By David Fong
TROY — While most of the rest of Miami County was bundled up and hunkered down Monday in an effort to combat the latest blast of arctic weather, Matt Burgbacher was hitting the road.
The Troy football coach was navigating a snowy stretch of I-75 northbound as he escorted Trojan running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop to the University of Toledo, where the school’s football program, which was hosting an invitation-only event for high school juniors.
With the way things are going, Burgbacher expects such recruiting trips to be a more frequent part of his job, not only for the talented running back, but for a host of junior and senior football players who are putting themselves on the radars of college programs.
“I actually enjoy the process, and I’m telling the kids to do the same thing,” Burgbacher said. “It’s definitely one of the parts of the job, with this being Troy football. I knew coming in that if we could get the program back to the level where we wanted it to be, this would happen.
“These kids have put themselves in this situations. They’ve worked hard to get to this point. It’s not like we had all of these talented athletes fall from the sky. They’ve earned the right to go through this experience and we as coaches are going to help them however we can. It’s a reward they’ve earned for all the hard work they’ve put in.”
With national signing day three weeks from today, only one Troy football player — senior defensive back Zach Boyer — has given a verbal commitment to a college football program. He’ll sign with Ohio Dominican University on Feb. 7.
A number of other Trojan seniors — including defensive linemen Joah Schricker, Christian Nation and Logan Hubbard, offensive lineman Drew Smith, linebacker/defensive lineman Zach Schwausch and quarterback Sam Coleman — all are seriously looking at playing college football, most likely at the Division III level, as well.
“It’s not like there’s a deadline,” Burgbacher said. “Just because national signing day is in February, it doesn’t mean you have to sign by then. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of our kids signed well after national signing day. A lot of times the smaller programs will wait to see who signs with Division I programs, then they’ll get some of the kids who may have fallen through the cracks. There are a lot of talented football players — guys who make it to the NFL, even — who play Division III football.”
The recruiting process already has begun for a number of Trojan juniors, as well. Currently, the three most highly recruited Troy juniors are Culp-Bishop, tight end Spencer Klopfenstein and safety/running back Sam Jackson. All three received All-Greater Western Ohio Conference and All-Southwest District honors last fall, while Culp-Bishop also was named All-Ohio.
“Jaydon, Spencer and Sammy are the three guys who are getting the most attention right now,” Burgbacher said. “They are receiving a lot of attention from the MAC (Mid-American Conference) schools and places like that. For Spencer, he’s got to go to a program that is going to utilize him. He’s not going to go to a school that doesn’t use a tight end. He’s a kid with a 3.8 grade point average, so he’ll also have the chance to get some looks from some higher-level academic schools.
“With Jaydon, a lot of schools will only take one running back per year as a recruit. They aren’t going to take three, four or five guy. It’s a numbers game. For Sammy, he’s also got to find the program that’s going to be the right fit for him. None of those three have official offers yet, but they are getting a lot of looks right now. I think they are only going to get better their senior years and the college coaches will see that continued development. They are guys who may play their way into a college scholarship their senior years.”
Massive lineman Gage Forsythe, inside linebacker Blake Burton and outside linebacker Garrett Jones also are receiving interest from college programs, Burgbacher said.
“Gage Forsythe is a kid who, because of his size and quickness — he’s 6-foot-1 and 320 pounds — will be getting plenty of attention,” Burgbacher said. “Blake Burton is a kid who has had a great offseason and I think has put himself in the conversation. Garrett Jones is another kid who has worked hard in the offseason. We’ve got some other guys who I wouldn’t be surprised to get some looks from colleges, as well.”
Burgbacher said he gives the same advice to any prospective college football player, regardless of what level they will be playing at in college.
“They need to find the right fit for them academically, socially and then in terms of football,” he said. “There comes a point where everyone has to stop playing football. When that day comes — whether it is in high school, college or the NFL — you want to have put yourself in a position to be successful in life. So we talk to our kids about making sure you are going to a school you want to go to first; the opportunity to play football in college is just an added bonus. You’ve got to look at everything else first.”
Burgbacher said Troy’s recent success on the field — the Trojans went a combined 18-5, won two Greater Western Ohio Conference North titles and made the playoffs the past two years after going 2-8 in 2015 — has made Troy a much more desirable stop for college coaches.
“If you are good enough, college coaches are going to find you no matter where you are playing,” he said. “But winning definitely makes a difference. You’ve got to remember that a lot of these college coaches don’t get a long time to build a program. Everyone wants that instant gratification. Everyone wants to win right away. Obviously they want great athletes, but they also want to recruit winners. When you come from a winning program, college coaches definitely look at that as a plus.
“Troy obviously has a great football tradition and we want to keep building on that. We work as hard to get a kid recruited to a Division III program as we do to a Division I program. I’ll meet with anyone — I don’t care of it’s a coach from Ohio State University or a coach from Earlham College. We want college coaches to keep coming back to Troy. What we are doing now for our juniors and seniors is going to help our seventh and eighth graders who want to play college football in the future.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong
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