So, you saw the lists of high school football players from Maryland headed for various Division I colleges on scholarship this week in the local newspapers. Did you ask the same question I did -- where are the Anne Arundel County players?
There were none.
College coaches went out calling Wednesday on national signing day with pens and scholarships, but none found their way to Anne Arundel County.
Apparently county public schools have no running backssuch as Larry Washington (Randallstown, Baltimore County) and Raphael Wall (Wilde Lake, Howard County) or tight ends like Kevin Washington (Dunbar, Baltimore), all of whom are headed for the University of Maryland.
Such county residents as quarterback John Kaleo, linebacker John Taliaferro and running back Joe Aben opted to attend high school elsewhere to get that kind of scholarship opportunity.
Kaleo transferred from South River to Bowie High in Prince George's County his senior year "to get to throw the ball" and went on to set the world on fire for two years at Montgomery Rockville Community College before recently accepting a full ride to Maryland.
Taliaferro and Aben chose DeMatha High, a Catholic school in Hyattsville, and are twoof 14 DeMatha Stags who received scholarships this season. Taliaferro is going to Notre Dame and Aben to Virginia to play football.
Why don't the county's public schools have someone to brag about?
The question is one that needs to be addressed.
Certainly, I am not an authority on college football recruiting and why many county kids do not earn Division I scholarships, but I've got a few ideas. Hopefully, these ideas will get this subject some attention and at the same time provoke some ideas of your own.
Your ideas are welcomed on the 24-hour Sportsline, 647-2499.
Several questions need consideration:
1. Are the kids academically prepared?
2. Do they have the talent and skills to play Division I football?
3. Are the coaches doing what they can to help and promote the kids?
4. Could the county Rec and Parks youth football program help more?
The academic part of it is a serious problem, and my opinion is shared by local football coaches. And not only are we lacking in academics, but skills as well.
"Usually the first thing college coaches want to know when they come around here is not how good are your players, but,'Do they have the grades? What are their college boards?' " said Annapolis coach Roy Brown, whose Panthers are a perennial county power. "If a kid doesn't have the grades, they don't even bother to look at the films no matter how good he is.
"In addition, people don't realize how good a kid has to be to play Division I football. I've beenat Annapolis 10 years, and in that time, we've probably only had about five kids of Division I caliber, talent-wise. Most of them didn't have the grades."
Severna Park's veteran football coach Andy Borland asks his players, "When the bell rings, will you be able to answer?"
He is referring to academics.
"I think one of the main problems is the course loads the kids take," said Borland, one of whoseproteges, Jamie Bragg, is in his second year at the University of Maryland, while several others are at Division III Frostburg College.
"Too many of our kids don't understand how important the CORE curriculum is until it is too late. My opinion is that the kid who doesn't take algebra by 10th grade is in trouble. He should be taking pre-algebra freshman year, algebra in 10th, geometry in 11th and algebra II in the 12th grade."
Borland said academic counselors need to monitor student-athletes in each school. That tells me that some guidance counselors in county schools may not be doing their jobs. They get paid to give students good advice on college, and I question how many of them really do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Guidance counselors are there for all students, not just athletes, but maybe a counselor dealing strictly with athletes could enhance academic performance in the kid who does more than just attend class and that ultimately could increase scholarship opportunities.
St. Mary'sfootball coach Brad Best cites 6-foot-4, 240-pound offensive guard Chris Smith as a good example of what good grades can do for a prospect.
"His grades have drawn coaches in to talk to him, and his bestfootball is coming," said Best, who expects Smith to end up at a good school because of his 3.6 grade point average and 1,200-plus score on his college boards. "Academics is the thing that has really helpedChris."
Such division I-AA schools as Bucknell, Cornell and Princeton all are very interested in Smith.
In contrast, the Saints' 6-6, 280-pound two-way tackle, Adam Funk, who will receive the Al Laramore Outstanding Lineman Award from the Annapolis TD Club by vote ofthe county coaches, has not yet received a solid offer. Funk qualifies academically, but he is not as outstanding a student as Smith.