Hot Reads: Get Your Work Done Early on the Recruiting Trail
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: Get Your Work Done Early on the Recruiting Trail

January 23, 2018

It’s going to take a few years before we start to really understand just how college football’s early signing period has changed recruiting. Of course this being college football, there’s no advantage to sitting around and waiting until the new method becomes obvious and available to all. There’s an advantage to be gained, if only a temporary one, but the programs that understand the new landscape first.

Right now, the schools that seem to have an edge are those that mostly filled up in the early period, particularly the traditional powers. While other schools hustle to fill classes in January, these schools are getting a jump start on the 2019 and 2020 classes while also, as Tom Luginbill of The All-American notes, employing a strategy that used to be reserved for the NFL Draft – taking the “best available.”

I’ve spoken with a few coaches and personnel directors across college football who have stated they need a (insert position), a (insert position) and then may just take the best available. This is not language you usually come across in recruiting. Everyone wants the best player for them, but in years past everyone’s focus was on signing an entire class in February. Now, a small group of programs has an entire month to focus on just a handful of kids while devoting resources to the future.
. . . 
The point is that there are a very select few that are able to use their January recruiting time to and target a player they may not necessarily need to fill a specific position need, but who happens to be the best player available. And the fact that player may serve a significant need for a competitor on the recruiting landscape only makes that player more valuable.

We’ve already seen examples of this with a couple of Nebraska targets. A few days before he was scheduled to visit Nebraska, 3-star cornerback Taiyon Palmer, a former Duke commit, picked up a Clemson offer. The same thing happened (the same week, actually) with pass rusher Javontae Jean-Baptiste as Ohio State jumped in on him the week of his Jan. 12 visit to Lincoln.

It’s not that Clemson or Ohio State is setting out to disrupt Nebraska’s recruiting, but every school with an interest in those players. If your program has its needs mostly addressed, a few scholarships to spare and the clout to immediately grab a prospect’s attention with an offer, why not? A good player that ends up on your roster is one that doesn’t end up on someone else’s.

The lesson? Again, we’ll have to let a few cycles play out to see what solidifies as “basic strategy,” but right now I’m guessing there will be a huge push for the 2019 class to get as much done in early signing as possible. It seemed to be the preferred method in the 2018 class, too, and the schools that were able to do it are enjoying an edge this time around.

Nebraska didn't have that luxury for this recruiting cycle. We'll see how hard the Huskers strain to "catch up" before next December.

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