Recruiting is the bloodline for every major program.

The regular season has ended, and the bowl season will begin this weekend. For now, the focus is and has been on recruiting. Recruiting is the bloodline for every major program. When it falls off, expect your team to head in the wrong direction. Yesterday marked the first day of the early signing period for senior high school recruits to sign a letter of intent committing them to their school of choice. Some seniors are able to graduate in December and immediately enroll in their choice university which allows them not only to have access to their school’s resources but also participate in spring practice, giving them a leg up to be part of the team next fall as a freshman when the regular season starts.

About 75-80% of these seniors will sign a letter of intent at this early stage. Years ago, students waited until the bowls were over and made their choice in February, a month when the balance of 20-25% will decide. Personally, I have no idea why recruiting and decisions are made two weeks after the regular season ended and just prior to the bowl season starting. Half the teams are practicing every day for their bowl games. Meanwhile coaches must work the phones, travel to see prospective recruits while trying to persuade them to sign.

Many students give verbal commitments early but that is not binding until their signature is on a letter of intent. For many schools and players, that means sometimes deciding at the very last moment and even changing their minds as to who they originally verbally committed to earlier. That’s called “flipping” and it happens every year.

I’d prefer to see a period where recruits could sign before their senior season. That would end the constant mailings, texts, emails and personal visits every year from assistant coaches to high school seniors throughout the fall season. A player could just concentrate on his senior season and yes, maybe academics, and sacrifice all the time and effort associated with communicating with so many assistant coaches. That can be draining. The fact that many recruits verbally commit before and during their senior season does not in itself, stop other schools from contacting them to change their mind, inviting them to campus for a recruiting trip or even the school he already committed to continuously texting, calling or contacting him just to “stay in touch” and keep his focus on his verbal commitment. What a mess.

Depending on what recruiting prognosticator you prefer, it’s the same schools getting richer. This year, Clemson, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Ohio State, Auburn, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, etc. in no order. Great recruiting classes usually guarantee superb talent and while there usually is a connection between a consistent Top Ten recruiting classes and a team’s record, nothing is etched in stone. Many “can’t miss” prospects don’t pan out or develop. Some transfer. Others just leave school for one reason or another.

Case in point is the fact that the last three Heisman Trophy winners, Baker Mayfield, Kyle Murray and Joe Burrow were all transfers. Mayfield was an unheralded senior with little interest who went to Texas Tech and transferred to Oklahoma. Murray was a five-star recruit who played sparingly as a freshman and later transferred to Oklahoma after sitting out a year to be Mayfield’s backup for an entire season before lighting it up last year in his one season as a starter. In fact, Murray had signed a multimillion-dollar contract last season to play baseball as a center fielder for the Oakland Athletics before his stock went through the roof and he became a sure-fire NFL first round draft pick. They both are NFL starting quarterbacks for Cleveland and Arizona, respectively, earning tens of millions of dollars. Imagine they weren’t even in a school or on a roster just a few years ago before transferring, getting a second opportunity and capitalizing on it.

Then there’s Burrow who couldn’t get a cup of coffee at Ohio State and transferred to LSU. He’s expected to be the first pick in next year’s NFL draft. Same script, different year.

The point is nothing is certain, but I’d much rather have a Top Ten rated class than a class of walk-ons. The teams with the most resources, i.e. money, will always have an overwhelming advantage in recruiting. They fly to see recruits, can bring more recruits to campus and have all the bells and whistles to impress prospects. You see no Group of Power Five school sniffing the top ten. It would be great to have all one hundred plus FBS schools competing at the same level in recruiting, but it’s never been that way and never will be. Unfortunately, the disparity between the haves and have nots continues to grow and that is one of the health hazards of college football.


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