My, how times have changed. In the last ten years recruiting publications, the Internet, ESPN and other media outlets have totally transformed the landscape of recruiting for fans, coaches, and the players. Recruiting has turned into a real science since the turn of the millennium. The days of Florida State gaining the commitments of twenty four- and five-star recruits on signing day are long over. If January and February are your most exciting months in recruiting, then you have missed the majority of the talent that was available because they have long since committed to another school.
In today's recruiting world the majority of commitments are made between March and September. Georgia, for example, gained thirteen of their commitments during that time period and received only three verbal commitments during the month of October in 2007. Mark Richt has commented of late how much recruiting has accelerated through the last few years.
The Internet may be the biggest factor in that. When you can find anything from game film clips to 40-yard dash times on a player that will not graduate until 2011, then things begin to change. Scout.com is one of the major players in this change along with the individual sites like Dawg Post. Many fans spend their work days checking the recruiting updates available on these sites and know as many recruit names as they do players on the team. They thirst for more information, and when they don't get it they feel like a druggie needing a fix.
The recruits are also directly affected by the rise in media attention, specifically the Internet, when it comes to recruiting. The bigger the recruit, the more attention he has to deal with now. Some of these kids are being recruited by as many as 20 different schools which means they are hearing constantly from 20 different coaches. Then they are also being called or texted by the Internet sites which cover each of the 20 schools. Start to do the math and then you can realize the attention these kids are receiving on a nightly basis.
We usually start making contact in the middle of their junior years and then stay in constant touch with them until they make a commitment. When I first touch base with juniors the excitement in their voices is unmistakable, and they are usually very excited about the attention they are getting. They will talk very openly with you. Those same kids eight months later may sing a very different tune. They have been bombarded by so many coaches and media outlets that their lives and cell phone bills have changed drastically. I think this is one of the biggest reason that recruits are tending to commit earlier and earlier. They just want to get everyone off of their backs and be able to lead a normal existence. Committing early is a trend that will continue because not only do recruits want to relieve the pressure, they may also be scared that a school may fill its quota of players at their position.
But what the Internet has mainly done is change the way college coaches recruit. They must be on kids earlier than ever before because they know if they aren't one of the first to offer then they may miss out. Could you imagine how hard it is to decide on whether or not to offer a 15- or 16-year old kid who is still growing and maturing? What this means for coaches is simple: more calls, more research and more time. It's no secret that recruiting is now a 365-day-a-year job for all coaches, and most of them would probably tell you they spend as much or more time with recruitment as they do preparing to coach their position.
Signing day at Georgia last year was probably filled with more calls to 2009 recruits than the 2008 class. Most of the commits signed the letter of intent early in the morning and faxed it into the coaches. By ten o'clock the excitement was over and the coaches moved on with other daily duties while most fans wondered where yesteryear's excitement of signing day has gone.
Don't get me wrong. There may be one or even two surprises on signing day from this point forward, but that is a rarity at most schools and even rarer at Georgia. Chris Little was a signing day surprise but the Georgia coaches had been on him for a couple of years and just didn't land him until February. Coach Richt and the rest of the Georgia coaches treat recruiting like everything else in the Georgia program. A very matter-of-fact business-like approach is taken and most commitments are secured very early. Georgia begins to recruit players very early in their high school careers and from what I have been able to gather are honest with the players they recruit.
If they want to recruit a high school quarterback as a defensive back or a wide receiver as a linebacker then that is exactly what they do. They are honest with recruits from the beginning unlike many programs. This honesty has cost Georgia a few recruits in the past who wanted to play positions that Richt and the staff would not promise, but that same honesty is what most recruits I speak with admire. Athens, the University of Georgia campus, Sanford Stadium, Butts-Mehre, Mark Richt, as well as the cult-like following the Dawg players receive all sell themselves to recruits interested in Georgia.
The recruiting landscape has definitely changed in the last decade, and Georgia has joined the party with a reputation for being one of the top ten places in the country to be. They get it done early and often in the recruiting process which is exactly the way it should be.
So Georgia fans... don't be disappointed when you experience a boring signing day again in February. A boring signing day only means that the coaches did their jobs a long, long time ago, and that is how you should want it.