The Recruiting Puzzle

Assembling a recruiting class to fill out a roster is much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You look at what you want the final picture to look like then find the missing pieces, except in football every year a number of pieces of the picture fall out from graduation. Injuries and players leaving cause more to fall out.

Now imagine trying to put together the picture you have in mind using pieces someone else selected for the picture they wanted to put together.

That has been the challenge at Arkansas State for the past few years.

Recruiting has become a season within itself. It often seems recruiting season starts in December and culminates on signing day, the first Wednesday of February. That pace has been the norm of late as AState has rotated through coaches.

The truth is that the coaching staff works almost every day on recruiting. It has become more apparent as kids have begun to commit earlier and earlier that recruiting is a year round job.

When Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson was hired, he brought in a young, energetic staff built to recruit and “Build a Monster”. That staff not only finished the 2014 recruiting class they also go an early start constructing the 2015 class. The following months, AStateNation saw some of the earliest commitments in ASU football history. They began rolling in during the spring and before the first game of the season the Red Wolves had 21 commits. Almost a full class before a game had been played is something Red Wolves fans hadn’t seen before.

Fast forward through a season that showed how five years of five coaches had left a team lacking depth at a number of positions, notably the offensive and defensive lines. With a class of 25 to sign and the commitment numbers mounting, Coach Anderson and staff saw some needs that must be addressed.

Arkansas State football coach Blake Anderson stated after the Go Daddy Bowl that he wasn’t satisfied with the Red Wolves physical nature. His goals of Fast, Fun, and Physical ended up more Fast, Fun and Finesse. AState had to find a way to stop the run and get more physical up front on offense. Strength and conditioning programs can only take you so far, the raw product has to be player who can handle the weight and still move effectively, recruiting is the best solution.

In the December signing period for junior college mid semester transfers, Anderson and staff did a fantastic job filling needs. Two defensive linemen and two offensive linemen signed and have enrolled this Spring to compete with the returning linemen this Spring. Add two JC defensive backs and the Red Wolves covered some glaring holes in 2014 and holes that were being created by graduation.

In the past few years, Arkansas State fans watched with anticipation as the class filled up, wondering who could fill all of the remaining spots. With two weeks left before signing day, and 27 signees/commits, ASU fans have a different question than in the past. How will these numbers work out to sign 25? One A-StateNation editor reminds of the old saying about this situation, “these things seem to work themselves out”.

A Division I football program can enroll 25 players per class. Some programs sign more than that 25 and use a number of different methods to ensure they meet the NCAA requirement of bringing in just 25.

One way is to count back. Counting backwards means that if a school handed out fewer than 25 scholarships the previous year, it can count some early enrollees toward last year's cap.

Some programs will sign a player who will not qualify and place that player at junior college in hopes of bringing them back after two years.

Another possibility is to sign players and to “grayshirt” them, delaying their enrollment by a semester.

Coach Anderson and his staff have been around long enough to know how to play this game and ASU fans can rest assured that things will work themselves out.

So while there aren’t very many slots left available in the 2015 recruiting class and things seem to be at a slow crawl or even a standstill, know that things can shift as the staff determines which players will not qualify, which players are willing to grayshirt, or have to find ways to make even more room if other players become available.