The big recruiting news of the week has to be the potential addition of a couple new finish lines to college football’s recruiting season.
Does that mean DawgNation will also gather in Athens Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall and The Blind Pig Tavern in late June? We shall see.
The NCAA is considering new legislation that will give student-athletes more options in their recruiting process. It would also mean an entirely different way to look at the recruiting calendar. Official visits in June? Signing by July? Another National Signing Day in December?
Football recruits could previously only enroll early in January or sign on the first Wednesday in February. National Signing Day has all but morphed into a regional holiday for football fans in the SEC.
A proposal has been drafted by the Division I Football Oversight Committee that will allow for two 72-hour early signing periods for college football. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, among others, is a part of that panel.
The new structure calls for a 72-hour period in late June and another of the same length in mid-December. The early signing period in November has been in place for years with college basketball. Some of the thinking with this idea is based on that concept.
When this story broke on Wednesday afternoon, these were the big talking points:
- Early signings will help the truly committed players get recruiting out of the way. That’s a plus, but there also needed to be an out clause introduced to protect student-athletes that sign early prior to a mid-season coaching change.
- What would the early signing period mean for official visits? Was there also going to be a tandem early official visit window?
- These plans would likely reduce the amount of non-committable offers. Hoo-freaking-ray.
- This will begin to protect the student-athlete from schools who throw out offers like Tic Tacs. Those lead to early commitments. Those moves cause schools to run out of scholarships when they find a player they like better at the same position. That’s the ugliest part of college recruiting.
The second day of the news cycle brought some clarity.
ESPN senior writer Jeremy Crabtree reported on Thursday the NCAA will address the issue of opening up an earlier window for official visits. If these proposals are adopted, then recruits could take official visits in June until the last Saturday before the first early signing period begins.
They would also be allowed to take visits from July 25-31. ESPN also projected that The Collegiate Commissioners Association will vote in favor of the two early signing periods in a November vote. The NCAA controls the recruiting calendar and official visit schedules and that vote to ratify all these new amendments to recruiting legislation would not take place until April.
USA Today is reporting all of these elements will be up for discussion leading up to the NCAA convention in January. The final drafts of these plans will be presented at that time. The NCAA Board of Directors will then vote on the matter in April.
If approved, those changes would not become effective until the 2016-2017 school year. An ESPN source has been told that the plans have already received unanimous approval from the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and are expected to pass. That said, some tweaks are expected to come to the specifics of these initial plans.
The NCAA’s official release on the matter said these ideas came after months of study. The recruiting culture — including the widespread satellite camps off college campuses last summer — fostered the need to do something about it.
Those camps are also going to be affected by the new legislation.
“The working group did a deep dive on recruiting from beginning to end, and I think what we came up with as a proposal is both student-athlete-friendly and coach- and staff-friendly,” said Bob Bowlsby, chair of the Football Oversight Committee and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “We hit a sweet spot.”
The proposed new signing periods would each last for 72 hours. That would drastically change the way college football fans follow all of those signing days.
Meyer and Saban don’t like it
The concept of an early June signing period has drawn some strong criticism from Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. They will not support that idea. They will bring up some very noble talking points on the matter, but elite programs have their own self-serving interests to consider.
Nick Saban: "Absolutely, positively against an early signing date, especially a June signing date."
— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) October 5, 2016
SBNation had a recent piece which clearly documents Meyer’s position and a strong dose of opinion on the matter.
An early signing period reduces the player pool for the big fish to come and snatch away key recruits. Those programs are in the hunt for so many of the nation’s top players that a lot of times they haven’t made their final evaluations until their team camps in the summer prior to the senior season. The new window will only rush an evaluation process that already has a high margin for error.
It will be very hard for college football’s elite programs to find the players who make drastic improvements during the summer leading up to and through their senior seasons.
A key point in the matter is it won’t force recruits to do anything. No one has to sign early. The idea simply gives a so-called “locked-in” player the chance to make an earlier decision.
What do the UGA recruits think?
Max Wray had a few initial reactions to this story. He was a good guy to seek out because he’s a highly-rated offensive tackle who has been committed to Georgia for the last six months. “Locked-in” would be a great way to describe his attachment to UGA.
The 4-star offensive tackle would sign with Georgia if an early signing period would’ve allowed him to do before his junior year, too. He will only take one official visit to UGA and is also considering enrolling early.
He still greatly values his playing experience for his high school and community and didn’t want to see any of the new changes affect that. Wray would want to play his senior year at Franklin High in Tennessee. That was his only main worry. Other than that, he didn’t see how it would affect him much.
But he’s a rare blue-chip prospect that already has his situation figured out well in advance. Most guys won’t be like Wray.
The new reforms also offer a way for recruits to end their recruiting process earlier. It would take all the drama out of their recruiting and allow the coaching staff to spend more time on the players they really have to sell.
Georgia 4-star CB commitment William Poole III would be one of those. He had his final decision figured out just prior to the UGA spring game back in April.
— William Poole III (@TheWilliamPoole) October 6, 2016
Are restrictions on the way for satellite camps?
That’s not the only new NCAA wrinkle that will hit the table. The panel also proposed 10 non-consecutive days during the summer for satellite camps. Remember how crazy (thank you Jim Harbaugh) those things became last year?
This new legislation aims to move them away from high schools and place them solely on campus at NCAA member institutions. The current legislation allows for two 15-day periods to conduct those camps. That policy did allow for some ambiguity as to which individuals might be benefitting from these camps.
There’s also a plan to add one more full-time assistant coaching position to the staff of every Football Bowl Sub-Division program.
