Tomorrow is Signing Day, when the 2013 class officially puts pen on paper and tries to figure out how to use those archaic gadgets called fax machines. But those recruits have been in the fold for a while. For the most part, college football teams are well into their 2014 recruiting and beyond.
I wrote a story today about how the recruiting process keeps starting earlier and earlier for these prospects. Here’s how it starts:
With much fanfare and hardly a disparaging word, football programs across the country will formally announce their 2013 recruiting class on National Signing day Wednesday, once recruits can fax in their letters of intent.
The final hours will include some high-profile announcements, most on live TV with trite variances to build suspense. But for the most part, the makeup of the 2013 class is established long before signing day.
With the recruiting process starting earlier and earlier in the careers of high school prospects, the timetable for commitments has been accelerated. The 2013 class might grab headlines this week, but coaching staffs across the country have long been focused on 2014 and beyond.
“When coaches come in here now, they want information on freshmen and sophomores,” said Oscar Smith head coach Rich Morgan. “They don’t even want information on seniors now because they’ve already moved on to the next class.”
It’s occurring across the country. Although written scholarship offers can’t go out to a player before Aug. 1 of his senior year, that hasn’t stopped recruits from pledging commitments to schools well in advance of that.
Of Rivals.com’s top 250 recruits for 2014 — high school prospects who are just beginning the second half of their junior years and cannot sign anything official with colleges until next February — 53 have already given an oral commitment to a school.
How much has Virginia Tech jumped on recruits early? Quite a bit. As mentioned in the story, the Hokies have four commitments for 2014 already – Fredericksburg defensive end Vincent Mihota; Hampton running back Marshawn Williams; Lakeland, Fla., defensive back Javon Harrison; and Lawrenceville tight end Xavier Burke. All of them committed before August of last year. Plus, Tech has dozens of offers out for next year’s class already.
Here are the schools that have gotten the biggest jump on 2014 recruiting so far:
Commitments so far for 2014
- 7 — Texas A&M
- 6 — Texas, Florida State
- 5 — Clemson
- 4 — Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin
That’s a change for the Hokies, who in the past have gotten more of their recruiting done in the summer and later. But the last two years, they’ve accelerated that timetable, taking full advantage of their junior day (which is in February but might be during on a spring practice date this year) and the spring game. Virginia Tech, in fact, got six commitments the day of last year’s canceled spring game.
Here’s how the Hokies have fared in early commitments over the years, using April 30 as a benchmark (commit dates are per Rivals):
- 2014: 4 so far — Mihota, Williams, Harrison, Burke
- 2013: 10 – Cequan Jefferson, Holland Fisher, Anthony Shegog, David Prince, Charles Clark, Braxton Pfaff, Bucky Hodges, Andrew Motuapuaka, Parker Osterloh, Carlis Parker
- 2012: 8 – Davion Tookes, Donaldven Manning, Dahman McKinnon, Dakota Jackson, Der’Woun Greene, J.C. Coleman, Desmond Frye, Donovan Riley
- 2011: 2 – Ronny Vandyke, Kris Harley
- 2010: 2 – Mark Shuman, Caleb Farris
- 2009: 1 — David Wang
- 2008: 3 – Bruce Taylor, Derrick McCoy, Austin Fuller
- 2007: 0
- 2006: 0
- 2005: 1 – Ed Wang
- 2004: 0
Just to show you how differently the recruiting calendar has become, for their 2003 class, the Hokies’ first commitment came on Aug. 18, 2003, from Theodore Miller. All 20 of the members of that class committed sometime after that, with 13 doing it after the football season ended.
Fort his year’s 20-member class, 18 players had committed before the end of August of last year. Only D.J. Reid decided during the season (Sept. 27) and the only addition after the season was a prep player, Fork Union offensive lineman Jonathan McLaughlin.
Now, does early recruiting work? As I mentioned in the story, 247Sports national recruiting analyst J.C. Shurburtt said teams are much more likely to hold onto a recruit if they get an early commitment, even if it’s non-binding. He put the retention rate somewhere around 75 to 80 percent.
But that doesn’t always guarantee success, especially when some high school players develop later in their careers.
“Kind of like basketball, that particular deal favors your mid-range schools, your mid-major schools, what have you, because there’s going to be a lot of, what we call, low-hanging fruit in the recruiting business,” Shurburtt said. “With regards to guys that didn’t commit or sign with a major program and the major programs are filled up.
“I think that kind of happened with Texas. If you look at it, some years Mack Brown, they’d get 89 percent of their class done at their junior day the previous February. Well, at the time, those coaches and everybody in Texas thought those kids were the best kids in Texas. Well, you move forward and maybe not. Because some guys emerge. Football is like that. Guys get better. Or maybe another guy has a better film to send around or maybe a guy grows three inches.
“And you look at TCU and we all probably watched the Thanksgiving night game, TCU wasn’t really challenged. It was a much more lopsided score than 20-13. If you look at the recruiting rankings of those schools, when they both got the majority of their commits, Texas got a lot earlier and had a lot higher-ranked guys, but here comes Gary Patterson and company and they signed guys away. You look at Oregon as well, traditionally under Chip Kelly, they’d get off to kind of a slower start and then January, they owned it. It was their month. So you look at those two examples. Those are two very fine programs and they usually wait on their recruits.”
It seem that regardless of when you fill up your class, scouting and evaluation remain paramount in recruiting.