Valdosta Daily Times

December 5, 2012

Blazers winning with home-grown talent

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — High school football recruiting has became a phenomenon around the country.

With coaches from schools battling to sign the best players in the country, the grind of recruiting can put a coach through rigorous hours of driving and sitting in various living rooms luring players to attend their school.

Luckily for the coaches at Valdosta State, they don’t have to go very far to find their talent.  

“We start in the state of Georgia,” Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. “That is where our bread and butter is. There is great football, there are great football coaches in the state of Georgia and when we get state of Georgia kids in here, they have been well-coached, they understand the game and they understand what work it takes to be very good.”

Twenty-three of the 25 starters on the Blazer football team this season are from the state of Georgia. The only two that are not from the state are quarterback Cayden Cochran (Oklahoma) and offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder (Kansas).

“I always knew they played good football down here,” Schraeder said. “I knew when I thought about coming down here, I knew it was good football, and that is part of the reason why I came here. I knew it was good down South.”

From offense to defense to special teams, high schools from throughout the state of Georgia are represented on the Valdosta State football team.

With the high-number of players on the Blazer roster from the state of Georgia, VSU coaches have been able to use that as a tool when recruiting other players.

“It says the state of Georgia has the best football,” senior offensive lineman Mesh Wokomaty said. “That helped my recruiting when I first came here. At first, I really didn’t know too much about Valdosta State, but then I was watching before a basketball game and saw they had won the national championship and then they called me and said they wanted me. They had a nice campus and they recruit local guys, so I was familiar with most of the guys. So it definitely helps.”

Speaking of local guys, the Blazers have several local area players on the roster. Of the players on the gameday roster that are from Georgia, 11 are from either Region 1-AA or Region 1-6A schools, including Lowndes, Valdosta, Colquitt County, Fitzgerald, Cook and Brooks County.

“With us having so many good football players, especially in the South Georgia area, we feel like if we can keep guys close to home and in the state, they are going to play hard for a state school,” Dean said.

But even when Dean and his coaching staff recruit players from within the state, sometimes those players opt to play football somewhere else. Luckily for the Blazers, those players usually find their way back home and onto the Valdosta State roster.

One of those players that started his career somewhere else and returned home is receiver Quin Roberson, who was recruited heavily by Dean and the Blazers out of Colquitt County. But following his senior season with the Packers, the former Region 1-AAAAA Player of the Year chose to attend Division-I Samford. After a season, Roberson came back home to South Georgia to play for the Blazers.

“The winning tradition, as far as it being close to home, I always knew about Valdosta State,” Roberson said. “So I always knew where I needed to go.”

Saturday, the Blazers’ Georgia talent will be put to the test when Valdosta State (10-2) visits the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (13-0) in the NCAA Division II national semifinals. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Eastern and the game will be broadcast live on