Zone Read: College Camping

Arizona Sports News online

While many of us, myself included, are enjoying this Suns’ ride down the Western Conference playoff trail, there are plenty of storylines to follow in Arizona high school football as the calendar pushes towards mid-June.

Hope everyone’s week is going well.

Here’s my latest “Zone Read.”

Gage-ing His Talents

As Arizona has evolved into a talented, respected, and nationally recruited prep football state, the schedules and demands for players looking to play beyond high school have escalated.

A jam-packed season of time commitments morph into late-winter weight training, personal training, spring ball and now – college camps.

As we highlighted last week in this neat little column, colleges from around the nation are out in full force with many looking to offer and add 2022 players and beyond.

One of those ’22 players is seasoned Highland quarterback Gage Dayley who’s June calendar resembles a colorful bingo card.

Dayley, a three-star recruit who threw for over 2100 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2020 – leading the Hawks to the 6A State Championship Game -is enjoying the jet-setting process and opportunity to showcase his skills across the country.

“It’s awesome being able to go to all these camps and compete with kids from different states,” Dayley explained to the ‘Zone Read.” “Approaching these camps I just try to be one of the best there and catch a coach’s eye for any opportunity.”

The busy slate, which included a “home appearance” at nearby Higley High for NAU’s east Valley camp Wednesday night, can be a lot to handle but Dayley’s preparation plan is one all us would be advised to follow.

“Just trying my best to get a good night’s rest the night before and not waring myself out through all of these,” he said.

Something tells me Dayley is sleeping quite well these days.

Keep spinnin’ it, Gage. 

“NAU, Nice to Meet You”

Northern Arizona head coach Chris Ball and his staff are certainly putting their money where their mouth is.

After taking over for Jerome Souers in December of 2018, Ball has made it a point to recruit the state harder than any college in Arizona and no one will argue with the results.

This week the Lumberjacks hosting camps all over the Valley and will have one in Tucson soon, as well.

“That was his number one goal,” offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Aaron Pflugrad said of Ball’s message during a recent phone interview with the “Zone Read.” “We’re going to build a wall around the state of Arizona. We’re going to build an Arizona all-star team in Flagstaff. We feel, in our league in the Big Sky Conference, if we get the best guys in the Valley we’re going to compete for national championships.”

Pflugrad said NAU’s 2021 class ranked second nationally at the FCS level behind Jackson State – coached by Deion Sanders. The foundation of that class were Arizona players who opted for college life in Flagstaff.

The Jacks can also boast to recruits about their new $50 million facility which is set to open in January and a deep, seasoned roster which many believe will compete for a Big Sky Conference title this fall.

“We just want to build that championship culture for guys that want to stay in-state and be a part of,” Pflugrad explained.

The grind, effort and sweat equity “Pflu” and the NAU staff have put in to blanket Arizona and offer prospects has been well-received not just in the Valley, but statewide.

“I think everyone is really fired up,” he said. “What we wanted to do with these camps is [host] five of them, not one or two. We want to leave no stone unturned in the state of Arizona. Every single kid in the state we want to evaluate. At our level, we have 63 full rides (scholarships)…we can’t take everybody but we’re going to make sure we do our due diligence and evaluate every single kid in the state.”

“There’s just so much talent from the state of Arizona and from the Valley, we’re fired up for this class [2022] and the two younger classes, as well.”

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.