College football: Pandemic recruits persevering from classes of 2020, ‘21

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 and ‘21 a tough time to be a college football recruit.

Recruiting restrictions made getting noticed and developing relationships difficult, but more than a dozen players from the area’s ‘21 class are set to play at the NCAA FBS level this fall.

That includes some who took a circuitous route, including walking on or junior college.

After covering the players using extra seasons thanks to the pandemic, here is a closer look at the group who will be redshirt juniors, seniors or redshirt seniors this fall:

Class of 2020

Larry Stephens, receiver, Toledo

Springfield High School grad has played in 28 games for the Rockets after redshirting in 2020. The business major started 10 games last season and finished with 22 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns.

Jaiden Cameron, defensive end, Northwestern

Injuries have disrupted the Northmont grad’s career so far, but he made his college debut last season for the Wildcats.

Gavin Gerhardt, offensive lineman, Cincinnati

Xenia native is already a two-year starter at center for the Bearcats. He was a captain last season and is back for one more year in red and black after helping UC rank fifth in the nation rushing last season.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Class of 2021

Cam Fancher, quarterback, Florida Atlantic

After redshirting in 2021, the 6-foot-1, 201-pounder from Wayne High School went 6-1 as a starter at Marshall in 2022 and led the team to wins in their last five games. Last season, the left-hander completed 202 of 309 passes with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions but entered the transfer portal in December. He chose to play for former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman at FAU, where battled Tyriq Starks for the starting job this spring.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Ben Van Noord, receiver, Purdue

Springfield High School grad who also played at Northwestern High made the Boilermakers as a walk-on three years ago and has appeared in five games. He is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Rod Green, offensive lineman, Purdue

An All-Southwest District defensive lineman at Springfield, Green began his carer at Grambling then spent a season at Tennessee State, where he played in four games in 2022.

Last fall, he moved to offensive line at Coffeyville Community College and became a sought-after recruit in the transfer portal. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Green chose the Boilermakers from a long list of offers that also included Virginia Tech, Arizona State, BYU and Houston in December.

Matthew Dapore, kicker, Air Force

Springboro grad did not see action his first two seasons with the Falcons, but he was their primary kicker last season. Dapore made 15 of 19 field goals last season, including a 50-yarder. He was 8 of 9 from beyond 40 yards and also averaged 64 yards on three kickoffs, which were all touchbacks.

Credit: David Zalubowski

Credit: David Zalubowski

Aidan Plate, defensive back, Air Force

Alter High grad made his collegiate debut last season when he appeared in two games for the Falcons.

Nathan Hawks, kicker, Cincinnati

A Greenon grad who began his college career at Wittenberg, Hawks became the Bearcats’ kickoff specialist in the second half of last season. He finished with 1,855 yards on 30 kickoffs with 12 touchbacks and a 61.8 average.

Rod Moore, defensive back, Michigan

A two-time All-Big Ten honoree, the Northmont grad is one of a few starters to return to Michigan following the 2023 national championship season, but he figures to miss all or part of the 2024 season after suffering an apparent knee injury that required surgery this spring.

Moore broke into the starting lineup as a freshman and has played 37 games with 27 starts for the Wolverines with 38 tackles and two interceptions, including the game-clincher against Ohio State last November.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Malik Verdon, defensive back, Iowa State

The Hamilton High grad has honorable mention All-Big 12 last season despite missing the Cyclones’ last three games with injury. He was fourth on the team with 47 tackles, picked off two passes and had four pass breakups.

Kendel Dolby, defensive back, Oklahoma

A Springfield grad who began his career at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Dolby transferred to Oklahoma last year and had an immediate impact for the Sooners. He was honorable mention All-Big 12 and finished with 49 tackles, including five for loss, and two interceptions as the team’s “Cheetah” nickel back.

Kaden Rogers, offensive line, Ohio University

Ross High graduate played in five games for the Bobcats last season.

Andre Proffitt, defensive lineman, Akron

Lakota West grad played in four games for the Zips last season.

Brian Shane, tight end, Miami University

Alter graduate played in three games last season for the RedHawks.

Dalton Norris, defensive lineman, Miami University

A three-time captain at Talawanda High School, Norris has been a member of his hometown college football team since 2021. He played in four games last season.

Jackson Kuwatch, linebacker, Miami University

A first-team all-state linebacker at Lakota West, Kuwatch walked on at Ohio State in 2021. He transferred to Miami last year and saw action in 10 games, logging five tackles, including one for loss.

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