June is generally a big month for football recruiting commitments, which means that fan bases around the country would normally be girding to work themselves into a frenzy starting Monday. But there is nothing normal about these times and the disruption the coronavirus has inflicted on everyone’s routine.
College football recruiting has not been immune.
Suddenly, prospects can’t visit schools. There are no camps to evaluate players. The result has turned recruiting on its figurative helmet, with phone calls, zoom chats and virtual tours – some of which can last a couple of hours – now the new recruiting normal for college coaches.
“Everything has gotten sped up because prospects want to make commitments before their senior year. They don’t want to get shut out of spots,” said one prominent recruiting expert, who requested anonymity to speak more freely. “And coaches are pushing like crazy to get commitments – so everybody is committing.
“There are a lot of kids now making commitments to schools whose campuses they have never been to.”
According to the recruiting expert “there are at least twice as many commitments right now compared to a typical year.”
“Only the top kids are able to hold out longer,” he added. “Kids who would normally decide in December have already decided. And kids who were planning on committing at the end of the summer have already committed because they can’t make campus visits anyway.”
In situations like this, someone always manages to benefit. But it might be surprising to know which programs have gained the biggest advantage from the dramatic change in the business of college football recruiting.
“What we’re seeing is that it is helping programs that have traditionally had a hard time keeping prospects close to campus, largely because those are the schools kids have visited as juniors before the shutdown because they’re local,” the recruiting expert said. “Those are schools they’ve actually seen and they seem to feel more comfortable committing to a place they’re familiar with.
“The other part of that is that kids are more reluctant to travel far for schools with something like this pandemic going on. The idea of being closer to family is even more appealing because of that and helps keep them closer to home.”
Coaches, he said, “now spend 12 hours a day just on recruiting because they can’t go out, there are no practices and there are no meetings with players.”
Prospects are now posting workouts on Twitter so coaches can evaluate them to see how much – if any – improvement they have made, or how they have grown physically, since they last played in the fall.
The biggest loser in all of this, of course, is the prospects.
“Kids are really frustrated because this is supposed to be their time,” the recruiting expert said. “They’ve been waiting to be recruited and to get out and visit schools and be led on tours and told how much they’re wanted while building relationships. Now they can’t do any of that. Some of these kids have waited two or three years for their moment and it has been taken away from them. It has made the entire recruiting process a lot more clinical and a lot less enjoyable for them.”