Acknowledgments came in nods and pointed fingers, as they stood on the sidelines, looking and scrutinizing everything Tom Savage and Mark Wedderburn did yesterday afternoon at what is turning into an annual spring event at Cardinal O'Hara.
Close to 50 underclassmen, mostly Cardinal O'Hara football players, practiced in front of 60 college coaches from various levels at the O'Hara Showcase.
Savage, a 6-5, 218-pound sophomore quarterback, and Wedderburn, a 6-7, 232-pound junior tight end, attracted most of the attention. The 2-hour practice session included a prepractice stretch, form running, individual skill sessions, one-on-one passing drills, and seven-on-seven passing drills.
There was also a 15-minute special-teams session, featuring punting and placekicking.
The O'Hara Showcase, held on the practice field behind the school, has grown over the last 4 years. When O'Hara coach Dan Algeo began the showcase in 2004, he had about 14 college coaches show up. It's since grown to 31 coaches in 2005, 45 last year and 60 this year, with Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins, and representatives from Penn State, Temple, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Miami and Virginia on hand to watch yesterday.
The college coaches aren't permitted to talk to players, nor is any physical testing allowed. But the showcase does give college coaches a chance to size up possible future recruits.
Savage was a little charged up over that. He enters his junior year as one of the most sought-after high school quarterbacks in the country.
"I go to a lot of camps like this, but this was awesome because everyone was working real hard because we wanted to impress these coaches," said Savage, who is attracting attention from Miami, Southern Cal, Notre Dame and Florida. "Guys were diving all over the place for balls. I felt calm, because you can't go out and be too stressed out. I had an awesome time throwing.
"This really showed how good each kid from our team really is. You're aware that the coaches are there. The first thing these coaches do is check your height to actually see if you're as tall as you're listed. Everyone looks good on tape. Every coach wants to see you in person. I know guys in some camps who are listed maybe 6-1 or 6-2 and they put down that they're 6-3 or 6-4."
Savage grew almost 2 inches since this time last year. This is just the start this spring for Savage. He will go to Miami for a 1-day camp on June 2, and to USC on June 9 for a 1-day camp hosted by Trojans head coach Pete Carroll.
"This was real nice, being only a sophomore, you want to get your name out and get ahead of the game," Savage said. "It is a matter of selling yourself. You have to go out there and perform and show your stuff, show your true talent."
Wedderburn already has received offers from 13 schools. Penn State and Rutgers are high on his list, as is Miami.
"It was a great day; a lot of fun," Algeo said. "It makes my job a lot easier. With someone like Mark, he constantly has schools coming to see him, and I'm constantly taking him out of class. This way, with an event like this, it's a 1-day thing. Any school interested in Mark, they would have been here today looking at him."
Early in February, Algeo sent out letters to 150 colleges of all levels.
Algeo sees the O'Hara Showcase possibly growing even more in the future. He said he might move the showcase to the Tri-State Complex in Aston next year, opening the session to players from other schools. Yesterday, there were a few players from Lansdale Catholic and a few from Roman Catholic.
Algeo received calls last weekend from players in Delaware and New Jersey. He said he could see as many as 200 players attending the showcase from various schools in the future.
"It's mostly for our kids, but we've developed a good reputation with this and there is a possibility we can open up to kids from other teams," Algeo said. "As long as it helps kids get into school. That's all I care about. All it takes is to have one kid have a great performance and that could set up a kid with a school." *