2020 — Chronicling Ivy League
recruitment: Meet the recruits
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college football team, and in his first three years as Yale’s head coach, Tony Reno has embraced this philosophy. He has lured high-profile transfers away from larger football programs, such as incoming wide receiver Bo Hines from North Carolina State and quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 from Clemson. He has also drawn players from lesser-known schools, like Tyler Varga ’15 — the Ivy League’s top rusher in the 2014 season — from Western Ontario.
Equally effective is recruiting players directly from high school. Recently, Reno has succeeded in attracting highly-ranked recruits away from the Big Ten, Pac-12, Southeastern Conference and other top-tier NCAA Division I leagues. Players such as current commit Daniel James, Jon Bezney ’18, Mason Friedline ’17 and Victor Egu ’17 turned down schools ranging from Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Wisconsin to UC Berkeley, Oregon and Michigan State in favor of Yale.
But with the class of 2019 arriving for preseason camp in four months, Reno and his staff have already started looking beyond the incoming class. For months now, the team has been receiving tapes from potential members of the class of 2020. Coaches have put together a database for each incoming class, compiling tapes and statistics in an attempt to whittle down the number of prospective athletes before hitting the road in December to evaluate players in person.
Given Yale’s high academic standards, however, this process is difficult due to the uncertainty of the high schoolers’ final academic standing. Many of the athletes Yale is eyeing are rising juniors and have not yet taken standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT, just one among a portfolio of standards Yale uses in admissions decisions.
“We have to project kids academically,” coach Steven Vashel said at the Yale Pro Day in March. “We offer guys, get to know them and try to get them here on campus. Then the campus sells itself.”
Thus far, Reno and his staff have extended preliminary offers supporting the applications of athletes from all around the country. These players — including the following four students — are current juniors in high school, and though they will not matriculate until the fall of 2016, the college process is already well underway for them.
Hailing from Mission Viejo High School, a football powerhouse in Southern California, defensive end Carter Hartmann has the football skills to match his school’s pedigree.
The youngest of four boys, he began playing tackle football when he was eight years old. One of his brothers played football for Division III school Tufts, and another received offers for basketball, though he ultimately turned them down to attend Brigham Young University.
Hartmann received offers from BYU, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
Though the cost of flying to the east coast and attending summer camps is high, Hartmann said he intends to visit the universities. Beginning Sept. 1 of his senior year, he is allowed to make official visits — trips that the schools will cover. He is currently on an unofficial trip to BYU, a school with a special connection to Hartmann. Several members of his family have attended, so Hartmann grew up watching the football team and cheering on the Cougars.
Although he does not yet know what he wants to study, Hartmann knows he wants a school that prioritizes academics. He is currently ranked in the 99th percentile of his high school class, according to his recruiting tape.
“Academics is definitely going to be the biggest [part of the] decision, so I just contacted the Ivy League [schools] on my own,” he said. “I found their email and emailed them my film.”
Deceptively quick, the 6’3”, 255-pound Hartmann has a highlight tape that features his abilities to get off the line swiftly and to plug gaps at a moment’s notice.
At Mission Viejo, which currently boasts six active NFL players among its alumni, football is “intense.” Three of the 14 coaches listed on the roster played in the NFL, including Hartmann’s defensive line coach Mike Piel, who played defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams for four seasons.
The sport is essentially a year-round commitment, as the postseason ends in December and offseason training begins in January. Even in March, Hartmann said he attends two-and-a-half hours of practice every day.
But despite the demands, Hartmann is committed to playing football in college.
“There’s really nothing like it,” Hartmann said. “It’s the ultimate test of how bad you want something and skill and hard work. You represent your city, you represent your family and it’s a way to prove yourself. And it’s a good way to spend a Friday night, with everyone watching you.”
Manchester, Connecticut native Koby Quansah, a running back/linebacker at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, participates in an equally intense offseason training regimen.
In addition to seven-on-seven drills twice a week, his football program offers lifting and yoga classes. Football’s time commitment was so great that Quansah was unable to play basketball in the winter.
“At first, [training] was a one-dimensional thing, with just bench presses or squats or something,” Quansah said. “But the last couple years, we’ve switched it up to where we’re doing full-body workouts. Our younger coaches got their workouts from college, and they taught us.”
But thanks to such hard-core training, the 6’1”, 212-pound junior is a three-star recruit currently sitting on offers from 19 schools, including Harvard, Duke, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and the University of Michigan.
As of right now, Quansah said, there are no frontrunners.
“I’d say I’m giving everyone the same opportunity they’re giving me,” he said. “A lot more schools should be coming up in the spring, so I haven’t set up any official visits. We only get five visits, so I’m going to have to choose.”
He will undoubtedly have many options from which to choose: According to 247sports.com, Quansah is the best outside linebacker in Connecticut and the 28th-best in the nation.
This past season, Quansah led his conference in tackles, racking up 122 in just eight games. He also ran for 1,245 yards on 120 carries, adding 18 touchdowns to his list of accomplishments. His dominance on both sides of the ball did not go unnoticed, as he was named first-team All-New England.
Coming from an athletic family, where the sport of choice was soccer, Quansah began playing football in sixth grade. It was not until four years later that he considered playing at the next level.
