Sun Prarie head coach Brian Kaminski sees the changes in the recruiting process, particularly, that kids are being recruited and offered scholarships earlier and earlier.
His star player Craig Evans, a powerful defensive tackle, and soon to be junior, is a prime example. Even though he has started for two varsity season, neither Kaminski nor Evans was prepared for his first scholarship offer, one from Nebraska, to come this summer. That was just the tip of the iceberg though, as he stands with four now, all from BCS programs.
"I think it's tough for a kid his age," Kaminski says. "The process is starting younger and younger. It's getting crazy. LSU just offered an 8th grader. Craig, they got to him early on in the process. The first one was Nebraska, then Pittsburgh, Michigan State, then Wisconsin. They felt they needed to move now to have a chance with him. Even though he's a special player, we weren't expecting teams to be this interested as a sophomore. He might have gotten caught up in it a little, but he got refocused. He wants to go ahead and prove himself on the field, and we have two years to help along the process. We told him, don't get caught up in that right now. Enjoy high school, get it done in the classroom, off the field, and enjoy as it comes along."
Enjoying life is not a problem for the light-hearted Evans, although Kaminski says he has the ability to flip the switch when the pads and the lights are on. Still, having a personality like his has been important for the Sun Prairie locker room.
"He has a good sense of humor. He's one of the kids, because of that humor, that others are naturally drawn towards. They gravitate towards him. He knows when it's time to work though, but his fun brings the character of our locker room together. He has that charisma and he's just kind of a natural leader."
Aside from those intangibles, there are the tremendous physical qualities Evans has, which has made him the sought after recruit he is.
"Well I think, one, he's a naturally big kid. He's 6'3, 300-lbs, but what sets him apart is that he's very athletic. He can move. He played basketball as a kid, and still plays. He has great feet and agility for a man his size."
Using that quickness and agility was a work in progress, but over the course of his freshman year, a season in which Evans admitted he had adjustments to make, through his sophomore campaign and now leading into his junior season, he has grown and improved.
"He's matured tremendously as a player," Kaminski explained. "We played him as a freshman because he was big and athletic, but the problem then was that he played high. He also wasn't showing a complete effort to the football. We talked about that after his first year, got him to play lower. Now his motor doesn't quit. He chases plays down from the backside. When teams try to run away from him, he chases the play down. He's gotten a lot better at staying low, using leverage, and he's tough to block."
On one hand, Evans has the offers and college interest to really start making serious determinations about his future. On the other hand, he has two years left in high school. As a result, and with his coach's help, he is simply taking things as they come and not closing himself off to any options.
"He's staying open right now. It's nice with Wisconsin so close by; we have a great relationship with the staff. Nebraska came in, and they've done a tremendous job. Michigan State's guys came in and that was good. We have a previous relationship with Pitt and Coach Chryst, a former Wisconsin guy. Craig just wanst to learn about everybody. When it comes time to take visits and weigh options, he'll be eager to do that, but what I said is, right now, get a feel for the coaches. Get a feel for what they can offer on and off the football field and see where this thing can take you."
And everyone expects, that with his talents, football could take Craig Evans pretty far.
"He has two more years and the sky's limit for him."
- "Our running back, Donte Merriam, is a returning starter for us. Last year, he split time, and had 1,400 yards. He has pretty good speed and pretty good agility."
- "Another kid who is going to be a junior that is going to be good for us is a linebacker, Malik Bondon."