By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – USC offers eighth grader.
No.2 ESPN Top 300 recruit Isaiah Wilson receives 43rd offer.
University of Connecticut coach Randy Edsall pulls offer from Ryan Dickens 17 days before National Signing Day.
Welcome to recruiting for college football in 2017 – extremely early offers, immense number of offers flowing in and offers being pulled from players like a rug from beneath their feet at the last second leaving them few choices.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve noticed is once a kid receives an offer it seems like they all start flowing in,” Huffman coach Mike McEachern, who has coached for 24 years, said. “I think sometimes everybody waits to see who’s going to jump in and once somebody jumps in they all jump in. I can say that we’ve had an empty offer. Also if you’re looking at it from the side of the coaches and the schools they’ve got to get the offers out there to try and get the kids. They won’t know if a kid is coming unless they do make offers.”
Atascocita coach Craig Stump has experienced every side of the recruiting process.
Stump played college football at Texas A&M in the late 80s, then coached college football for 17 seasons at Tulane, Southwest Texas (Texas State) and Mississippi State before heading into the high school coaching ranks.
“Back when I was (recruiting) you didn’t offer anybody early, that just didn’t happen,” Stump said. “I think Mack Brown was the first one that started doing that at Texas. So he was doing it so everybody else had to do it.”
Before the days of the flood of offers from programs, sometimes without even seeing the player in person, Stump said when they recruited they would evaluate them, get their name, watch first three games of season and then maybe offer them after al the coaches on staff had a chance to evaluate them.
Now coaches walk onto high school campuses and hand out offer after offer, possibly never intending to actually accept a commitment.
“That game has changed for us as coaches a little bit in trying to protect the athletes best interest in terms of keeping their recruiting open and knowing they may have an offer from somebody today but that offer disappears tomorrow,” North Shore coach Jon Kay said. “They’re going out there laying a web of 250 offers, especially out of state schools that may or may not come back down here.”
Kay, who has been at working in Galena Park ISD for the last 21 years – the last three as the head coach of North Shore, has seen a lot change in the recruiting game.
The early offers, the practice of offering tons of players at one position pick up speed in the last few years and without something more binding than just a verbal offer but a committable offer, colleges will continue this practice.
“I think it would shut down a lot of these schools that are coming down here in spring football and laying down 100 offers,” Kay said. “Something from the university, even if it is a letter saying we are offering you and every offer is a committable offer. I think because we don’t have that you have these kids with 120 offers, which is ridiculous. I just see that practice more and more and everyone is trying to keep up with the jones’ and I just don’t think it’s really good for high school football.
“I’m not saying it’s a commitment but it’s an understanding through the school and the kid that an offer is on the table. That’s what we’re missing right now.”
Currently there is no rule that limits the number of verbal offers college football programs can make during a recruiting period. The rule book actual protects the college coaches in this practice.
When going through the 64 pages dedicated to the rules on recruiting in the August 2016 version of the Division I NCAA Manual, the word “offer” is found 135 times but only once concerning a verbal offer to an athlete.
“An institution may offer more than the maximum number of permissible awards in a sport in anticipation that not all of the offers will be accepted,” reads 18.104.22.168 section of the NCAA rule book.
For instance in this current recruiting class that is about to be officially signed on February 1, Alabama made 265 offers, according to BamaOnline, the Alabama 24/7 recruiting site.
In that recruiting class 11 quarterbacks, 18 running backs, 36 wide receivers, 13 tight ends, 28 offensive tackles, seven offensive guards, three centers were offered by the Crimson Tide.
On the defensive side of the ball, Alabama offered 134 players – 11 defensive players are currently “hard committed” to the Crimson Tide.
“I just would like to see something from the NCAA that will strengthen a credibility of an offer, which will allow us as high school coaches the ability to strengthen the credibility of a commitment,” Kay said. “We can get away from all this circus that we see right now that’s fueled by social media, the videos, the hats and everything else.”
Each football program is allotted 25 actual scholarships to award each recruiting year but will hand out hundreds of verbal offers trying to fill the quota.
“If you limit the number of offers, you’re limiting the amount of opportunities for these young men,” Rivals recruiting analyst Matt Clare said. “If they are one of the 10 quarterback offers or they aren’t and the coaches decide to offer more kids but aren’t allowed too, they end up at a SFA or UTSA versus maybe they would have gotten that last minute offer from a Texas Tech or TCU.”
For some coaches, such as Episcopal’s Steve Leisz, who had two of the highly recruited linemen this season in Walker Little, who chose Stanford, and Marvin Wilson, who has yet to choose his school, there is more the coaches can do to control it.
With Little and Wilson’s situations, Leisz said they knew where they were wanting to go and went in that direction, not opening the door for a flood of offers.
“Walker came out as the top lineman and had maybe had 20 offers,” Leisz said. “Those were schools he legitimately would have attended. If he wanted 70 (offers) he could have had 70.”
The most recent issue that has arisen in a few situations has been offers being pulled at the last minute.
University of Connecticut coach Randy Edsall has recently made national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
With less than three weeks until signing day, the new Huskies coach pulled an offer from Ryan Dickens, a 6-2, 210-pound lineman out of New Jersey, who had been committed to the program since June.
UCONN is left with a freed up scholarship to hand out, Dickens is left with a bunch of questions and a life-changing decision to make in a limited amount of time.
“That didn’t used to happen. An offer was an offer,” Stump said. “You didn’t offer somebody unless you meant it.”
In Stump’s first season at the helm of Atascocita, a similar situation happened with one of his players.
A player got an offer, didn’t commit at the time because Stump figured more offers would be coming. In the following September, the college came back and pulled the offer, forcing Stump to change his philosophy on the recruiting process.
“I would actually be for if you offer me then I could sign something right then,” Stump said. “If I wanted to. Now the kid’s bound and the school’s bound. That’s about the only way you’ll fix it.
“I don’t know if they’ll ever do that. What would happen is school’s would be reluctant to offer someone right away because they may commit and sign the paper. If it’s something that protects the kid and keeps an offer from getting pulled from them, then I’d be for it.”
One idea that has been proposed to help with the recruiting process by the American Football Coaches Association is an early signing period in December.
The signing period would last for 72 hours and coincide with the early junior college signing period on the third Wednesday of December, which would be six weeks before National Signing Day.
The proposal still needs NCAA approval in April to go into effect.
“The early signing day I think takes care of that, in terms of them extending an offer and signing and moving on,” Kay said. “I don’t know if that’s absolutely necessary. I would just like to see something in place that forces the term ‘offer’ to have a little bit more weight than it does currently.”