that will help determine the status of a regular season for winter sports.
▪ The MIAA Track and Cross Country Committee voted, 16-0-1, to support the option to move the indoor track season to the Fall II season with the understanding it could take place outdoors if indoors is not permissible by health metrics and state guidelines.
▪ The MIAA announced its 2020 coaches of the year for the following sports:
Wayne Puglisi, Andover (boys' lacrosse); John Griffith, Wellesley (girls' indoor track); John Goda, Pope Francis (boys' indoor track); Steven Estelle, Gateway (girls' soccer); Jared Scarpaci, Masconomet (boys' soccer); Jean Fedak, Algonquin (girls' swimming & diving); Greg Bruce, Belmont (boys' rugby); Erik Ruhmann, Westford (Alpine ski); Pat Garrison, Acton-Boxborough (Nordic ski); Douglas Chapman, Somerset Berkley (boys' tennis); Tami Degelder, Plymouth South (girls' tennis); Kathy Georgina, Agawam (softball); Joe Zenus, Milford (unified basketball); Lauren Tarlow, Needham (unified track & field); Courtney Chaloff, Needham (girls’ volleyball); Deshawn Fentress, Brockton (wrestling).
John Silk, Assabet Valley (baseball); Sean Ryan, Burke (boys' basketball); Jay Keane, Malden Catholic (girls' basketball); Perry Pappas, Wakefield (boys' cross-country); Joseph Colbert, Triton (girls' cross-country); Karen Gomez, Agawam (field hockey); Andrew MacKay, Ashland (football); Mary O’Brien, Weston (fall golf); Jay Durfee, Notre Dame-Hingham (girls' golf); Rich Butler, Attleboro (boys' gymnastics); Jennifer Wrenn, Medfield (girls' gymnastics); John Messuri, Arlington (boys' hockey); Ed Amico, Westwood (girls' hockey).
▪ The following athletes recently announced their college commitments:
Basketball: Ben Kaczmarek, St. Sebastian’s (Colby); Andrew Rocci, Hanover (Hartwick); Drew Sachs, Governor’s Academy (Bates); Griffin Walbridge, Marion/Tabor Academy (Brandeis).
Football: Jolfy Frias, Andover (UMass Dartmouth); Joseph Griffin Jr., Springfield Central (Boston College); Ethan Scott, Berkshire (Williams); Ismael Zamor, Everett (Boston College).