The evolution of college football recruiting is undeniable.
It used to be simple: get scouted, get offered, commit and sign. Boom — end of recruitment.
But now, we live in an era where butt-dialing a recruit can lead to a NCAA violation. It’s the same atmosphere in which coaches can sleep over at a prospect’s house or take a kid’s family go-karting.
While it’ll still be filled with crazy stories like a player’s mom running off with his National Letter of Intent in fear of her baby boy moving away from home (see: Alex Collins), the progression of the recruiting cycle will look very different quite soon.
The NCAA will move forward with a new early signing period to be set in December, according to Football Scoop. The 2018 recruiting class could be the first group to experience it.
The rate and manner in which prospects and coaches operate will be significantly altered.
The Race To Commit
We see it plenty: Coaches will tell recruits how much they want them to come and play at their respective universities, simultaneously nudging those same players toward a commitment due to the risk of someone else filling the vacancy. It happens all the time. A kid will like the school, the staff and the sales pitch. He’ll then rush his commitment, which has become more of an insurance plan to save a seat in class, without firmly knowing whether the program is a good fit.
This could intensify with a December signing period. It’s basic supply and demand. If Alabama offers five 4-star running backs but can only take two of them in the cycle, well, that will put pressure on those five tailbacks to decide if their routes toward the future include a stop in Tuscaloosa. More importantly, they have to make that decision before their senior seasons are over.
And, because their hands will be forced, we could see an increase in transfers. A player will rush the process and end up signing up for the wrong situation all because he bought into what the coaches were telling him, and he didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity.
The Coaching Carousel
Consider that the bulk of coaching carousel moves transpire after the season is finished. What happens to the player set to begin his college career in Berkley as a Golden Bear, only to find out his future head coach has been fired a week into the new year? Or how about the pocket passer whose new head coach wants to run a spread offense instead of a pro-style scheme?
Those players should be allowed to transfer without having to sit out an entire season. You could argue that the December signing period would discourage players from committing to coaches instead of schools, but that’s dabbling in idealism. Recruits will forever base their decisions, first and foremost, on the coaches making their pitches.
We may see more coaches get fired mid-season because of the “why wait” mentality and the hope of salvaging a recruiting class. It may also force athletic directors to bite their tongues — then the bullet — and hold on to their respective head coaches. When Mark Richt was fired by Georgia, the Bulldogs were in serious danger of losing Jacob Eason’s commitment. He flirted with Florida. He thought about Miami. And if it were anyone but Kirby Smart calling the shots in Athens, there’s a chance Eason wouldn’t be a Bulldog today. Believe it or not, recruiting plays a huge role in a coach’s job security.
Whether it’s Cece Jefferson holding out on sending his NLI, Cyrus Kouandijo flipping to Alabama from Auburn after publicly committing to the Tigers, or DeSean Jackson surprising everyone and choosing Cal over USC, we love the drama. And while many claim to hate it, following the recruiting narratives is a guilty pleasure of many college football fans. It’s fun. It’s exciting. Sure, it has its annoying moments, but it’s exhilarating at its peak.
An early signing period could turn college football recruiting into The Office after Michael Scott left — still good, but never the same. Dalvin Cook had Gators fans hyped about the future he’d have in The Swamp. Then he flipped to Florida State right before the new year, and everything changed. If Cook’s process was sped up, maybe he’s breaking records in Gainesville instead of Tallahassee. Maybe he would have followed the same path and become a ‘Nole, though the odds are much slimmer.
While we don’t actually know what recruiting will look like one, three, or five years from now, rest assured that an early signing period will certainly alter the way it runs now.