Early commitments

When I covered Tennessee football for The Knoxville Journal back in the late 1980s, recruiting was considered to be going very well if the Vols had 10 commitments by December 1.

This year the Vols have 10 commitments as July 1 approaches.

It isn't THAT surprising when you think about it. Everything happens faster than it did 20 years ago. Pre-fabricated houses go from conception to completion in a few weeks. Meals that once required an hour in the oven now require five minutes in the microwave. Cars run faster, kids grow up quicker and your paycheck disappears before you realize it's gone.

The pace of American life has quickened, and nowhere has the change been more obvious than in college football recruiting.

Here's why:

Scout and other recruiting services have taken some of the guesswork out of the process. That's not my opinion; that's directly from a former Vol assistant. Recruiting is so heavily publicized nowadays that everyone knows who the better prospects are by the end of their junior year. As a result, college coaches can spend less time evaluating them and more time pursuing them. If the kid has a big-time reputation and looks good on film ... go ahead and pull the trigger.

Still not sold on a prospect? No problem. Just invite him to your summer camp. This provides you with an opportunity to see unheralded prospects competing against elite prospects. Once you realize that Jimmy Bob from Class A can hang with the Class AAAAA studs, the risk involved in offering him a scholarship isn't nearly as daunting ... go ahead and pull the trigger.

The main reason coaches are offering scholarships earlier, of course, is peer pressure. When your chief conference rival has 15 commitments and you have four, the perception is that you are being outworked on the recruiting trail. Keeping up with the Joneses – or the Bowdens, in this case – has added to the sense of urgency on the recruiting trail. If your rival has twice as many commitments as you do, your next move is obvious ... go ahead and pull the trigger.

Obviously, securing early commitments has advantages. Once you get that heralded quarterback you wanted, it's easier to recruit some heralded wide receivers for him to throw to. Once you get some burly blockers, you can focus on landing that marquee back to run behind them. Once you get many of your key needs met, you can spend September, October and November trying to find wins, instead of trying to find prospects.

Of course, securing early commitments has disadvantages, too. What if you commit a kid in June who turns out to have durability issues, academic issues or character issues? Worse, what if he turns out to be a workout warrior who looks great in summer-camp drills but can't play a lick?

This gives a whole new meaning to "Go ahead and pull the trigger," doesn't it?


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