Check out the entire plan here.
A parent’s suggestion to make recruiting better
The father of 5-star prospect Derrik Allen shared a nugget earlier this week about what he would do if he had the chance to talk to the NCAA to help the recruiting process for student-athletes going forward in the breakneck world of constant attention these days.
His primary suggestion is now on the table with his new agenda. He proposed allowing prospects to take official visits during the spring of their junior year. That idea has merit. It wouldn’t take away the weekends of their last season of high school football in the fall.
“I don’t know about an early signing period but I will tell it you what is totally jacked-up is that you can’t take an official visit until the fall of your senior year,” Allen said. “We’d like to be done with recruiting before that. I know a lot of parents that would. Not being able to take official visits until the fall slows it down. Some families can’t afford to take those trips on their own.”
A defensive tackle from Atlanta might really want to go play at Michigan or Oregon and would seriously consider the idea. They just can’t afford that trip so they must wait until fall official visits are available. Yet maybe those slots fill up with regional prospects prior to official visit season.
“If I could suggest one thing to the NCAA, I’d ask them to consider the timing of the official visit,” Derrik T. Allen said. “They already made one move to help us parents out by paying for them to also come along on official visits. Now just move that up to the spring when everyone can take an earlier look at these schools.”
What does the high school coach think?
Grayson coach Jeff Herron has been at several stops in the state. He’s been at the small county school in the rural setting (Oconee County) and the juggernaut school in Metro Atlanta (Grayson) and South Georgia at Camden County. He’s also gotten a taste of what the private school competition (Prince Avenue Christian) in the smallest classifications feels like.
He’s also sent a lot of players to big-time college football. Georgia reserve quarterback Brice Ramsey would be one of those.
That offers Herron a wide range of knowledge on a complex issue. He used to want to see players only get an offer somewhere near the end of their senior seasons, but realizes that is not realistic in this day and age.
He does bring up an element to this issue that he feels 99 percent of all the high school coaches and assistant coaches would support.
“If you as a college coach offer a kid, then it has got to something committable,” Herron said. “It has got to be something real that he could sign right then if he had to. If he signs right then, then there is no getting out of it. That would do away with a lot of the junk right now we see all the time that is going on in recruiting.”
He simply hates seeing schools pull offers when a quota has been met at a certain position. He also hates seeing the high school player committing to something and then backing out of it.
“I’m in favor of if you offer it then they can sign it,” Herron said. “And if they sign it, then they are stuck with it.”
Herron’s wish could move closer to becoming a reality. That was the opinion of Central Gwinnett coach Todd Wofford. He feels these new changes would force college coaches to make more specific evaluations. Especially the coaches that recruit for the elite programs.
“I think this takes away the ability for them to be able to slow play kids,” Wofford said. “They’ll give one of those verbal offers and a kid might commit but that is really just a kid they are not 100 percent sold on. But they want to keep him on the hook so to speak. When you hear those phrase ‘Is this a committable offer’ and at that point, under these rules any early offer at that point has to be a committable offer. It actually now has to be a signable offer now. That will change the dynamic of when these schools will offer kids because they really have to do their homework on evaluating and offering the right kids they want early on.”
That issue is more prevalent than most things. Aside from the elite players, Wofford believes that only 20 percent of the early offers a high-level high school prospect receives are committable offers in today’s climate.
“If this gets passed, I guess this could force schools to be much more honest now,” Wofford said. “They have to say we are taking two of you guys (at this position) and we are offering five. The first two who take it will get it and that’s how it will be. It will make schools to maybe be more honest and up-front with the kids now.”
He also felt the summer team camp evaluation circuit is not as important as others make it out to be. He still feels the high school film is still the most important evaluation tool.
“I don’t think a lot of the summer stuff gets them the true offer,” Wofford said. “I think a lot of that summer stuff is just window dressing seeing them run around in shorts and seeing if they can actually do what the film shows them to be able to do.”
Wofford also welcomed the changes as long as an out clause was part of the plan. He doesn’t want to see players bound to a school if the coaches they sign with fall victim to a mid-season or an end-of-the-year coaching change.
“This kind of looks out for the student-athlete in one way in having them the opportunity to secure a scholarship and not worry about it getting taken away for some type of injury,” Wofford said.
Wofford also cited another benefit. It will help the high school coach stress the new NCAA mandates for academic qualification a lot earlier now. Players must pay a lot closer attention to their transcripts and test scores now if they would like the chance to take part in an early signing period.
“If they are not qualified with the new NCAA academic rules they might not be able to get that offer and they definitely can’t sign early I would think,” Wofford said. “This speeds that process up. It would only be the elite athlete who is qualified now with a test score who signs early. That might actually help me as a high school coach when I push the academic side of what it takes to get a scholarship.”
The June official visits might also seem uncommon, but the reality of today’s recruiting world is those players and their families are already doing that stuff now with barnstorming tours across the country. The only difference is the colleges might now be picking up the tab for everyone’s research.
“Players and their families are almost to a degree doing that now,” Wofford said. “They go to these camps now and don’t really work out at the camp. They take the campus tour and meet the professors and all that now. It is almost like an official visit but they are just not staying overnight. It won’t necessarily be way-way out of left field.”
It all points to a pretty clear bottom line. Nothing theoretically could change here. Unless the student-athlete wants to take advantage of a new decision timeline.
The main thing all these new models would do is offer the option to sign early and allow themselves to focus on their high school teams and reduce a lot of the current distractions that can be found during their senior seasons.
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Follow Jeff Sentell on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.