Several colleges have come away with verbal commitments from River Parish football players with the schools involved getting an ironic assist from the coronavirus.
With the uncertainty of what a 2020 high school football season will look like, or even if it will transpire, most recruits took similar tactic to commit early.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the rest of the season,” said Destrehan linebacker Dyan Gibbs, who committed to Southeastern Louisiana. “I’m being optimistic. I really want to play. I really hope we get to play. The uncertainty is always there. That’s part of the reason why I committed so early. It would just be heartbreaking if we didn’t play. We’re putting in the work and I’m getting my guys ready. We’re proceeding as if we are going to play.”
A Class 5A finalist a year ago, no football season would eliminate any chance of the Wildcats making another run to the Superdome.
“Not having a season, it would definitely suck if I had to wait it out. Southeastern is a great school. That’s where I felt wanted at. I’m really excited about going there. They showed interest since Day One and it never faded away. It was pretty much a no-brainer for me,” said Gibbs.
Gibbs was hotly pursued by Southeastern Louisiana defensive assistant Chris Lachney, a former Riverside Academy head coach.
“Coach Lachney really makes me feel like I’m one of them. I truly feel like I can tribute immediately over there. It was definitely a school I felt wanted at. That was important to me. I was happy to find that and everything lined up and I was able to commit,” Gibbs said.
Like Gibbs, Destrehan defensive back Tyler Morton went ahead and made is verbal commitment once he found his comfort zone with Nicholls.
“The reason I made the commitment now is because with (the coronavirus) going on right now, I don’t know if we will have a season. That (Nicholls) was the school I wanted to go to so I just got my spot. They were only taking one safety from my class and I got that spot,” said Morton.
The decision to attend Nicholls was also a family affair for Morton.
“I felt like that was a good fit for me and my dad and uncle went to Nicholls. It’s not a tradition, but it’s a family thing. I just liked the coaching staff. It was a good fit and a place where I would be comfortable for the next four years,” said Morton.
Morton’s father, Allen Morton, was a receiver at Nicholls from 1997-99 while his uncle, Allen Pittman, played linebacker for the Colonels from 2016-2019.
Meanwhile, a pair of St. James Wildcat cousins are headed to Baton Rouge but at different schools and a different path.
Highly touted defensive end Savion Jones, who had his pick of schools and committed to LSU, the defending national champions.
“They know what it’s like to put people in the NFL. They’ve won big games and championships,” said Jones.
In Bo Pelini’s second stint as defensive coordinator at LSU, the Tigers will play out of a different alignment in 2020.
“They are moving to a new defensive scheme which fits me perfect,” said Jones, alluding to LSU’s new 4-3 scheme where he will be a defensive end and rush off the edge.
“It’s a fun experience to be able to not only beat a lineman but show off your hard work in being able to sack the quarterback,” Jones said of playing defensive end.
Jones’ cousin, offensive tackle Jaquon Jones, committed to Southern University as interest started to dwindle because of the coronavirus.
“I only had two offers right now, Southern and Arkansas Tech. I felt like I needed to lock something in because of all this coronavirus stuff. I wasn’t sure if I would have any more offers, so I wanted to make sure I had something before all this stuff is over,” Jaquon Jones said.
There was more interest shown earlier for the offensive lineman in the process but a number of programs, including some bigger schools, started to pull back because of COVID-19, Jaquon Jones said.
“After we won the state championship and before the coronavirus started, a lot of coaches started to contact me and they said they loved my play. Everything went down once the coronavirus started. I lost contact with a lot of coaches,” he said.
The Jones cousins said they are looking forward to a couple of years down the road.
“Southern and LSU plays each other in 2022 and we will be able to go against each other by me playing offensive line and he plays defensive line,” said Jaquon.
“He plays tackle and I play (defensive) end. That would be awesome to play against each other,” Savion said.
Tulane has had recent success with players from St. Charles Catholic with the likes of Luke Jackson and Lazedrick Thompson and the Green Wave came away with another Comet when linebacker Mandel Eugene committed to the New Orleans school.
“During the recruiting process, the coaches made me feel like Tulane was the place for me,” said Eugene. “They showed they cared about you more as a person and not just an athlete.
“They called a lot. They texted a lot and checked up on me and my family, so it was a no-brainer. They called the most out of everybody else.”
The coronavirus has greatly limited offseason football activities but Eugene said he has managed to get in some work on his own.
“It’s been kind of stressful, not having spring and not being able to do as much with my team. When (the coronavirus) first started, I was still working out with my personal trainer. I still got to get some work in,” said Eugene.
McNeese State’s first-year coach Frank Wilson, a former University of Texas-San Antonio head coach and considered one of the country’s prime recruiters with stints as an assistant at Ole Miss and LSU, seemed to work his magic on Hahnville defensive back Alijah Hamilton.
“I built a good relationship with Coach Frank (Wilson) and the rest of the coaches,” said Hamilton. “Building a relationship with him, just because of his background. He will be a cool dude once you get to know him.”
“They are good people over there,” Hamilton continued. “They have nice facilities and they made me feel more comfortable. I get a good vibe from them.”
Hamilton’s versatility allow him to play all over the second and also is a punt returner. A cornerback in the past, he is slated to play safety in the fall.
“I’m confident,” said Hamilton. “I’m sort of a visual learner and I’m field smart. I study a lot and I know what to expect because I study my opponent real hard. I think it makes me like a field general and be all around and versatile to play corner, strong safety, free safety. I’m just comfortable playing all around the field.”