At Issue: How have 7-on-7 tournaments changed high school football in Georgia?

Credit: Jason Getz/

Credit: Jason Getz/

Preparation for the high school football season in Georgia has been influenced by many factors during the years – spring practices, offseason workouts and training camps.

But nothing has had more of an impact than the rise of numerous statewide 7-on-7 tournaments that are held during the summer months. They have dominated the high school calendars.

The impacts?

Rusty Mansell, a recruiting expert, thinks the 7-on-7 events have helped change Georgia from a running state to a passing state. Spoon Risper, head coach at Westside-Macon, thinks the 7-on-7s are some of the best things that have happened for the quarterback position. And I.J. Rosenberg, president of Score Atlanta, who plays host to several of the top high school football events, thinks 7-on-7s have changed the way coaches think about holding practice sessions.

But that might not be the largest impact? There also are scouting opportunities for college recruiters and scholarship offers for players.

Rusty Mansell, 247Sports: “The biggest picture on this for years? The state was known for the Wing-T running offense, and that’s why we weren’t producing a ton of quarterbacks and wideouts. We had great running backs, defensive backs, linebackers, defensive linemen. But the 7-on-7, in the last 10 years, has exploded in Georgia, and (as a result) you see the products like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Jake Fromm, Davis Mills. All these are NFL guys now. If 7-on-7s hadn’t gotten hot in Georgia, I don’t know if we have all of these NFL quarterback prospects starting all over the country. I mean, Stetson Bennett wouldn’t have been a great Wing-T quarterback, right? For recruiting, it’s invaluable. ... There are two different types of tournaments, the kind of travel game in the spring with all-star teams. But with the team-oriented 7-on-7s, you put that Walton, Kell, Buford helmet on and you’re playing with your team. That’s where those kids are getting evaluated on campus at Georgia Tech, Georgia, Auburn. … Georgia had 35 teams for four days, and the Corky Kell 7-on-7 brought 95 teams to Georgia Tech. … I was told at Georgia Tech that this was the best thing we had done for Tech to have all those teams and kids on campus. And I know they’ve sent out a ton of offers to that group.”

Spoon Risper, Westside-Macon head football coach, who won the University of Georgia 7-on-7 in 2018: “I like the events. I think the 7-on-7s keep the kids interested in the summer. It keeps your numbers up and makes the kids want to come and compete against other schools. It makes it fun. It’s not redundant; it makes summer practice interesting and adds adversity. I like it because it, especially the quarterbacks, keeps their reflexes up and teaches them how to read coverage. From a defensive point of view, it keeps the kids in the right spots, if you play a lot of zones, and it also helps if you play a lot of man-to-man coverage. It hones techniques and allows kids to become more fundamentally sound when it comes to the passing game.”

I.J. Rosenberg, president of Score Atlanta, founder of Corky Kell+Dave Hunter/Brent Key 7-on-7 Tournament: “It’s the closest thing to a regular scrimmage or practice that high schools have. It’s so directed at the skill players, and it has replaced a lot of full-padded practices. … These tournaments allow the teams to really focus on more complicated parts of their offense. The quarterback, steps he takes, the routes he is looking for, the defense he is reading. The receivers get a lot of route-running under a lot of different conditions, and it’s especially good for the defensive backs and linebackers. I think 7-on-7s have changed the way teams practice. It gives the coaches the ability to teach their kids, especially the younger ones, the playbook. I think tournaments are as important now to coaches than regular practices can be. They get more out of it at the skill positions.”