Being a parent of a highly coveted athlete isn't as easy as it used to be. The recruiting process is more layered than ever before with the increased contacts from coaches, frequent official and unofficial visits, attendance of combines & camps, and now the internet all having prominent roles in the landscape. That sometimes distracting reality must be balanced with not only the player's responsibility on his high school team, but also his scholastic and social goals. For Duncan Quarless, helping his son Andrew achieve that balance meant eliminating the presence of one of those aforementioned entities completely.
After being misquoted at times and not having his expressed wishes respected at others, Mr. Quarless decided to limit his son's contact with the internet media altogether. His displeasure regarding those negative experiences resulted in his own reluctance to speak as well. That is part of the reason why not much was known about Michigan's involvement with his son's recruitment until recently.
The combination of academics and athletics in Ann Arbor always held a place for the Maize and Blue on Andrew's list, but other programs seemingly had stronger footing early on in the process. That, however, is no longer the case. "Andrew was initially very enamored with the University of Miami, but after analyzing in greater detail what he was looking for in a program he moved away from that," Mr. Quarless said. "The University of Virginia was another institution that he expressed great interest in. Their academic reputation, like Michigan, is amongst the best in the country. But after visiting there he decided that was also a program he no longer wanted to pursue. It is accurate to say that Andrew is now down to Penn State and Michigan."
Andrew tripped to Happy Valley earlier this year for an unofficial visit, and then returned a few months later with his father for an official. Those visits only strengthened the standing of Joe Paterno's program in Quarless' eyes, but the same can be said for Michigan after his first visit to Ann Arbor last month. "It was a good visit," Mr. Quarless said recalling the December 17th trip. "I think that the Michigan football program is a first class program. I think they handled the visit very well. They were very responsive to some preliminary questions that we had and they had both academicians as well as coaches that were made available to us to answer the questions that we had. I think that Andrew was able to deal both the athletic side of his questions as well as the academic side."
Much of the football presentation was handled by offensive coordinator/tight end's coach Terry Malone. He spent a great deal of time with the Quarless' bringing them up to speed on Michigan's offense and how Andrew would be utilized in the Wolverines attack. As informative as that was, though, it was only one aspect of the understanding the Quarless' were aiming to achieve.
"There are a couple of things that he had as expressed concerns," Mr. Quarless explained. "He wants to be in an environment that he thinks will provide the best mentorship for him academically, athletically, socially, and spiritually. The only two official visits that he has actually taken, and will take, were the visits to Penn State and Michigan. In both environments he made every effort to contact people that represented athletes in action, contact coaches, contact academicians in his area of academic interest, and get some sense of what campus life is about. He's going to sit down shortly in the next week or so and decide (where he wants to go) based upon what those contacts meant to him."
The significance of the non-football criteria in Quarless' choice cannot be overestimated. One of those factors not often mentioned by recruits, but of particular importance in this case is the spiritual portion of the college experience. While talking to various players in Ann Arbor, Andrew found commonality in the value in that area.
"One of my concerns for him as a parent is that he be in an environment where there will be people that will express that type of an interest in him," Mr. Quarless explained. "I think he met Jason Avant while he was there. Jamar Adams, (who his host on his visit), also has a testimony of faith. I think his interactions with some of players on the Michigan team were positive in that sense."
According to Mr. Quarless, that trait prevents proximity to home from being an issue. "That becomes less of a concern to Andrew so long as the environment is an appropriate extension of the principles and values of his household," he said. "That he feels comfortable with the environment will be far more important."
With both official visits now out of the way. Mr. Quarless expressed how proud he was of the fact that his son has been able to handle a great deal of the responsibility of critically analyzing the programs on his own. Now the weeding out process is nearing its end, but there are still a few questions to be resolved. Those that they have for the Wolverines will likely be answered very soon.
"We do have some a few questions that we'd like to have answered as he prepares to move forward," said Mr. Quarless. "They've had the bowl game to deal with so we've sort of been waiting for them to come down from that, but afterward we will be in touch and will gain some clarity on those issues."
"I believe he is going to make his choice within the next two weeks."