In a time of social distancing and limited travel, players and coaches have had to get creative with how they work out and learn new schemes and concepts for the upcoming season.
The same can be said for recruiting.
Multiple schools have put on virtual junior days and visit opportunities since recruits aren’t able to be on-campus physically.
— Les Miles (@CoachLesMiles) March 17, 2020
Kansas and Oregon State are a few programs who held junior days over the phone this past weekend and Minnesota hosted Desert Edge defensive back Steven Ortiz Jr. on essentially an unofficial visit early this week.
Members of the Gopher staff including head coach P.J. Fleck toured Ortiz over video chat and provided supplemental videos to properly display the Minnesota facilities.
“I loved it a lot, I’m not going to lie to you. Coach Fleck, (defensive backs coach Joe Harasymiak), I love it a lot over there,” Ortiz said. “Pretty much what the did was they FaceTimed me individually and they sent me a video of what they’re talking about.”
— Steven Ortiz Jr (@1stevenortizjr) March 24, 2020
As Coach Fleck showed him the nutritional area, a corresponding video could be played for provide additional information.
In total, Ortiz said the meeting lasted between 90 minutes and two hours, focusing on how Ortiz could help within the program and the opportunities freshmen will have to make an impact. The coaching staff was so effective and creative in their efforts, the Gophers made significant progress with the defensive back.
“They kind of surprised me on everything because I never really looked at Minnesota like that before they offered,” Ortiz said. “Now, Minnesota has it to the point that I’m taking my official June 12-14th.”
Ortiz said he hasn’t been approached by other schools about virtual visits but would be open to taking more if the opportunity arose.
“If (schools) were to offer it, I would do it because it’s pretty much like an unofficial visit but over the phone because with all (the Corona virus), I don’t get a chance to fly out there.”
On the recruiting front, Ortiz holds offers from Arizona, Syracuse, NAU, Rutgers, Penn State, William & Mary, Oregon, Oregon State, Nebraska, San Diego State, Louisiana Lafayette, Cal, Washington State, Iowa State, Duke, Houston, UNLV, Washington, Mississippi State and the Gophers.
He is currently determining his other four official visits but said Washington is likely to earn one of them. He wants to be committed by August 1st.
On the field, Ortiz is working individually on his strength and conditioning to make up for a lost early track track season. He said he’s grown an inch and gained 10 pounds of muscle since the end of the 2019 season, where he was second on the team with 83 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and an interception.
Missing the game 😤 pic.twitter.com/7HNTpd8emd
— Steven Ortiz Jr (@1stevenortizjr) March 20, 2020
Despite restrictions on meeting in person, the Desert Edge program is also learning from their new head coaches, the Carter Twins, virtually. They are utilizing Zoom, an online streaming app, to learn the playbook and prep for 2020.
“I love them a lot,” Ortiz said. “They bring so much energy to the table. You can’t beat it. Everyone on the team interacts with them (well).”
Ortiz hopes he won’t have to make adjustments much longer so he and the Scorpions can hit the ground running for 2020.