Kan Li / Scout

Calling the Recruiting Bluff

College football recruiting can be a dirty business and the nastiness can occur on both sides of the aisle, from the program or the athlete being recruited and his handlers. The new early signing period should help alleviate some of that.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of a college football program. Doing it the right way can vary so many different ways from program to program.

One of the ways that it does vary is in terms of the ‘committable offer’. A committable offer in this case is a scholarship offer that School-X offers to Prospect-A and Prospect-A can both commit to the offer and eventually sign with the school. That is basically the way it is supposed to shake down.

What we have in some cases, and some programs really stretch it, School-Y will throw a net over the recruiting world, offering multiple prospects early in the process just in case they are good enough in the end, but in a lot of cases with no intention of taking a commitment from the prospects until they actually figure out if they are good enough.

In recent news, Iowa assistant coach Kirk Ferentz was on a radio broadcast talking recruiting and he called out Iowa State and Minnesota for this particular recruiting practice.

“The guys in Ames and the new guys in Minneapolis seem to have no problem throwing early things out,” Ferentz said on the show. And what I’ve learned, certainly about the guys in Ames and I think we’ll find this about the guys in Minneapolis, you know, what does an offer really mean?”

The early offers might get you in the door. They actually can be a positive for the athlete even if not a ‘real’ offer, because the athlete then may get recognized by schools that may have overlooked him.

But, there can be a big negative. A prospect being led down this path may very well believe that he can commit to a program and hold off on pursuing others. If they can’t actually commit to the program or even worse they have committed but can’t sign, they may have taken themselves out of the market to find the right program fit for them.

Ferentz, given his angle on this, must feel like Iowa doesn’t participate in this practice at all.

“I can tell you this much: If the University of Iowa offers you a scholarship and you commit to us, we intend to sign you, and we intend to take your commitment,” he said. “I think you have to look no further than in-state to see there were a lot of offers that went out in the 2018 class very early out of Ames, and I’m not sure all of those guys were able to commit to them if they wanted to, because some of those guys have since gone other places.”

Florida head coach Jim McElwain touched on it briefly with the media before a Gator gathering of boosters on Tuesday. McElwain actually brought up the other side of the coin. Sometimes prospects will commit to a school with an offer and they have no intention of signing with that school. Maybe there is pure deception involved, or maybe they want to save a spot in the class in case they can’t get an offer elsewhere they were seeking.

Florida has been burned a few times in the last two classes under McElwain. Whether silently committed and waiting until January only to end up committing elsewhere, or actually committed like Shavar Manuel in the 2016 class, only to flip his commitment just before signing day.

The early signing period that has now been passed by the NCAA will take place December 20-22 for a 72 hour period. Starting this year, high school prospects from the 2018 class will be able to sign early and know that things are legit. At the same time, schools that have commitments from the young men will know if the young men are serious or not.

“I think one of the things it may do, it’s going to force people’s hands, both the schools that have 500 offers out there and also the kids who are maybe taken reservations waiting for something,” McElwain said. “You’re going to find out how committed they are on maybe some of those.

Of course the prospects can wait. But the early period will be a vetting one of sorts. It will be a time to call the bluffs from both the program side that has bogus offers out and the student side who really isn’t intending to sign with the school he has committed to.

McElwain is ready to utilize the early date and see where the kids stand.

“If they’re ready, sign it, right?” he said rhetorically. I think what I’m saying is it’s going to show guys’ hands. You know? We’re going to encourage it obviously. And yet, if somebody’s not ready, I get it. We’ll keep recruiting them. But that’ll probably give you some indication of where the guy really is.”

And that will allow the school to move on to someone that does want to sign in a timely manner.


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