“I remember watching my first college football game,” Quansah said. “It was Ohio State versus Michigan, and at that point I fell in love with the game a little bit. I wasn’t even into the whole recruiting world until going into sophomore year.”
Now, Quansah has been thrown into this world. Though he has already attended several camps, he said he plans to participate in the Rivals100 football camp and might attend summer camps at Yale, Duke and Boston College.
The potential sociology or social sciences major has not yet decided if he wants to play in the NFL.
“I’m not looking to get there right away, but if the opportunity comes, I’m going to take it,” Quansah said. “But the goal isn’t just to get there. Mainly it’s using college football to go to school and get a good education.”
On Oct. 11, 2014, Quansah and the Kingswood-Oxford Wyverns traveled to New Canaan, Connecticut to play St. Luke’s High School. Also playing in that game was fellow Yale recruit Jacob Morgenstern, a multipurpose player who had recently arrived at St. Luke’s.
The players had talked on Twitter prior to the game, and were able to meet up both before and after the game, a 48–26 Wyvern win.
Yet prior to this season, Quansah would have had no way of meeting Morgenstern. The 6’4”, 210-pound Morgenstern transferred this season from Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls, New York, to St. Luke’s after his sophomore year.
Morgenstern broke his hand during his final season at Ketcham, and as a result, he only played three games healthy.
“At that time I was like, ‘I’m never going to play in college, nobody’s going to see my tape, it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t long enough,’ I only played three games healthy and I figured that was it,” Morgenstern said.
Then a recruiting coordinator from St. Luke’s reached out. Ultimately, Morgenstern chose to leave his friends and family behind and move in with a host family so he could attend the prep school. Though it was a difficult decision, Morgenstern said his visit convinced him that the opportunities St. Luke’s would afford him were too good to pass up. Since he arrived at St. Luke’s, his recruiting has “blown up.”
St. Luke’s has benefitted immensely from Morgenstern’s contributions on the field. In nine games, Morgenstern scored 18 total touchdowns, gained 1,064 net yards, forced three fumbles, made five interceptions and returned two punts for touchdowns.
These numbers have turned heads in both the SEC and the Big Ten. Morgenstern, who also is drawing interest for baseball, has football offers from 13 schools, including Clemson, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt. Though Yale has not offered him a spot on the baseball team, Morgenstern said Reno would allow him to play both sports at Yale.
Like Hartmann, Morgenstern cited academics as a key factor in his ultimate decision.
“First and foremost, of course, is the education I can get at these programs,” he said. “That’s very important to me. What they offer in football is also an important piece. Location also comes into it … Cost can also be a factor in the end, so you know, all those things come together and drive my decision.”
He also acknowledged the important role that family will play in his choice. Morgenstern’s older brother Aaron played football at Colgate for two seasons, so his family is familiar with the ins-and-outs of the recruiting process.
Living so close to New Haven, Morgenstern has greater access to Yale than many other recruits. He was able to attend this year’s Yale-Princeton game and dropped by campus in March.
Morgenstern hopes to follow in the path of running back Tyler Varga ’15, whom Morgenstern called a “tank” after watching him play against Princeton.
“If I’m good enough, a further career in football, maybe in the NFL, would definitely be something to think about,” Morgenstern said. “I’m really trying to see where that goes. If that doesn’t work out, I was thinking about a career in sports medicine, that’s something I’ve looked into.”
Varga’s potential professional career will also be of interest to the top running back in Arkansas, Damarea Crockett, a recruit with pro aspirations.
Crockett, listed as 6’1” and 215 pounds, is also one of the top 25 running backs in the entire country, according to Rivals.com.
Crockett’s school, Little Rock Christian Academy, is a mid-sized private parochial school technically classified as a 4A school. However, its football program is so strong that for the past three seasons, the Warriors have played up a division. Although the school fronts a small 60-player team, Little Rock Christian was able to make the 5A playoffs last season for the first time since 2005.
But despite making it over the hump, Crockett has his sights set higher.
“I’m looking forward to having a great season,” Crockett said of his upcoming senior year. “We have a lot of returning players and I feel like we can win the state championship this year.”
As a junior at Little Rock Christian, Crockett earned 1,250 rushing yards, averaging 9.4 yards per carry. In addition, he runs an eye-popping 4.42 second 40-yard dash.
His achievements on the field have not gone unnoticed. Crockett has offers from eight schools, including Vanderbilt, Boise State and Arkansas State.
“I’m not really leaning towards anybody right now,” he said. “I’ll start narrowing down and showing my favorites as we get deeper into the summer, just to see who comes along as we go through the summer.”
While he acknowledged things could change, Crockett said he intends to attend football camps at Ole Miss, the University of Missouri and the University of Memphis.
But his top priority right now is to stay above the process. Mentioning advice provided by his current football coach, Crockett said he knows he must keep his grades up, stay out of trouble and be a good sport on and off the field.
Luckily, he has a strong support system at home.
“They encourage me a lot,” Crockett said of his parents. “They don’t put too much pressure on me about going to any school. They just leave it up to me and where I want to go.”
Clarification: April 9
This article has been revised to clarify the meaning of an “offer” Yale extends to high school athletes. Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships, and any such offers from Ivy League programs are in fact offers to support a student’s application for admission should the student meet the school’s academic guidelines.