By Dan Hiner
Mark Porter, founder of ScoutingOhio.com, talks about recruiting high school football prospects from the Youngstown area and what the Youngstown State University football team needs to do to get local talent to consider playing for the Penguins.
With National Letter of Intent day in the rearview mirror, many fans of the Youngstown State University football team are looking forward to the new crop of high school football players that could find its way to Stambaugh Stadium for the 2016 season.
Many fans that remember former head coach Jim Tressel’s teams of the 1990s recall Tressel’s ability to recruit high school talent from the Mahoning Valley and the state of Ohio.
When current head coach Bo Pelini was hired in January 2015, fans thought the Youngstown product would focus his recruiting in the Youngstown area like Tressel did in years past.
ScoutingOhio.com, a recruiting aid that helps high school football players during the recruiting process by giving insight into college football, combines the distribution of player highlights and warn high school players of potential scams.
Mark Porter, the founder of ScoutingOhio.com, said the YSU football program has tried to build a fence around the greater Youngstown area in the past.
“YSU’s always goes to every single school in the Valley to visit potential players,” Porter said. “The coaching staff will always know where to find the diamond in the ruff each year. The depth of the talent in town will always play a part in how many kids YSU can bring in.”
Porter said this year’s crop of Mahoning Valley recruits is similar to other classes over the past several years, but there has been a decrease in prospects since Tressel left to become the head coach at Ohio State University.
“This year’s class is on par with the last few years,” Porter said. “A handful of players going to big time programs and almost two dozen playing at all college levels. There has been a decrease in prospects over the past 20 years mostly related to population decline.”
Porter said since Youngstown has a number of connections to former players and coaches such as the University of Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi, the University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and Pelini, a pipeline has formed from Youngstown to universities outside of the state.
“This town is picked over pretty thoroughly,” Porter said. “There are so many players from this area that have become coaches and come back to this area to recruit, the area gets ‘over recruited’, meaning anyone that has college ability will get a chance to play somewhere.”
He said the recruiting process has changed over the years, but Pelini’s ability to persuade players could be beneficial as he tries to build a playoff-contending roster.
“All college coaches face the hurdles of the 18-year-old fickle mind. Building relationships with players has gone to social media, and kids want to be ‘courted’ and sometimes feel entitled to top-notch treatment,” Porter said. “Coaches have to sell players more than ever and get them to ‘buy into’ a plan for the future, not what happened the prior seasons. If you listen to coach Pelini or Tressel, buying into the future is pretty easy.”
Porter said most high school football players in Ohio have a tendency to focus on playing at Ohio State, but later in their high school careers start to refocus and reevaluate smaller schools.
“I think most kids focus on playing Division I football,” Porter said. “Every kid in Ohio starts off playing for the Buckeyes, and the closer he gets to senior year, they realize it might have to be [University of] Indiana, Louisville, Bowling Green [State University] or FCS [Football Bowl Subdivision], DII [Division II] or DIII [Division III] football. All kids have big dreams and right fully so, if a DI football team was on Mars they would be lining up to play there.”
Porter said YSU has a unique advantage that most universities don’t have — Tressel and Pelini. He said local talent should realize the opportunity to play for Pelini and build a connection with two sports icons from Youngstown.
“With the facilities and the commitment Jim Tressel and Bo Pelini have made to YSU, kids in town would be foolish not to recognize the opportunity to play locally,” Porter said. “A chance to play for an FCS championship in your hometown offers something very special. This town has always embraced a winner and duplicating the success of prior YSU teams makes you one of the legends in this valley.”