Scholarship Offer Numbers for the Class of 2021 Are Soaring, P5 Coaches Explain Why
John Garcia, Jr.
The class of 2021 is already in full swing. Dozens of prospects have committed to Power Five programs since the high school football season ended and new offers are extended seemingly every day.
In fact, the verbal scholarship offer game in college football is on pace to set a new record for total offers sent out. As Blair Sanderson of Rivals released on Tuesday, three schools have already hit the 300-offer mark in the junior class. Another 15 programs are above 200 and more than half of the 65 P5 programs are at 150 or more extended.
The earliest any of the prospects can accept any one of these offers, in writing, would be the Early Signing Period in December 2020.
Why the uptick?
In checking in with college coaches throughout the P5 ranks, SI All-American has input from coast to coast with a commonality between the reasons why there is a spike.
Most programs believe the combination of the Early Signing Period, in its third year, along with the new NCAA football recruiting calendar is to blame. The most glaring change on the calendar, which made most of February a dead period, has forced programs' collective hand in the scholarship offer game between December and January.
"It has been accelerating for some time now but I do think the calendar has contributed," an SEC assistant said. "When so many guys sign in December, January becomes almost like a mini spring evaluation period - you’re mostly done with seniors so you make the most of that time on the road and move on to evaluating the juniors."
That of course goes along with the general offer game, evident in the social media and modern age of recruiting as more and more offers go out.
Either way the recruiting process is moving in the same, offer sooner, direction.
"100 percent," a head coach on the west coast relayed to SIAA.
Location could be another driver to get in the game sooner with recruits as the three programs with 300-plus offers to their name do not lie within the top 10 or so states in terms of prospect volume.
"I think it’s more WVU, Tenn., Nebraska don’t have players in their own state so they have to “offer to be able to evaluate," one Big 12 assistant on a staff in the bottom 25 group said. "Get interest going early I guess. If you do that you just have to be willing to dump guys later, tough to do (in my opinion).
"We are probably on lower end of offers. Coach doesn’t want many out there that have no meaning."
Not all play the game the same way, though. Arizona State (191 offers) is the most giving Pac-12 program at No. 20 on the offer list and just a handful of conference members sit in the top 50. The bottom, on the other hand, includes five of the 10 least frequent offering programs. The bottom three, Washington (51), UCLA (40) and Stanford (27) are all Pac-12 representatives.
Academic requirements could be one reason for lower numbers, though others in similar territory Duke (178) and Vanderbilt (174) sit within the top 25 in offers to date. There are other inconsistencies on the chart including national title contenders like Clemson (57) sitting very low while reigning champion LSU (200), Georgia (155), Alabama (150), and Ohio State (144) sit within the top 40.
A lot of programs didn't even recruit the 2020 class beyond the ESP in December. It allowed for quicker transitions to the next group of targets with the new rules in place as 2019 came to a close.
"The new calendar has a lot to do with it, it’s an arms race," says an assistant who has been in two P5 conferences in the last year. "We’ve all heard of the saying, 'The early bird gets the worm.' Well with the early signing period, and the month of February being dead (which eliminates some Jr. Day weekend opportunities) it can push coaches to extend more offers sooner than later in hopes of maybe getting these kids on campus.
"Moreover, put yourself as the recruiter in a good position with the a prospect later on in the process when it’s decision-making time."
In one sense, the calendar is three months ahead of the 2019 version.
"January recruiting was nothing more than what April was years in the past," said an assistant coach within the ACC.
This feature focuses on the class of 2021 but the time allocated to recruiting underclassmen prospects is increasing at a similar rate. Gone are the days where an eighth grade "Phenom" like Dylan Moses or David Sills be regarded as national news.
Heck, Illinois went pre-middle school in offering now-famous Super Bowl-opening and very fast young athlete Bunchie Young. Now 13, picked up that Big Ten offer when he was just 10.
"Sometimes kids remember the ones who offered them early, and it helps," one coach added.