Jeff Davis head coach Vincent Wiggins has spent his first year on the job focusing on recruiting.
No, not the illegal kind, where high school coaches attempt to poach talent from nearby schools’ rosters. Instead, Wiggins has spent his time roaming the halls of JD, chatting up the “biggest kids I could find,” and attempting to lure them out to the practice field.
So far, so good.
Wiggins has been able to get 10 to 12 new players out, some of whom will be starters this fall.
“It was a pretty productive exercise,” Wiggins said.
It was also a necessary one.
In his first season last year, the one thing Wiggins noticed was that while JD could compete with any opponent at the skill positions, where the Vols were lacking was across the line of scrimmage. They simply didn’t have the big, athletic bodies required to stand up to the Prattvilles of the high school football world.
“It was not a problem that was going to go away,” Wiggins said. “I was standing in the hall one day, and I started noticing all these big kids. I got to talking to some of them about why they weren’t playing football and if they’d be interested. It didn’t take long to get some of them out there.”
There are two reasons for that success.
First, the JD football team wasn’t too bad last year.
The Vols made the playoffs, had a winning record for the year and in the region and won five straight games at one point. They also gave city rival G.W. Carver a scare, losing by five, and beat Sidney Lanier and Robert E. Lee by a combined 31 points.
“You could tell the difference in the school,” defensive back T.J. Pressley said. “People were excited about football again.”
That made Wiggins’ job a little easier.
And if convincing kids with a few wins got results, imagine what could happen if a few moms and dads could envision college scholarships.
Wiggins and his staff went to work over the course of the season luring college coaches to JD practices and games. He put together and sent out game films for players. And he made dozens of phone calls in an attempt to land scholarships for his players.
It worked. On National Signing Day last February, only Prattville in this area had more college signees than the 20-plus players at JD. And all of a sudden, Wiggins had the best selling tool of all — a college education.
“You can feel the enthusiasm now around the program,” Wiggins said. “We’re not where we want to be, not by any stretch. But you can tell it’s a little different today.”
Wiggins, and even the players to a certain extent, acknowledge that there’s still a long way to go before the Vols can compete with the upper echelon teams in this state. While the skill spots are good, there’s an issue with depth all over, and even with those added big bodies, there’s a question of talent along both lines of scrimmage.
Those things take time to develop. But that process has started.
“There’s a buzz there now, and we’re trying to capitalize on that to get the bodies we need,” Wiggins said. “We also have to get stronger, and we’ve got a good strength program going now. We’re building the fundamentals. It’s a process to get to where we want to be. We’re young in this and it’s going to take time, but I think we’re on our way to good things.”