Last week the Duquesne football team announced it had six early commitments in Jack Dilts, Antonio Epps, Jake Frye, Diontae Givens, Malichi Lowery and Jaheim Williams.
Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt did a phone interview with PSN’s Zachary Weiss discussing the class and how things may project moving forward.
Zachary Weiss: What are your overall thoughts on early signings?
Jerry Schmitt: “The early signing period has not been a time where we sign a lot of players in the past. With the situation as it is with the challenges of recruiting and not being able to visit, we felt we’re happy with the six guys that we’ve currently signed in this period. For us, it was certainly a success. They are a good group of young men that have been high successful playing at their level of high school. The best part of their game is in the future, we think they all can develop and reach another level athletically and help us on the field. We know they’re going to do a good job in the classroom.”
ZW: Why historically do you feel many players who commit to you do not sign early?
JS: “It’s a situation where when you recruit guys across the board and you’re recruiting high-level players, they’re looking at a lot of different schools. Sometimes they are looking at bigger schools than us, bigger programs at higher levels. As we go about the recruiting process, sometimes that doesn’t play out in the first signing period or it does play out and we lose some of those guys to bigger programs. It’s a product of how the flow of recruiting has gone the last couple of years. We’d love to have some talented young men join us in this first period, but it just hasn’t worked out that way for us the last couple of years.”
ZW: How difficult has it been not having face-to-face conversations?
JS: “First I tell every single one of them and their parents on Zoom that it is so unfortunate for them in this time not being able to visit campus or get to sit down with us personally. I can’t even imagine how much of a challenge it is for them to get to know the university, coaching staff and players. It’s very difficult for them and in that respect it is difficult for us. We have a great campus here and a park-like setting and are in the City of Champions and we have good academics to offer in many majors. It also is the relationships we develop as a coaching staff and our players. For those young men to get to view that in person is a challenge for us because it is tough to simulate that on Zoom calls.”
ZW: Is getting a majority of defensive players to commit early addressing what might or might not come back or is it just a position?
JS: “We have a very strong upper class that we expect to be here in the spring and potentially the fall. It is partially planning for the future although every one of these men will have an opportunity to contribute when they get here next fall. It is more planning for the future when those older guys graduate and move on.”
ZW: With the quick turnaround from spring to fall, how do you try to prepare for what’s ahead?
JS: “If you have the answers, I’m open to listening. I’ve discussed with many coaches what the approach should and could be. I’ve spoken to the athletic training staff, our strength and conditioning staff to do the best in planning for the future. In these times you really almost can only plan for day-by-day. We have some ideas of how we’re going to help our younger guys get through it.”
ZW: Are PA and Ohio and Florida the main pipelines for places you look in the recruiting process?
JS: “Over the years we’ve created good connections, not only in this region, with PA, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and New York but we’ve also developed some connections in Florida and had a number of really talented players from there play for us here, graduate and become really successful. It’s still a recruiting area that we focus on.”
ZW: There are not many firsts you have encountered as a coach
JS: “The number one thing has been taking care of our student-athletes and that’s been what’s driven us when we reported in July, planning to play the season. Whether it is their health, mental well-being, approach to school where a lot of it was online and getting through that successfully. If we keep our heads down on that, things will move along for us.”
ZW: With the second semester beginning Jan. 20 where does that leave you as far as a timetable for the spring season?
JS: “We’re throwing around ideas with our strength-and-conditioning staff, our residential staff, our team doctors, our administrators at what the best-case scenario would be for our guys. They’ll be back here for classes but if we could get a bit of a head start on it, that would be great.”