The face of recruiting has changed.
Recruits used to make a signing day decision, complete with multiple hats and plenty of suspense, often following months of indecision and official visits to several different schools.
Now, signing day seems an afterthought, just a final step of making the signing official more than six months after a decision was made. It’s become commonplace for recruits to make an oral commitment without taking an official visit, after making multiple unofficial visits to different schools.
For the colleges, there are pros and cons to having the core of its recruiting class committed before September. Penn State was the first team to take the approach in the 1990s, and Texas was one of the first regional teams to do it.
The early recruiting trend allows coaches to have a great feel for how their classes are shaping up and if they’ve filled the needs of the class. If they haven’t addressed a certain need, they have time to make those positions a priority before February.
"They address their major needs, first and foremost,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree said. "That allows them to breathe a sigh of relief, then maybe chase after some of the blue-chippers that aren’t committed.”
Negatively, it makes quality early evaluation critical to the process. If a scholarship is offered and the player doesn’t pan out, the need isn’t fulfilled.
"We saw that with Penn State in the early ’90s,” Crabtree said. "A lot of the kids didn’t make the natural progress from their junior to senior seasons. They under-evaluated the kids and it affected them on the football field.”
Nonetheless, expect the trend to continue. Recruits enjoy pressure-free senior seasons, and programs enjoy knowing the core of their upcoming class.