It's not every day that you can get a group of coaches together, and they're all pretty much on the same page when it comes to recruiting. After all, recruiting is the essence of winning, which is the essence of keeping that paycheck.
But when it comes to some of the ins and outs of the new early signing period, SEC coaches aren't exactly giddy. While some coaches supported December's signing date for prospects, no one had anything positive to say about how the accelerated recruiting calendar will now allow recruits to take official visits, which are paid for by the schools, after April 1 of their junior year of high school.
This rule will go into effect in 2018, and it means that recruits will be able to take official visits nearly a year before they could potentially sign with a school. Early official visits mean less real personal time to build relationships with prospects and their families.
And you know what? SEC coaches are right about this one.
“I’m a big fan of getting to know kids, and that’s difficult," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said during Monday's post-spring SEC coaches teleconference. "Another problem is you’re getting ready [for a kid's visit], and you’ve really never had conversations with them yet. I want to know the kid’s fit with us; that’s really important to me. The way it’s been expedited because of this is troubling to me a little bit and could cause you to be a bit reckless.”
Freeze is on point with this one. In an age where college athletes are put under an even bigger microscope for off-field issues and college coaches are criticized even more for these off-field issues, shouldn't these coaches be given more time to actually get to know players? Shouldn't coaches be able to do their due diligence when it comes to figuring out who these kids really are?
If you're bringing guys in for official visits this early, you're rushing the relationship process, and that can lead to less thorough homework on program pillars. Head coaches can't conduct in-home visits with recruits during the month of May, yet you're asking them to balance more of their time to try and really get to know multiple prospects on official visits during spring practice?
Yeah, makes sense.
"The question is how do we get to know these guys a little bit better as we sign them early?" Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "The early signing date is great, but the calendar changing and pushing everything up is hard on high schools and hard on high school coaches. If we’re going to have May and June visits, it’s going to be rough."
Earlier official visits are unfortunately a necessary evil with an early signing period. With prospects being able to sign during a 72-hour window in late December, you can't possibly ask a lot of them to cram official visits into only a few months. And we all know that in-season visits are already limited because, you know, games. So if you're going to have a signing day in December, you have to allow these kids to have meaningful visits, like the ones in January that lead up to February's signing day.
But you're going to see players and coaches sacrifice getting to really know each other because once they take that official visit, traveling back is on the prospect's own dime. And as Alabama's Nick Saban put it, prospects tend to look a lot different from their junior season to their senior season.
You're also going to see players and coaches rush a lot in general. Georgia's Kirby Smart talked about how players are going to get pressured to sign from the schools they're committed to. At the same time, they'll get pressured from opposing staffs to not sign. Pressure could cause recruits to sign prematurely or cause coaches to sign players they might not be totally committed to, either.
You'll see some bluffs called, but you'll also see some mistakes made with more than a month left in the recruiting process.
“Evaluation is important," Saban said, "and the sooner you have to make decisions on these guys, the greater opportunity you have to make mistakes.
“By doing all this, we sort of minimize the opportunity to be able to evaluate these guys, which affects their opportunity too.”
LSU's Ed Orgeron went beyond just the recruit-coach relationship and mentioned the fact that a signing period in December is going to interrupt bowl preparation for the actual team fans watch and coaches coach. You think Alabama fans would be pleased with Saban and his staff hovering around a fax machine while simultaneously trying to run a practice leading up to the College Football Playoff semifinal?
No chance, but that's a trade-off.
There are some real positives with the early signing period, but there are a lot of consequences -- known and unknown at this point -- that staffs and players will have to maneuver through in the coming years.
“It’ll be interesting to see who uses it to their advantage best," Smart said.