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January 5, 2012

Top recruits say academics are a top concern

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SAN ANTONIO - The landscape of college football recruiting could be changing, quickly.

According the players at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the student-athlete may be making a triumphant return.

Tommy Schutt, a four-star defensive tackle from Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West, says that with the arms race to improve facilities and spruce up uniforms across college football leveling off, the focus on academics seems to be on the rise.

"Most everywhere now has good facilities," he said. "I like to talk about academics."

Schutt has had an interesting recruitment path committing to Notre Dame, Penn State, and Ohio State over an eight-month period. All three have good academics as well as state-of-the-art facilities.

He is not alone in his thinking.

"Of course I want to go to a place with good equipment," Jonathan Bullard said. "But there isn't enough of a difference from one place to another anymore to make that big of a difference."

Bullard, a five-star defensive end from Shelby (N.C.) Crest, is scheduled to make his college declaration during the broadcast of Saturday's game. He said prospects need to do their homework before committing - both figuratively and literally.

"The support staff is big," he said. "You have to look into everything and don't just take someone's word for it."

Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy offensive lineman Graham Shuler said academics played a big part of his commitment.

He is headed to Stanford - a school with a recent upgrade in its stadium and a strong tradition of academics.

"That is a great education to get," he said. "If I redshirt and they pay for my school for five years that means I can work on an advanced degree."

Such a perspective was refreshing to hear in this age entitlement and NFL dreams.

Florida State commit Justin Shanks said that Seminole position coach Odell Haggins won him over with a successful history of academics.

"(Coach Haggins) told me that he had been at the school for 19 years and took academics seriously," Shanks said. "He told me that he had graduated 89 percent of the players he had. That was really big for me."

The most recent NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) numbers released reflect the interest in academics as the GSR across the country rose above 80 percent cumulatively.

Denver (Colo.) Mullen quarterback Cyler Miles was paying attention to that when he committed to Washington.

"Academics are too important," he said. "When I was looking for a school it was one of my main focuses. The academic support system on an individual basis was key."

Smart kid.



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