Future In Focus

For 2 Mount St. Joseph Players, Injuries Wiped Away Senior Seasons But Altered Just 1 Recruitment

February 03, 2010|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Kyle Fuller and Shelton Hall-Bennett entered the fall season at Mount St. Joseph expecting great senior years to launch them into college football. By the fourth game, however, both were sidelined with season-ending injuries.

The torn tendon in Fuller's right ring finger and the broken fibula and pulled tendon in Hall-Bennett's left leg had the same effect on their high school careers, but the injuries affected their college recruitments differently.

Fuller, a three-star prospect and the No. 43 cornerback recruit in the country according to ESPN.com, already had his college plans in place, having committed orally to Virginia Tech in August. He plans to sign a national letter of intent today, the beginning of the official signing period for football.

When Hall-Bennett broke his leg - an injury that required surgery - he was still in the throes of the recruiting process and counted on a strong senior year to seal a deal. Now the linebacker says he has no offers on the table. Although Hall-Bennett still hopes to find a spot at a Football Championship Subdivision program, he might have to walk on or go to a Division II program.

Chip Armstrong, who coached Fuller and Hall-Bennett at Mount St. Joseph, said senior year can be critical for players like Hall-Bennett, who may not have the blue-chip potential of someone like Fuller, but still possess the tools to play Football Bowl Subdivision football.

Hall-Bennett had been to camps and Armstrong had sent around his junior highlight tape, so he was getting some attention from college coaches last summer.

"I had several coaches at the [Football Championship Subdivision] level come back and say, 'Well, we'll have to get some good senior-year film on him,' " said Armstrong, who resigned as coach after the season. "So their senior year is really important compared to a guy like Kyle, who's already ahead of the game and committed before the season started."

Loyola coach Brian Abbott said college coaches want that senior tape to see how a player develops from his junior year.

"Football is such a physical sport," Abbott said. "Every year, we're getting bigger, faster, stronger and [college coaches] want to see that physical development. How does he improve from his junior to his senior year or is he the exact same player? Now the college can gauge, 'Well, how much better is really going to get? ' It also helps them compare against other people that they know."

Towson University coach Rob Ambrose said he often relies on senior tapes.

"It's the degree of injury vs. the position that he plays and how that would affect him. The stories are endless," Ambrose said. "For the kid who shows potential ... I can tell you more times than not I've said, 'Kid's recruitable. Evaluate him more. Need senior tape.' That will be a phrase you hear a lot from college coaches - 'Need senior tape.' And for a kid not to be able to play his senior year, you're looking at probably all the Division I prep school wanna-be guys."

Hall-Bennett, whose father, Delton Hall, played with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1987 to 1991, remains confident he can find a place to play.

"I think I can survive at any school," said Hall-Bennett, who has high-level Division I aspirations. "My coaches are advising I should go to [an FCS or Division II] school, so I'm probably going to do something like that and see where I stand there and if I develop better, transfer somewhere else. There's a few coaches that are interested, but they're not promising anything. If I have to walk on, then that's something I'm going to have to do."

Ambrose said college coaches are sometimes reluctant to take a chance on players who have suffered an injury. He said there are only so many gambles a coach can take with his limited scholarships (85 for Football Bowl Subdivision schools and 63 for FCS rosters).

"Some schools, they're reading the CARFAX report and they're not taking that car that's been in an accident already," Ambrose said. "It's a dollars-and-cents game. You're talking about a million-dollar business. The kids are a part of it, but it's grown to this point that depending on the injury and the institution and their needs and the people involved, it's pretty gray. There's no black and white here."

Fuller's injury was minor enough that his scholarship to Virginia Tech was never in jeopardy. The 5-11, 165-pound cornerback is fully recovered. It also didn't hurt that Fuller's brother, Vincent Fuller, played at Virginia Tech and is now a safety with the Tennessee Titans.

With two brothers - Corey Fuller runs track at Kansas - having been through the Division I recruiting process, Kyle knew exactly what to do. His father, Vincent Fuller Sr., said he took Kyle to camps at Virginia Tech, Georgia and Maryland after his sophomore year. His talent quickly drew the attention of online recruiting services and major college coaches.

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