College football has become a billion-dollar industry, and college coaches who win are rewarded with big paychecks as they work their way up the ranks. Strategy on the field to beat your rival opponent, how you develop your team in the offseason, and bringing 105 young men together to accomplish a common goal takes a talented staff.
In big games, the margin of victory is always a matter of inches, a play here or there determines the outcome, and in the end, the only thing that your fan base cares about is whether you win or lose. It is high stakes and high-reward career that can be a roller coaster ride. It is tough getting to the top and even harder staying there as every opponent is trying to knock you off.
If a college team is going to succeed, every coach in America knows the key to even having a chance is recruiting talented football players for their program. Talent is everywhere, but they are looking for the right fit, the right mindset, and one that exceeds their expectations across the board.
According to NFHSA, there are over 300,000+ high school football players in each recruiting class. Of these players, only .05% will receive opportunities to compete at the Power 5 level, and 1.5% overall in Division 1A. These numbers have gone down in the Transfer Portal era.
Two Challenges for College Coaches
As college coaches explore the country for the blue-chip 1 percenters, they face two significant challenges. First, they have to weed through a lot of inaccurate information on prospects on social media and what is given to them while being bombarded with information from alums, boosters, high school coaches, and others that provide them with names of prospects to go recruit.
Secondly, once they narrow the list down and create their board of targeted prospects, they have to be selective about who will get a scholarship offer. Again, many prospects fall into this category, but they have to dive deeper into each player’s background, which takes time.
Are they a good student? What motivates them? How competitive are they? Are they a good teammate and leaders? Do they like the grind? What are their goals? Are they coachable? How do they respond when things don’t go their way? Most importantly, do they want to be great or are they just happy getting an opportunity? These can be harder to figure out than they seem.
Usually, this takes a few years of recruiting an athlete to know for sure. They must see the positive track record over time and be confident they are pursuing the right prospect. That is why these are the million-dollar answers and difference-maker traits that separate future All-Conference and NFL players from everyone else.
Class of 2024
As we look at the 2024 recruiting class, there are a lot of blue-chip prospects making a name for themselves as we get deeper into the playoffs. One player that is separating himself from the pack is Desman Stephens from Clarkston High School in Michigan.
As a 6’3” 205-pound athlete, Stephens is one of the top 2-way players in Michigan, regardless of class. He is a key reason Clarkston is 9-2 and playing for a Division 1 Regional Championship tonight against Rochester Adams.
“The season has been going well. I believe we’re performing great with one of the hardest schedules in the state. We just have to do our jobs and finish the game! If we play our game and be relentless, I believe there is no team in the state that can play with us,” said Stephens.
Stephens has a lot of versatility on defense, and his staff has moved around throughout the season. He played corner all last season and the first part of his junior season. He is the all-time interception leader in Clarkston history and still has the rest of the season and next.
After week 3, they moved him to linebacker, and last week he mainly played corner. It all depends on the matchups and game plan from week to week.
“I am enjoying it. I’m considered a hybrid and play multiple positions. It makes me more versatile and gives me more opportunities to make plays. The adjustment to linebacker has been smooth. My dad helped me with some techniques, drills, and film study so I can make the most of the opportunity in this position,” said Stephens.
Desman’s father was a star defensive back at Flint Central and Western Michigan University. He has also coached youth football for the last 12 years and trains defensive backs in the off-season.
As a receiver on offense getting a handful of possessions per game, Stephens has been a big-play threat in the passing game and is an excellent blocker on the perimeter in the running game. He is also the punt return man on special teams.
“I have stepped into more of a leadership role on my team. Last year, I was more laid back and went with the flow. This year I’ve become a more vocal leader and continue to lead by example,” said Stephens.
Stephens has 5 Division 1 scholarship offers. He has Purdue, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo, and Miami, Ohio. He recently earned a 4-star rating. As colleges start to watch his film, the floodgates will open up this off-season with more Power 5 offers.
Tennessee, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nebraska, Northwestern, Pitt, North Carolina, Minnesota, Michigan State, and several others have also been recruiting him hard. “I’m taking in every moment. I’m receiving positive feedback and communicating with coaches weekly- having fun while enjoying the process,” said Stephens.
As we break down his game, Desman is a technically advanced cover corner. He can lock down receivers on the outside and has proven he is an elite cover guy as a linebacker in the slot and against running backs out of the backfield. He has excellent size, length, and instincts as a defensive player. His versatility to play a lot of positions is intriguing. He is a playmaker on both sides of the ball and is a gamer in crunch time. Desman has a high football IQ and is a polished player with a huge upside at the next level.
2022 Junior Highlight Video
2022 Summer Workout Video
Stephens is a Rare Talent
As we predict the near future, Power 5 colleges will see that Desman Stephens is part of that rare 1%. The film speaks for itself, and it doesn’t take long to see he is a special talent. He has a passion for the game and a 2-year track record of success. In addition, he is a son of a former D1 player and current coach and has all the intangibles that make him a perfect fit for a Power 5 program. When you can check all the boxes, opportunities will come, and this is what will happen for Stephens.