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Mercer football adjusts to virtual recruiting

The NCAA shut down in-person recruiting through May, so football programs around the country have had to call audibles.

MACON, Ga. — Drew Cronic was introduced as Mercer's new head football coach in December and despite the short turnaround, signed his first class of recruits to the help the Bears in February.

He was ready to hit the ground running this spring before COVID-19 forced the NCAA to shut things down.

Cronic said everything was going according to plan in his first few months leading the black and orange.

"We got in a lot of our off-season, our winter workouts and things like that. We got three days of practice in. So I'm thankful that we were able to do that," Cronic said.

Then the coronavirus began impacting the United States, and the NCAA shut down in-person recruiting in March until at least the end of May.

That forced Cronic and other coaches around the country to get creative.

"Everybody's going through it, and we have to manage those challenges better than anybody else," Cronic said.

Normally, Cronic and his staff would spend the spring visiting high schools and building relationships with coaches and recruits. Now Cronic says the NCAA has allowed a virtual blitz of technology.

"They're allowing us to do some unlimited phone calls and things now considering we weren't able to get out and [recruits are] not able to come visit our campus," Cronic said.

Many recruits are seeing Mercer's campus for the first time via Zoom calls. 

They check out recruiting points like the weight room and the field through a laptop screen, but Cronic says all the bells and whistles in the world can't replace potential relationships.

"We've got great people here and that's what they want to sell so I think that's what's really critical is getting them in front of the folks that they're going to be dealing with and are going to be helping mentor them and grow them and put them in good situations," he said.

Recruits meet Mercer faculty and staff like strength and conditioning coach Jay Ward, the academic support staff and a professor in their field.

So yes, recruits will get a peak at what they may look like in black and orange, but they'll also see what it means to be a Bear.

This week was the first week that Cronic and his staff began doing the full fledged virtual tours.

Mercer is still selling season tickets for their 2020 season. They can be purchased at mercerbears.com.


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