Covid-19 has had a dramatic effect on the 2021 college football recruiting class.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many players across the country have been unable to attend official visits and football camps have been canceled. These are opportunities where players meet and get to know the coaches, facilities and future teammates.
As a result, the Nebraska football recruiting class of 2021 has taken to social media to create connections and do a little recruiting while they’re at it.
Henry Lutovsky, Teddy Prochozka, Nash Hutmacher and other Husker recruits are competing in a friendly fishing competition on Twitter. They started posting photos of their biggest catches toward the end of April and have since involved other Nebraska commits and players who haven’t committed yet.
— Henry Lutovsky I ⁵⁹ (@Luto_72) May 6, 2020
“That’s great to keep them connected and have something that they can either bond with other guys in their class with or even guys that aren’t committed,” said Greg Smith, recruiting specialist for Hail Varsity.
In order to get more players involved, quarterback commit Heinrich Haarberg from Kearney, Neb. started the “first ever Cornhusker dunk contest” at the end of May because he “can’t win in fishing,” according to his Twitter post.
He invited Prochazka, Lutovsky and Thomas Fidone, a four-star tight end from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to join him in showing their athleticism. Marcus Mbow, an uncommitted, three-star offensive tackle from Wisconsin, also threw down a couple of dunks.
— Heinrich Haarberg (@HKHaarberg10) May 29, 2020
“It definitely builds a camaraderie,” said Mike Schaefer, the host of Recruiting Hour on 93.7 The Ticket and recruiting specialist for 247 Sports.
Commits such as Lutovsky and Haarberg interact with Fidone quite a bit on Twitter. Fidone is Nebraska’s top prospect, according to Greg’s Guys, which is Smith’s list of the 10 top players in the country that the Huskers have a “realistic chance at.” The 6-foot-5 217-pound tight end is forecast by Rivals.com analysts and publishers to 100% commit to Nebraska. Although, the fans only voted 51% confidence.
However, it doesn’t seem possible that it is solely based on a fun interaction with some of his potential future teammates via a Twitter dunk contest. No player is going to make one of the biggest decisions of his life based on his bond with possible future teammates. But it can’t hurt.
“Well, he’s [Fidone] not going to make a decision for Nebraska based on being in the dunking competition, maybe not,” Smith said. “But what will help is the fact that he already kind of feels at home in a place with the other recruits.”
Interacting with uncommitted recruits via social media has become a popular way that committed players have done in bringing the best talent with them.
“There’s always been an emphasis on ‘If I’m going to go to a program, I want to bring the best guys with me that I can’,” Schaefer said.
Haarberg is trying to do just that.
Quarterback is a position that at its nature requires leadership skills. For Fidone, starting to create that off the field trust and chemistry, with his potential future quarterback, Haarberg, can positively influence his decision for the Huskers.
“I do think that having a relationship with the guy that could be his quarterback [Haarberg] is important for Thomas,” Schaefer said. “I think that just knowing who Nebraska’s quarterback is in a class is pretty important. You know, quarterback we know how important it is on the field, but it still has a really big off the field thing too.”
Building a personal relationship with a player’s potential future teammate can influence where the recruit signs, however to what degree does that influence their decision?
“I don’t think it’s more impactful than having a good relationship with the assistant coach that’s going to be coaching you,” Schaefer said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily more impactful than you having built up a good understanding of the offensive system or defensive system you’re going to play in but it absolutely plays a role to the degree of which it really matters”
Creating a relationship with Coach Scott Frost and the player’s position assistant coach (for Fidone, this is Sean Beckton), will ideally make the player feel more comfortable at Nebraska. It’s valuable to know the personalities, work ethic and talent of the players in a recruiting class.
“I think it helps quite a bit to be able to feel more comfortable with the guys that you’re coming in with,” Smith said.