Inside IMG Academy Football, the Nation’s Premier Powerhouse Program
Saturday Down South recently traveled to IMG Academy’s campus to gain a better understanding of what makes the prep school the powerhouse that it is. In just a few years, IMG has become a must-see stop for college coaches making their recruiting rounds. During the 2016-17 academic year, over 250 coaches from over 90 college football programs across the nation made a trip to Bradenton, Fla. to check out some of the nation’s top talent.
Read about their visit below.
IMG Academy has Become Ground Zero for Recruiting and College Football's Superpowers Know It
By John Crist, Saturday Down South
Championships are built on recruiting, and no high school program in America has more stars than IMG Academy. Almost overnight, it has become the most important recruiting ground in the country. If you want to win, you better win here first.
BRADENTON, Fla. — It’s just another Wednesday in the middle of spring high school football practice. The southwest Florida sun is relentless.
Finally, after positional drills and special-teams work, it’s time for full-squad 11-on-11 action. But the first shotgun snap from center is errant, which results in an aborted play and quick whistles from frustrated coaches.
In many ways, it resembles what you might see at any prep program in America. However, this is no ordinary prep program. This is IMG Academy, which has become the premier powerhouse in the nation. Most notable, the prestigious private institution has achieved said status in less than half a decade’s time.
Aside from that initial hiccup, the rest of 11-on-11 is awfully impressive to witness on both sides of the ball.
The offensive line is as enormously built as it is technically sound. The defensive signals from the secondary — “Under Strawberry Cherry!” — are quite advanced for a collection of teenagers. The pace is rapid, yet the vibe is relaxed.
In addition to a few locals, parents and media, assistant coaches from a dozen college teams are watching today’s festivities: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida State, Fordham, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. Georgia, actually, has two coaches on hand.
For most high school squads, they’re lucky if 12 institutions make an appearance over the course of an entire year.
This is far from unusual, though. These days, no recruiting trip is complete without at least one check-in at IMG. While many of these visits are planned, it’s commonplace for an assistant to show up unannounced.
Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough is arguably the best ball carrier in the SEC when healthy. Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson is maybe the conference’s most exciting signal caller. In the ACC, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois was the league’s rookie of the year in 2016. Each is an IMG graduate.
IMG is an Under Armour school. ESPN broadcasts the Under Armour All-America Game, so its national recruiting director, Tom Luginbill, is well versed on the subject.