Last spring, the NCAA passed some major legislation that has changed college football significantly. Legislation included the addition of a tenth assistant coach, the early signing day in December, and creating a window for recruits to take official visits in the spring. These decisions have moved up the recruiting process for schools and prospects.
Fans got a glimpse of how the early signing day would affect recruiting last winter. The early date effectively became the new signing day, with 76% of all four and five-star prospects sending in their letters on intent in December. Now, with the early official visit period coming to a close, we can take a look at the pros and cons of hosting a prospect this early, as well as what Michigan’s strategy was this spring.
One of the most obvious advantages of the early visit period is recruits who want to decide earlier in the cycle can see the campuses they want before they make their decision. Plenty of prospects like to decide where they are attending school before their senior season starts, so they can focus on their team. They also avoid the logistics of visiting a school for a Saturday game day, when most high schools play on Friday nights.
These recruits can use their five official visits during their offseason, or even after the school year ends. This is especially beneficial for quarterbacks, who are usually the first to decide since they want to lock in the (most likely) one spot a team has for the position.
When this new rule first passed, the prevailing assumption was that this would help northern schools. Recruits could now experience campus when the weather would be nice, instead of the drearier fall and winter months. This certainly could be an advantage for schools who use it effectively.
However, like seemingly most new NCAA legislation, this may end up helping southern schools more. Michigan had a firsthand experience of how this could backfire with Te’Cory Couch. Couch, a four-star cornerback from Florida, was a Tennessee commit in April when he took an official visit with a couple of his teammates. Despite his verbal to the Volunteers, Michigan and Miami were seen as the favorites to land him. Right after his visit to Ann Arbor, he surprisingly flipped to the Wolverines.
Many did not expect Couch to commit that soon in the cycle, and insiders warned fans to be wary of him de-committing. By using his official so early in the cycle, it would be tough for Michigan to hold on to the talented high schooler for eight months, during which he would not be able to attend campus without paying for it on his own.
Meanwhile, nearby Miami would be able to host Couch as much as they wanted, since they are only a short drive away. Keeping someone’s interest for eight months without being able to visit is a tough task for any school.
Because of this, some northern schools are hesitant to use too many officials in the spring. They’d rather save them for the season, when signing day is much closer. Ohio State, for example, is using this strategy. According to their 247 site, they have either used or scheduled 11 official visits, and only four before the last weekend in June. The early visits they have used were for prospects they were the favorites for, or were deciding in the spring.
Penn State have used the period more liberally, almost doubling up the Buckeyes with 20 official visits already used. In particular, they hosted several prospects in April for their spring game.
Both schools have been recruiting at an elite level recently, and have seen good results for the 2019 class as well. Ohio State currently has the number seven class in the country, and first in the Big Ten. Penn State is 18th nationally and third in the conference. But, this early, much could change. We won’t know which strategy is more effective until all of the LOI’s are faxed in.
Michigan is in the middle of these two schools, both in the rankings and in official visits. They have the 15th ranked class in the country, 2nd in the Big Ten. They also have 15 visits used or scheduled so far, with the potential for more with their huge recruiting weekend coming up.
This upcoming week will be the biggest stretch of the 2019 recruiting cycle yet. Michigan is hosting a camp on the 18th and 19th, in which several highly ranked targets will be participating.
A couple of days later, the Wolverines will be hosting an insane collection of talent. The massive June 22nd weekend is an extremely smart use of the early signing period. Since the visit window closes on the 24th, Michigan is getting the last word in for several of their top targets, many of whom are deciding over the summer. Getting the last visit is always a big advantage in a player’s recruitment, and Michigan is taking this strategy seriously.
Michigan has navigated the early signing period in a smart manner, using officials sparingly to get guys on campus who are deciding early, but not wasting all of them for game days in the fall. Then, waiting until the end of the period to get a big collection of top targets together, along with current commits, to give them a chance to mingle and form relationships with each other. The recruiting cycle is far from over, however, we won’t know how effectively Michigan doled out their 56 allotted official visits until signing day.
There’s no question this will be one of the most jam packed news weeks of the offseason. We will have plenty of stories and updates coming in the next weeks, so stay tuned to see how the official visit period finishes.