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Post Junior commitments and early signing

Thursday January 25, 2007

Chad Simmons of UGASports.com reported yesterday that Richard Samuel committed to the Georgia football program for its 2008 signing class. Samuel is the sixth junior to commit to the Bulldogs for the 2008 class. Before the class of 2007 has been wrapped up and signed, Georgia is nearly 25% of the way to a typical class of 25 for next year.

It was a big deal a few years ago when A.J. Bryant committed to Georgia on Signing Day as a junior. The special circumstances with Bryant and his dying father made that a huge story, but it was also noteworthy that the commitment came a full year before Bryant could sign. Others follow this much more closely than I, but I don’t remember an earlier commitment at the time. It wasn’t long ago that the first commitments of a recruiting class would come in August or September of the senior year. We’ve since blown that benchmark out of the water; there are now six committed for 2008 who made their pledge even earlier in the process than Bryant did.

All of this leads up to the question, should there be an early signing period in football? After all, junior commitments are nothing new in college hoops, and the NCAA allows them to sign during the autumn of their senior years. Football starts before basketball in college, yet basketball players can sign before footballers.

I see the appeal of the early signing period on both sides. Prospects can make their decisions and focus on more important things like academics and their senior season. Colleges can wrap up prized prospects and not have to worry about stringing them along until February. Bill Curry seems to like the idea, and I can be open about this kind of thing.

The timing seems to be the big sticking point. It’s not likely that the early signing period would happen during the junior year, so that leaves early in the senior year. But that’s right in the thick of the football season. As distracting as recruiting is now, the pressure to make that decision early and make it binding would be even more of a distraction. I think it can be to the benefit of both the prospect and the college to let that senior season play out. As Rich Brooks notes, relying on junior evaluations and limited contact before the senior year to make the decision can be very risky. I would add that it’s potentially risky for both parties. Where basketball can gauge rather well the size and skill of prospects early in the process, the physical development (not to mention damage) that can take place between the junior year and the arrival on a college campus is so much greater for a football player.

It sounds from all accounts that Georgia’s six early commitments are the cream of the crop. If you’ve seen the A.J. Green videos going around, you see why people like our early commitments. I just wonder in which direction this trend will head. Will it become an arms race between schools to get commitments earlier and earlier with more imprecise evaluations? Maybe basketball provides some guidance. Though junior recruiting and early commitments have become a big part of the hoops recruiting process, it’s not like the commitments are spilling over into the underclassmen (at least not yet).

One impact the earlier commitments are having is to diminish the drama of Signing Day and the weeks leading up to it. Again, it wasn’t long ago that as much as half of a recruiting class was filled in the final few weeks leading up to Signing Day. Colleges hosted dozens of prospects on these weekends with the pressure to get handfuls of commitments each time. Those situations still exist, but for many schools January is becoming a time to 1) shore up the commitments you already have and 2) land the three or four remaining pieces to the puzzle. This is an interesting development to me because the attention and suspense heaped on those who hold out until the end is a huge ego boost to those prospects, but it seems as if more are realizing that the real prize is that scholarship to a major program.

I’m not a recruitnik in the sense that I can name the Top 50 prospects in Georgia or that I get bent out of shape about stars and rankings, but this is still pretty interesting stuff to keep an eye on. It’s the future of the program after all, and shifts in how the recruiting classes are assembled are worth keeping an eye on.

2 Responses to 'Junior commitments and early signing'

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  • A very positive aspect of early signing in football is that it would greatly reduce the impact of the night crawlers who are making big money out of the recruiting process and dramatically increasing the pressure on coaches, kids and parents.

    I would be interested in seeing the success ratio of recruits who are finagled into announcing their college choices on one of the inane tv recruiting shows.

    All these recruiting experts are doing is lining their own pockets and increasing the level of mendacity in college football.

  • It might, but the early signing period hasn’t done much to kill the hoops recruiting industry. With AAU ball and the summer camps, it’s become even more of a structured industry than the football process.