PIAA helps market Hawaii's recruits

February, 3, 2009
02/03/09
6:09
PM ET

Wednesday's going to be a special day for many recruits and their families. If you tune in to any of ESPN's TV coverage of signing day, you might see Manti Te'o, the nation's top-rated linebacker, announce his college choice.

Te'o is a gifted prospect with strong grades and great athleticism. A product of Punahou High in Honolulu, Te'o is a big reason why so many recruiters have flocked to Hawaii in the past year.

Te'o, though, will be just one of 29 FBS football prospects who will officially choose their future school. It's been a great year for the state and no one might be happier Wednesday than Doris Sullivan.

She runs the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance, a non-profit business that she created in 2003 to help market aspiring athletes from the Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa.

All 29 FBS prospects will gather at 6 a.m. local time at Honolulu's Blaisdell Center on Wednesday to sign their papers at 7 a.m. simultaneously and have them faxed to their colleges. Most of the players live on Honolulu, but seven came in from neighboring islands Tuesday night. "It's really nice that round-trip airfare is just $28," says Sullivan, whose organization assists in getting them academically prepared for life after high school.

Sullivan, who decided to get involved with high-school students after being frustrated watching her son go through the recruiting process, has been helping athletes going back to her days as a student at Maryland, where she tutored Terps athletes ranging from future NBA star Buck Williams to QB Boomer Esiason.

I had met Sullivan and other members of the PIAA at the American Football Coaches Association convention a few weeks back in Nashville, Tenn. They had a booth set up with trays and trays of DVDs of promising players from the Islands for college coaches to come by and take. The PIAA is not a recruiting service that charges these kids hundreds of dollars to market them. Instead, Sullivan's group is supported by the efforts of New Balance and the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The PIAA not only puts on combines and clinics, but it also provides free SAT tutoring five times a year for those interested. College coaches all over the country have gotten to know Sullivan because the PIAA has proven to be an ideal alternative to the hefty expenses it would require to recruit in Hawaii. And for many local players who come from parts of Hawaii that seldom get scouted, the PIAA has been a godsend.

"I was so surprised when I got offered," says Mika Nickel, a defensive end was unearthed by Utah State thanks to the PIAA. "They helped me so much getting my name out there."

Sullivan says her phone is constantly ringing from college coaches looking for players who might fill a need, whether that means getting information about a 20-yard dash a player ran at their June combine, getting a look at his highlight tape or having a player send in his transcripts to a school. Many times she'll receive e-mails from smaller school programs asking for an interior lineman and she can provide some names. Sullivan points out that she doesn't profess to be a coach, so don't ask her if a player is "coachable?"

"You've gotta ask his coach for that since I've never coached him," she says. "This has to be a group effort, but the whole goal is to make things easier to recruit here."

Random Stuff

• Look for Arizona State to nab one of the nation's top prospects (LB Vontaze Burfict) from USC on signing day. The Sun Devils already have a quartet of impressive newcomers on campus who sources say have wowed their new teammates. One of them, 6-foot-8 former Gonzaga basketball recruit Brock Osweiler, a QB, talks about his adjustment to college life with Jeff Metcalfe.

"When I first looked at it [playbook], I was like, 'Whoa, that's a lot to learn,' " Osweiler said. "Then I started breaking it down section by section. Within a week, I had a pretty solid grasp on concepts and things we do at ASU. It's something I should have under my belt in a few weeks. That was the big reason to come down early - so by the time spring ball rolls around, I'm familiarized and can push for playing time."

Two other newcomers worth keeping an eye on are CB LeQuan Lewis, who might be the fastest guy in the ASU program and fellow JC transfer Dean Deleone, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound DE, who picked the Sun Devils over Oregon and has been clocked in the mid-4.5s.

• Greg Schiano has cracked almost every barrier in elevating the train wreck that was Rutgers football, but he hasn't landed some prime DT beef. (Technically, Nate Robinson was supposed to be that guy a few years ago, but that didn't work out so well.) But with the news that 285-pound Isaac Holmes has picked RU over Maryland and Pitt, the Scarlet Knights appear to be locking up their best crop of D-linemen ever.

Holmes, the nation's No. 27 DT, fits well with 330-pound Floridian Antwan Lowery, the No. 9 prospect. Also keep an eye on the Merrell brothers, Jamal and Jamil. Both players look like they could grow into dangerous edge rushers.

• Oversigning is always a hot topic on the web and Robbi Pickeral asks Butch Davis how he pitches recruits when he may not know exactly how much room he has to work with on his roster:

Q: When you don't know the exact number of scholarships that will be available, how do you say to a recruit, "Come to my school, I have a scholarship for you?"

A: Thirty-five years of experience, of knowing what we'll have. You know that there are kids who will graduate, that they've had a wonderful career; they spent four years, and they know that life after football is that season -- 'I'm not going to the NFL, I'm going to use my Carolina education, I'm going to start networking with alumni, I'm going get a degree, I'm going to start my career, I'm going to get married, whatever it is.' And you can speculate, you know what the hard number is, but then you can say there's probably going to be three, four or five of those kinds of guys every single year.

My three cents: Coaches don't love talking about this subject. They usually have a pretty good idea who is heading where and who isn't or might be getting a nudge. Also, it's worth remembering that the number of commits you might see on your favorite team's fan site is hardly official. What often happens, especially in the last day or two before signing day, a coach will contact a player who might be on the fence and say he needs an answer because the school can't hold space for everyone. Grades are a big factor in this delicate situation in many cases.

• This could be stunning news out of South Carolina: According to JC Shurburtt, Under Armour All-American offensive lineman Quinton Washington will sign with Michigan on Wednesday, not South Carolina, as so many expected.

"Michigan sold Washington and his family on the number of linemen they put in the NFL and also on various programs that the university offers. The in-state Gamecocks were considered the strong favorites throughout but sources indicate that an in-home visit with Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez sold Washington on playing football in the Big Ten."

From what I've been hearing, there will be a bunch of surprises on signing day, especially in SEC country. Even more than usual.

• Ron Zook and co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch, a Jacksonville native, are again snagging players in Florida, writes Hays Carlyon:

"Over the past two years, he has signed five area players. Zook's at it again this year with commitments from St. Augustine defensive end Darryl Lee and Wolfson linebacker Eric Watts. Both are expected to sign with Illinois on Wednesday's national signing day."

The Illini actually have five commitments from Florida prospects with DT Akeem Spence, the nation's No. 34 DT, being the highest rated.

• Is Texas Tech commit Myles Wade, a 310-pound junior college DT, wavering on his choice and considering Nebraska? Reportedly that is the word out there for Wade, a guy who signed with Oregon out of high school.

• Who are the best recruiters in the Big Ten? Adam Rittenberg offers up his list:

"Former Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley owned the title before he left to become New Mexico's head coach, and several Big Ten assistants could lay claim to the designation. Most of Michigan's staff is new to the league, so it's hard to judge their recruiting clout just yet. I settled on Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who has landed several top prospects from the Maryland/Washington, D.C., area and elsewhere."

• Jack Tyler, a productive linebacker, is going to walk on at Virginia Tech, Doug Doughty reports: "Tyler has been compared to another Oakton product, Cody Grimm, who became a valuable player for the Hokies after starting his college career as a walk-on. Tyler, listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, was named first-team all-metro by The Washington Post after recording 138 tackles as a senior. He also had six interceptions.

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