Local recruits are the bomb

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 16, 2008 Ed Cartoon

This past December, Western’s football team made headlines by announcing three local recruits who had committed early to the Mustangs’ program.

Local high school sensations David Lee, Mike Van Praet and Donnie Marshall made their intentions public just one month after the Purple and Silver brought home the illustrious program’s 27th Yates Cup provincial title.

Western rebounded from an 0-4 start to the 2007 season to defeat the Guelph Gryphons on the road and capture the Yates. Program success and program prestige is a deciding factor in where a recruit decides to play; after a tremendous turnaround, head coach Greg Marshall proved Western football is headed in the right direction.

Securing the commitment of local products " Van Praet and Donnie Marshall won the provincial title at Mother Teresa High School and Lee won London MVP honours at A.B. Lucas Secondary " is important for attracting other local studs to Western.

Focusing on local talent is ideal for numerous reasons. While youth and high school football in southern Ontario pales in comparison to the US, by Ontario standards London has a deep pool of talent. London minor football produces a lot of standouts that play for programs in Ontario University Athletics and throughout Canada.

Western football can save a lot of time and money by focusing on scouting players in its own backyard. Also, having strong municipal representation on your team means it will generate interest in the community. The football team does better than most other varsity sports at Western in terms of filling the stands; having plenty of local talent on the field will further improve attendance.

The Mustangs will do well recruiting both in and out of the city because of Greg Marshall’s track record. Marshall is a proven winner at both the OUA level and the CFL. Many skilled youngsters dream of playing professional football and Marshall knows what it takes to succeed at the Canadian pro level.

While a coach does not want to handcuff the program and frustrate recruits by promising playing time to too many players, having too much depth in a sport like football is a good problem to have. Injuries are such a common element in the game that having talented backups is a tremendous asset " especially with the reality of high turnover in university athletics.

This year’s recruiting class is the first step for Marshall in building his program after last season’s retirement of longtime head coach Larry Haylor. By locking down local recruits with a strong reputation so early, it shows that players buy into Marshall building an elite OUA program in London.

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