Clemson, UNC and others are interested. Why hasn't this five-star recruit gotten offers?

·6 min read
Charlotte Latin's Ben Anderson (54) ranks as one of the top 2022 long snapper prospects in the country, per one recruiting service. But in an evolving college football landscape, opportunities at Power Five programs haven't been as available as the 17-year-old expected.
Charlotte Latin's Ben Anderson (54) ranks as one of the top 2022 long snapper prospects in the country, per one recruiting service. But in an evolving college football landscape, opportunities at Power Five programs haven't been as available as the 17-year-old expected.

He’s a five-star prospect per one recruiting service.

He’s rubbed elbows with Power Five programs including Clemson, UNC and Tennessee.

And his snap-to-catch speed sits squarely within NFL range.

So why does Ben Anderson, a graduating senior long snapper at Charlotte Latin School, enter this month’s early signing period with plenty of interest but few firm scholarship offers to show for it?

It has less to do with the 2022 recruit and more with the college football world around him.

“I’m always thinking to myself: ‘Control what I can control,’ ” Anderson said. “I can work out, I can do my schoolwork, I can be a better person and a better man and I can talk to schools, reach out to new ones.”

At the same time, the 17-year-old admitted, “this extra year sucks for our class. It kind of skips us.”

Anderson’s referring to the blanket year of eligibility that the NCAA extended to all athletes for the 2020-21 season amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic, a sensible waiver that has given many a fourth-year senior a more satisfying fifth-year sendoff but has caused some serious ripple effects, too.

No stronger have those been felt than in the recruiting class of 2022, where college football hopefuls – especially those fringe high school prospects and players at specialist positions – are facing new logistical hurdles, including the impact of the transfer portal and a scholarship crunch from all angles.

“It’s been a nightmare for these kids, man,” Charlotte Latin defensive coordinator Drew Dayton said. “And not just for the kids – for the college coaches, too. I feel bad for the whole industry.”

Busy summer

A former Wake Forest football letterman who spearheaded special teams coaching and recruiting at Duke and Charlotte during his eight seasons as a Division I assistant, Dayton knows a good long snapper when he sees one. Anderson, he said, is “as good as I’ve ever seen in terms of accuracy and timing.”

But even that’s a tough sell in this recruiting cycle.

Anderson, a Charlotte native who first took a stab at long snapping as a sophomore looking for more reps with his varsity football team, has long felt confident in his collegiate chances at the position.

Since that impromptu front-yard session with his father, Anderson has shot up to 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds; worked with top trainers such as Chris Rubio and Adam Tanalski; and manned Charlotte Latin’s long snapper position for three seasons while improving his snap-to-catch speed – the time it takes a ball to travel from his hands into the punter’s hands – from 0.95 seconds into the 0.65 to 0.66 range.

“J.J. Jansen has also really helped me out,” he said of the veteran Carolina Panthers snapper.

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Those accolades, plus the No. 5 spot on Rubio’s national rankings for 2022 long snapper recruits, helped “Big Ben” score his first scholarship offer from Nevada of the Mountain West Conference in April.

And with the NCAA’s Division I recruiting dead period ending in June and a long-awaited schedule of in-person camps and visits to Power Five schools ahead of him, Anderson hoped for more of the same.

He and his parents embarked on an extensive (and certainly not cheap) summer of travel, driving as far as Tennessee and flying as far as Florida State and Illinois for unofficial visits and evaluations with special teams coordinators, most of whom had already shown some level of recruiting interest in Anderson.

“One week, we went to four different schools,” he said.

Getting an audience with top college coaches after months of virtual contact was refreshing, Anderson said, but the ultimate results of the visits struck a similar tone. Coaches were honest: with the transfer portal and potential of graduating players returning after 2021, scholarship spots were up in the air.

“It was hard then because schools didn’t know roster numbers, and some schools still don’t,” Anderson said. “Some talked scholarships, and some talked preferred walk-on spots where you’d compete.”

Anderson’s efforts did net a second scholarship offer from Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt Conference in June. But he kicked off his senior year at Charlotte Latin still in “wait and see” modes with programs such as Virginia Tech, Clemson, Illinois, UNC, Duke, Charlotte, Marshall, Tennessee and Florida State.

'What I can control'

The Hawks went 8-3 in NCISAA play, and Anderson had a “terrific” season, Dayton said: not just as the veteran leader of a special teams unit featuring a relatively inexperienced kicker and punter, but as a full-time offensive lineman and defensive lineman who contributed in all three phases of the game.

“When I think about guys I’ve coached for 16 years now, I’ve seen more growth from him last year to this year than almost any other player,” Dayton said. “The talent is there, and it’s always been there.”

As a long snapper, Anderson figured out to the perfect way to deliver the ball to his Charlotte Latin teammates on punts and field goals: "Carson Latta, our punter, likes it in the ribs or the belly button on punts, and on holds he likes to catch it at the top of his knee. And Dave Mosrie, our kicker, likes to kick it with the laces out."
As a long snapper, Anderson figured out to the perfect way to deliver the ball to his Charlotte Latin teammates on punts and field goals: "Carson Latta, our punter, likes it in the ribs or the belly button on punts, and on holds he likes to catch it at the top of his knee. And Dave Mosrie, our kicker, likes to kick it with the laces out."

He raves about the team captain while lamenting how “COVID threw a wrench into the whole recruiting cycle for kids like Ben.” If a team’s fourth-year long snapper can now return in 2022, why seriously pursue a high schooler? Dayton understands the tangible pressures placed on college coaches, too.

“Those guys that feel the need to win now, they’re more willing to take on a graduate transfer who will long snap one or two years than they are taking a chance on that kid like Ben, who will be there four or five years,” Dayton said, “because they don’t even know if they’re going to be there four or five years.”

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As the December early signing period and February 2022 regular period loom, Anderson describes his situation as such: grateful for his Nevada and Georgia State offers but still “open to all schools, really.”

The preferred walk-on route has served plenty of long snappers well (including 14-year pro Jansen, who did it at Notre Dame), and Anderson said he’s more than willing to take that PWO spot, wait a year and then compete with one or two other long snappers for a team’s sole annual scholarship at the position.

That could be in play at Illinois or UNC or Tennessee. Or maybe an unexpected departure prompts a dark-horse school to offer him an 11th hour scholarship spot. But it all comes down to 2022 roster numbers, which programs may not have a grasp on until after bowls or deeper into their offseasons.

So, yes, Anderson will fire off the occasional message in the Snapchat group he uses alongside some 10 other 2022 long snapper recruits across the country – most in the same predicament – to keep his sanity and pass the time. But, above all else, the Charlotte Latin senior will keep “controlling what I can control,” he said, with his college football snapping dreams somewhat altered but still within his reach.

Chapel Fowler is a recruiting reporter for The Fayetteville Observer and the USA TODAY Network. Reach him by email at cfowler@gannett.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Charlotte Latin long snapper recruit Ben Anderson plays waiting game

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