Dylan Rollins typically tries to avoid too much screen time.
Sure, he has watched Tiger King on Netflix, but the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Missoula Sentinel offensive lineman has tried to use the present stay-at-home orders to continue to hone his skills and work on his athletic traits.
For high-level prospects like Rollins, though, that screen time is almost unavoidable now, as college football programs across the country have had to step up their virtual games.
“Some places have been trying to do virtual junior days, like variations of that. One school tried to set up a live tour of their facilities and that got shut down. Another Pac-12 school sent me a series of videos and texts and stuff about basically what their school is, and that helped,” Rollins said. “But it’s definitely new and something that has never happened before and probably won’t ever happen again. It’s very unique.”
“Yale, a couple Ivy League schools, they sent me a virtual reality tour of their campus and stuff, which was pretty cool,” echoed Jace Klucewich, who starred at Frenchtown the past three seasons before transferring to Sentinel. “But, I mean, it’s still different than being in person.”
Rollins and Klucewich are among a handful of Montana high school juniors who were supposed to be using this spring and summer to narrow their potential college choices. Though he got a trip in to Nebraska, Rollins has had to cancel planned visits to Utah, Utah State, Arizona State and Boise State.
He had plans to watch some practices at Montana and Montana State this spring, too. Those practices have been canceled and many camps where recruits could’ve showcased their skills have been tentatively rescheduled or indefinitely postponed in response to the country’s measures to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“Their dead period (which prohibits on-campus visits, among other things) has been extended through May, and so we’re hoping that’s where it stops if we can kind of get this thing under control,” Rollins said. “But if not and it goes into the summer, they’re kind of on their toes right now just trying to figure out what they’re going to do and how they’re going to be able to see guys and see how well they play and see what kind of people they are. But, yeah, it’s kind of all up in the air right now.”
“It’s been a struggle, for sure,” said Bozeman’s Kenneth Eiden IV, who has also garnered out-of-state recruiting attention in addition to the Bobcats and Grizzlies. “It’s definitely not what I was looking forward to this spring. I was kind of excited to get to go out and see all those colleges again and go on junior days and meet all the coaches and kind of do the whole recruiting process thing. But it’s still been fun, it’s still been good talking to coaches. Just trying to make the most of what we can.”
Eiden, a 6-1, 230-pound pass rusher, has produced back-to-back monster seasons the past two falls for the Hawks, accumulating a combined 36.5 sacks and 79 tackles-for-loss, according to MaxPreps.com. He traveled the country last spring for camps and campus tours, visiting Oregon State, Washington, Utah State and North Dakota State. He was able to make it back to NDSU this spring, but that’s been his only trip.
Eiden, Klucewich and Rollins all hold multiple scholarship offers from Division I schools. Eiden and Klucewich both said they’ve been offered by Montana, Montana State and Northern Arizona. Rollins said he has offers from Montana State, Yale, Harvard, Northern Arizona and Bucknell.
“I should probably be visiting a lot more schools right now, but I didn’t because it got shut down. Luckily I got to visit a couple before, so that made up for it,” Klucewich said, noting that he’s visited Montana State and Oregon State. “But it still sucks … because you want to make your decision not during football, so I feel like it’s going to kind of limit maybe your opportunities of what colleges you’ve already seen because you don’t know what the other ones have to offer, as in like campus and what their facilities are like, if you can’t go out there.”
It makes it harder on the coaches recruiting the athletes, as well. Klucewich totaled 1,430 combined rushing and receiving yards and 25 touchdowns last season, according to Class A statistician Brian A. Reed, and has a personal-best time of 11.06 seconds in the 100-meter dash. His athleticism and speed pop on film, as do Eiden’s production and versatility and Rollins’ size and aggressiveness. They’ve shown those traits against their Montana counterparts, but all three think they could benefit from showing well against out-of-state competition at camps and showcases.
“It’s definitely slowed some of the out-of-state recruiting, just because they can’t have me out for a visit, they don’t know when they can have me for a camp, they haven’t seen me in person at a game, so the only thing they have is some (Twitter direct messages) and a highlight reel,” Eiden said.
Added Klucewich: “All the coaches I’ve talked to, they’re just hoping that they can do their camps and stuff, which I’m hoping, too, because a couple bigger schools that are on the fence, I feel like if I go to their camp it’ll help a lot. If we don’t get to go to those camps, I think that’ll hurt a lot of kids.”
While they wait to see how the summer unfolds, Eiden, Klucewich and Rollins have taken their training home, working especially on speed and agility. Rollins is utilizing dumbbells at home and doing body-weight exercises, and Eiden works out on a turf field near his house. Klucewich is getting additional non-traditional workouts chasing cows on the family ranch.
If they don’t get to showcase their improvement at camps, they still have their senior football seasons ahead this fall, assuming those go on as planned.
“We’re going to try to win a state championship,” Klucewich said, “and that’s all that matters.”