VETTEL: Early Commitments Keep On Coming

Every time you turn around the Gator football team has yet another commitment for the 2007 recruiting class. I'm typing this as quickly as I can to get this commentary in before the number reaches twelve.

Eleven commitments and it's still the month of June. Amazing! Only wedding chapels can count on that kind of business this time of year. The Gators are almost halfway through their recruiting class for the year to come, yet we are still six weeks from the start of fall practices. It's a credit to Urban Meyer and his staff that they have been able to get this many kids to commit this early in the process.

Early commitments are a combination of things. It's obviously a plus to have guys profess their allegiance to your school, but just like everything else in life, nothing is all positive. Let's examine the plusses and minuses of Florida's early commitment bonanza. (The plusses win!)

  • Publicity and Respect: One of the top benefits to having top prospects announce early is that this is a time of year when you rarely get positive news in college football. Usually the news is about arrests or suspensions (often both). Instead Florida has had newspapers, broadcast entities and the internet talking about future Gators.
  • Positive Momentum: One of the top stories in our countdown this year involves the Tim Tebow commitment and the momentum it gave to the Florida recruiting class. Much the same was true with Chris Leak's announcement and the class of '03. A slew of early announcements give the impression your school is the place to be.
  • Narrowing the Field: With every commitment the Gators are able to reduce the "board" when it comes to recruiting needs and prospects. The fewer players you are still recruiting, the more you can focus on those still out there. Or you can spend extra time preparing for fall practice and studying video of future opponents and things like that.
  • Added Subtle Pressure: Instead of the school pressing remaining prospects for decisions, the prospective student athletes will begin pressing themselves as they see Florida filling needs along the way. You don't think D-Linemen out there realize the Gators have three in the bag? Haven't offensive line prospects noticed the commitment of the Pouncy twins?
  • Rallying the Troops: Fans love recruiting for all the obvious reasons but they also like the vicarious thrill of additional "competitions" with key rivals. Every time a kid chooses to become a Gator, he likely is choosing not to be a 'Nole, Dog, Vol, Tiger and so on.
  • Counting Backwards: I'm not talking about a field sobriety test here, but the players who announced early commitments that plan to enroll in January are the most valuable of all. Florida can count three scholarships back to last year, possibly more if any members of the signing class do not enroll this fall. Those freshmen get the advantage of spring practice and make themselves that much more desirable.

There Are Potential Drawbacks

There's an old adage that every time the Lord closes a door he opens a window. The gist of that thought is that every negative has a positive. Every setback offers an opportunity. Well it works both ways. Every positive thing has some negative or potentially negative repercussions. All these early commitments bring potentially marvelous things to UF, but there may be a price to be paid.

  • You're Committed Too: Once you offer and accept a kid's pledge, you are on the hook as well, ethically if not legally. That student-athlete could in turn suffer a major injury, or have a disappointing season. Many high school juniors are as good as they are every going to be. The younger you commit to someone, the more risk there is in that regard. You may also take a commitment at a position only to see someone emerge on your squad who you never expected to, and it's too late to adjust the offer(s).
  • Putting On a Bulls-Eye: The Gators lead this part of the country in early commitments. That means every other school is going to be trying to use that against you with other kids… projecting the early announcements as locks for an increasingly crowded depth chart.
  • It's Hard To Hold On: One of Florida's earliest commitments last year was Texas quarterback prospect Jevan Snead. You won't be seeing him in a Gator uniform. He's one of five guys who announced for UF but ended up elsewhere. It's not unreasonable to think there will be more of that with the class of '07 as well. These kids will hear only two kinds of things for the next eight months… pro-Gator and anti-Gator. That can wear on some.
  • Running Out of Scholarships: You only get 85 total, 25 in any year. The more early commitments you take the fewer options you have in the future. That can hurt you particularly if there's an emerging player who shows dramatic improvement in his senior year but you have already fill your needs at his position.

Bottom Line --- It's Worth It

A bird in the hand ... you know the saying. While there are real and potential drawbacks to accepting a large number of pledges early on, it sure beats the alternative. Meyer and company appear to be quite judicious in the commitments they have accepted, getting kids from winning programs that are in very strong positions academically.

They know the risks associated with taking such early pledges. And they know it's the right way to proceed.

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