Gators visit P.K. Yonge wide receiver Jaren Hamilton on first day of spring practice
When it comes to a coach’s ability to evaluate high school prospects, the amount of resources available continues to increase.
The number of camps offering football evaluation and instruction have increased nationally over the previous two decades, resulting in a larger candidate recruiting pool. Athletes can also upload footage — everything from game film to individual drills – to the internet for all to see, and the amount of ways for coaches to contact prospects has also increased regularly.
Yet evaluations are never indicative of success, nor are they a determinant to failure.
As P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School opened spring practice Monday, rising senior Jaren Hamilton remains unranked by both 247Sports and Rivals as a wide receiver prospect, and his profile on the former site states he has nine scholarship offers, including offers from Florida and Tennessee.
Football recruiting rankings:USA Today Top 100: Welcome to the Year of the Wide Receiver
Eventful year for UF:Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin delves into Gators sports
UF recruiter make first stop in Gainesville to visit Jaren Hamilton
On Hudl, a website where athletes typically upload highlights, Hamilton averages just a handful of views on each of his videos.
By these metrics, he may be, to use a cliche, a prospect flying under the radar.
But when Florida’s assistant coaches hit the road Monday to meet with prospects in the 2023 class, Hamilton was one of the first to get a visit, with UF’s recruiter in the area, Jay Bateman, moving his visit up from 3:15 p.m. to just before noon.
Hamilton visited the UF program twice throughout spring camp — once on March 17 for a practice, and on April 14 for UF’s Orange and Blue game.
Though it may sound selfish, the coaches already in on Hamilton’s recruitment aren’t eager for him to gain additional exposure.
“Honestly, a lot of these schools are stoked that he’s unranked,” PK Yonge coach Kevin Doelling said. “Like, there are schools who are like, ‘Please don’t get ranked, so we can snag you’.”
It doesn’t look as if they’ll get their wish.
More Power 5 teams coming to see prospect
An assistant coach from Alabama is expected to visit with Hamilton on Tuesday, and Minnesota has shown interest recently in offering the 6-foot-2 wide receiver a scholarship.
Meanwhile, Hamilton will continue to toil away on the practice field at PK Yonge, where he’s spent the previous five years since arriving prior to seventh grade.
His athletic endeavors began on the track, and Hamilton didn’t begin to plan his future in football until prior to his sophomore year with the Blue Wave.
“I liked playing it, but I was just playing. After my freshman summer, I decided it was time to get good at this technique-wise,” he said. “I always had a lot of raw skills, being able to run, jump around, stuff like that, but I was like, ‘I need to work on the technical stuff’, so that’s when I started locking in.”
Hamilton didn't have a contingent around him to push him to train in the offseason. But he knew he had to dedicate himself to improving his craft.
“I’m good at analyzing myself, so I just literally thought to myself ‘OK, you’re good, but you’d be way better if you just work on technique stuff’. I see that all the time, just people in the NFL, even though they’re that good, they still go to the field like they’re still in high school. They go to the field and work on footwork, running routes, etcetera, so I just thought about it. I can’t just take this summer off and come back next season,” he said. “I trained with Kev (Doelling), but I mostly trained by myself outside of school. I’ll sometimes train with my brother, but I don’t have, like, a real trainer.”
By the following spring, prior to Hamilton’s junior season, coaches had begun to take notice of the work he’d put in.
“After my sophomore year, I got back into it again and found more and more love for technique,” Hamilton said. “After my spring game last year, a coach from Georgia had come to see me, and we talked, and that kickstarted everything.”
Scholarship offers start pouring in for Jaren Hamilton
Less than a month later, on June 30, 2021, Florida became the first program to offer Hamilton a scholarship offer. Nearly five months later, on Nov. 11, Tennessee followed suit. Both programs received an unofficial visit from Hamilton. He would receive five additional scholarship offers over the next three months, with Michigan and Mississippi State reaching out in February as programs turned their focus to 2023 from the 2022 signing class.
He may not have much camp experience, and he may train on his own, but Hamilton sees the benefit in receiving instruction from Division I football coaches. After PK Yonge wraps spring practice, Hamilton plans to participate in a camp at Florida, among other programs.
“I’m gonna try to get out to two of them at Florida,” he said. “I know that’s where coaches can actually see, because film is one thing. I feel like you’ve got to get out to camps, so they can see who you are and how you work, and on top of that you get to meet them, get advice.”
But first comes Hamilton’s final season with the Blue Wave, the program where he persevered through coaching changes and roster upheaval to reach the Class 3A playoffs.
FHSAA new football districts:Here's what the changes mean for Gainesville area teams
Considering his skill and potential, Hamilton could have left at any point and played for any of the area's larger high schools, where he may have a larger recruiting profile entering his final spring with the program.
After the 2021 campaign, Hamilton’s glad he didn’t depart, and the receiver on the rise has high expectations for the program where he’s developed into a Division I prospect.
“Last season was the first time it was like a real team, and you could just feel that the vibe was different. We were actually like a team, our chemistry was great. Of course we had our ups and downs like every football team, but you could tell everything had changed. We were really locked in all together. I appreciate that season,” Hamilton said. “I’ll always remember that. It’s like sentimental almost, so I was telling them boys when we come back Monday, come with the same intensity, same focus, like we’re ready to go to the playoffs.”