In his tenure at the University of Texas, Mack Brown had always been known for his ability to recruit great athletes. "Mr. February" he was called. But as a result of his exploits this past January, Brown has pulled down an unprecedented haul in the 2007 recruiting class.
"We had most of these guys [the 2006 class] signed before the Rose Bowl," Brown said on national signing day in February. "Where you're really going to see the national championship have an impact is in this next class."
So it has. However, commitments coming almost two years in advance raise an interesting question: how early is too early?
When I spoke to John Brantley Sr., father of Texas commit John Brantley Jr., a couple of weeks ago, he summed up the changing landscape and why his son committed this early.
"It's because recruiting has changed in the last five years," said John Sr. "It's a whole new game with all the early commits at quarterback. If you feel good about a spot, you better take it, because it's gonna be gone."
Incidentally, Texas ramped up their recruiting of John Jr. after Texarkana QB Ryan Mallett did not give the Longhorns an answer on the deadline they set for him to commit.
The intensity of the process itself also contributes to the early commitments.
In an attempt to sidestep recruiting restrictions, college coaches were calling the Brantleys at their home more times than were allowed by the NCAA and passing it off as a call to John Sr., because he is a high school coach. On top of this, John Jr. was receiving an exceptional amount of text messages, because they do not count as a letter or a call.
He was tired and ready to end the process.
Tray Allen, the top O-lineman in the 2007 class, was also done dealing with the calls and attention. According to his coach at South Grand Prairie, David Fisher, coaches had been showing up to his games and contacting him since his first year on the varsity and he wanted to put an end to the nearly constant recruiting.
Some envision a day where the Pop Warner fields will be scouted by coaches and agents, where recruiting services such as Inside Texas will have an "Elementary School Top 100." By the way, my top prep is a five-star QB from Shady Grove Elementary in Burnet. His finger painting shows good hand-eye coordination, but I question his confidence and leadership skill because he still wets the bed.
But we don't have to worry about that day ever coming. Brown has been praised by most, myself included, for his impressive '07 class, but there's also great risk involved in early commits. A player can get hurt, not develop like you thought or leave the sport all together. It's difficult to project just how good a guy will be when he gets to college; it's even harder doing it only two years into high school. With NCAA limitations every scholarship is valuable.
Sometime soon you're going to see a high school freshman or sophomore commit early and get hurt or end up an absolute bust and coaches will react by getting hesitant about early commitments, before testing the waters again to try and one-up the competition. It'll be a natural cycle which will keep this from spiraling out of control and into the nursery.
So don't expect Inside Texas to be grading out toddlers any time soon.