“These mini clinics sponsored by the high schools – or a prep school in this case – that we’ve done over the years allow us to spread the word and keep promoting football in the state of North Carolina,” said Gunter Brewer, UNC’s wide receivers coach, who was one of the speakers. “This one is kind of special, because it’s a prep school that’s unique to the area – the first one in North Carolina dealing with football. We’re on the road all the time this time of year, but it’s great to see the high school coaches and clinic them and have them clinic us – and just talk ball. It’s a great thing to do any night.”
“I wanted to reach out to the local coaches a little bit more,” Jireh Prep’s head coach Scott Smith said. “And Gunter Brewer has been the recruiter for our area for the University of North Carolina. So I came to Gunter and I said, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about putting on a clinic. Would you and another one of your coaches come in and guest speak?’ He said ‘Yea, sure. We’re in town recruiting that week anyway.’ So we made it happen.”
Besides Brewer (pictured at right), Blake Anderson, UNC’s offensive coordinator, also spoke at the event, which was dubbed “Charlotte Football Mini Clinic.” The two Tar Heel assistants discussed a handful of concepts that are a part of UNC’s up-tempo one-back spread offense. They concluded the night with a Q&A session.
Jireh Prep, the lead sponsor of the event, rented out an off-campus office space for the clinic and welcomed approximately 30 local high school coaches, including Charlotte (N.C.) Independence head coach Joe Evans and Monroe (N.C.) Union Academy head coach Brad Hoover, who played nine seasons for the Carolina Panthers. Smith said he wanted a smaller group for the school’s first clinic.
“What I noticed: that there were quite a few new coaches on new staffs and it helps those guys get comfortable in their own program and to get to know their recruiting coach at the University of North Carolina,” Smith said.
Brewer says the relationship with Jireh Prep, a post graduate school specializing in helping former high school players academically and athletically, has been building in recent years.
“They’ve been on our campus several times,” Brewer said. “They’ve come to our practice. They’ve been great. They’ve been great on the kids that they’ve had in the past. Obviously they’re going to grow and grow with other [prep school] programs dropping football. Obviously, they’re a thing for the future and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen with the product that they put out.”
According to Smith, among Jireh Prep’s incoming student-athletes is Anderson’s son, Coleton, who played high school ball at Chapel Hill (N.C.) East. A wide receiver, Coleton’s recruitment was hampered by transferring into East from Petal (Miss.) prior to his senior season when his father was hired at UNC.
Other members of Jireh Prep’s incoming class include UNC targets Corey Cooper (Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook), Evan Gates (Davidson (N.C.) Day), and Jalen McDaniel (Fayetteville (N.C.) Britt) – all wide receivers. Cooper is currently committed to Syracuse. McDaniel was a three-star prospect and a one-time NC State pledge that had offers from Clemson, East Carolina, and Wake Forest.
Jireh Prep has been in operation for seven years.
“We emphasize academics first and foremost,” Smith said. “We can help a kid get those academics up, pretty quick. Compared to other prep schools, our curriculum is accelerated through the NCAA, which means we can get our kids in here for one semester, but they’re going to get a two-semester credit. So we can get that GPA up a lot higher.
“And we put emphasis on the athletics. So if we have a kid that’s signed with a [college], we want to return that student-athlete back to that university as a better athlete by the time he enrolls.
“We still have structure and guidelines mixed in between [academics and athletics] to make sure the kids know responsibility, time management – things like that. So then when they do go to college, all those traits will be instilled in those kids and they can make that transition a lot easier.”
For quite some time, UNC had a strong relationship with Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, where it would direct signees who failed to qualify out of high school. However, the school announced recently that it was discontinuing its football post graduate program citing the difficulty of filling out its schedule.
Smith, who has been the head coach of Jireh Prep for five years, says he hasn’t found it hard to fill out a schedule each season because it will play some of the same teams year in and year out.
“We’ll play an 11- to 12-game schedule,” Smith said. “There are a lot of other prep schools that we’ll play – a lot of people know Fork Union (Va.) [Military Academy] and Great Military is a JuCo that we play down in South Carolina. But for the most part, we’ll play a lot of Division III JV teams, some D-II JV teams, and some NAIA JV teams.”
Randy Long, who coached at Charlotte (N.C.) Providence High School before being dismissed in March, represented Advanced Sports Protection at the clinic.
“I’ve known Gunter Brewer for years and years and years,” Long said. “I wanted the high school coaches to have an opportunity to look at this new product, military grade protective gear made with Kevlar, and just educate the coaches on what it does. We’re all about trying to be proactive and reduce injuries, especially to the brain. Also, it’s a great time to hang out with coaches and talk a little ball.”
UNC coaches will be featured speakers at two more clinics later this month – one in Concord, N.C. and the other in Chesapeake, Va.