It appears that high school quarterbacks -- whether they are considered top-10 or top-50 players -- are committing earlier than ever. ESPN.com has not yet released its official position rankings for 2009. But, as it stands right now without tweaking anything grade-wise, 30 of the 40 QBs we graded -- including nine of the top 10 -- have made verbal commitments.
There are several reasons that players make early commits, including:
Any player who says he is not looking at the depth chart in this day and age isn't being truly honest with himself.
For quarterback recruits, a team's current depth chart and other recruiting targets are always going to be a consideration. Once a given, redshirting has become an afterthought for many quarterback prospects. It seems that kids are now expecting to have a role as a freshman.
Unlike wide receivers, linebackers or even running backs, there is only one quarterback under center at a time. So the number of signal-callers on a college roster at one time will rarely exceed four -- and, at times, it could just be three or fewer. Generally a coach will recruit one or two quarterbacks in a class, which means supply far outweighs demand. In other words, if the school a prospect wants to go to offers, and is only taking one quarterback, waiting it out could be a risky proposition.
Camps and combines
The spring evaluation period, junior year tape and camps and combines are providing more exposure for kids, which helps explain the increase in early offers. Ten or 15 years ago, prospects might not have known all their options until well into the fall of their senior season.
Yes, I know this is a shock: The Internet has provided (accurately or inaccurately) so much information for kids to view and find out about other kids at their position. While trying to navigate his own situation, a prospect can also try to find out what is going on with other QBs, some of whom might be getting recruited by the same programs. Whether quarterbacks want to admit it or not, generally they want to be the only guy in the class. If they are one of two, the other guy's information -- what someone on the Internet might have him ranked -- could dissuade a prospect from making the early commitment.
"You are the only guy we are offering" is a very popular statement made to QB prospects, and those words can be a very persuasive recruiting tool. If a prospect truly has interest in a school and believes in the coaches who are recruiting him, a trust and relationship have been established. This often prompts the QB to make the verbal earlier as opposed to later. Conversely, the statement "we are bringing in only one QB in this class and we want it to be you, but of the three players we have offered, whoever pulls the trigger first is who we are hitching our wagon to" is one that could be responded to favorably or also backfire.
Enjoy being a senior
Some prospects, especially those who are high-profile kids nationally, just flat out want to get it over with and enjoy being in high school without all the pressures, requests from media, phone calls and distractions of the recruiting process. Knowing where you are going and feeling great about it can often times be a relief. It allows a kid to be a kid again before the expectation of growing into a man becomes a distinct reality.
We talked this week to some of the country's early QB commitments to hear what prompted them to pull the trigger this spring.
Minnesota-bound QB Moses Alipate (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson):
"In making my decision, the school I chose had to meet three criteria: a system that was a good fit for my athletic ability, a great coaching staff and a top-notch academic university," Alipate said. "I found all three of those things at the University of Minnesota. Prior to Coach [Tim] Brewster and Offensive Coordinator Mike Dunbar coming here, I wasn't even considering the University of Minnesota. I thought I was going to play in the Pac-10.
"My committing early to the University of Minnesota had nothing to do with the depth chart. I've never been one to back down from competition. To worry about who's up-and-coming or who I need to wait behind in order to play is a waste of energy. I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the best offensive mind in college football, Mike Dunbar, and his 'spread coast offense.' I respect him and Brewster a lot."
Alipate added that: "My commitment to the University of Minnesota hasn't stopped other schools from recruiting me. I'm still getting offers. To me, it doesn't matter how many offers a guy gets; you can have 100 offers but at the end of the day you can only accept one. You better make sure it's the right one."
Alipate continued, "I committed shortly after the national signing day for the Class of 2008. That recruiting class for the University of Minnesota was one of the best in the nation. I wanted to keep the momentum going for 2009. A lot of the skill position guys want to know who the QB is going to be before they commit. I wanted to give the coaching staff plenty of time to recruit more great players."
USC-bound QB Matt Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei):
"I'd have to say that the depth chart had nothing to do with me committing to USC early. USC always has great quarterbacks on their roster, and great competition at every position," Barkley said. "I was the only 2009 QB that USC was recruiting, so I felt no pressure to commit early."
Barkley added, "I wanted everybody to know that I was going to SC. I wanted to make a statement, and I wanted to try and get as many great players to join me as early as possible. USC was simply where I have always wanted to go to school. Why wait any longer in delaying the process when I could tell the world that I was going to be a Trojan? I knew that I wanted to go the University of Southern California, and I wanted everyone to know."
LSU-bound athlete Russell Shepard (Houston, Texas/Cy-Ridge):
"I felt like it was crazy that for a school that just won the national title had only two QB's on scholarship and not one of those two have started a college game or played in a college game before," Shepard said, "so the depth chart was a consideration."
"I felt like I could go to a national program and not have to compete against five or six QBs, and I felt like the earlier I committed, the more I could scare away other recruits that had LSU as an option. There could be an opportunity to come in and be a three- or four-year starter. Lastly, I wanted to focus on my senior football season of high school, and by committing early, I would not have to worry about missing workouts to travel to all these schools."
Wisconsin-bound QB Jon Budmayr (Woodstock, Ill./Marian Central Catholic):
"Wisconsin was just a good fit for me with their great academics and football program," Bodmayr said. "I prayed a lot about this decision, and faith led me to Wisconsin. Coach [Paul] Chryst is a great offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. He didn't talk about changing the whole offense around me because we actually run a similar offense at Marian. We will get under center a lot like Wisconsin and use a seven-step drop with similar footwork, but Coach Chryst has talked about running some more shotgun and zone boot to get me moving. It is something they already have in their package."
Duke-bound QB Sean Schroeder (Dana Point, Calif./Dana Hills):
"I had targeted schools based on academics, location, coaching staff and offensive scheme," Schroeder said. "When I decided to commit to Duke, some of the schools on my list had already received quarterback commitments and it was apparent that those schools would not be signing any other quarterbacks."
Schroeder added, "Given the pace of recruiting, I had pretty much decided if one of the remaining schools on my list were to offer, I would seriously consider committing right away. As it turned out, Duke was always on the top of my list. The combination of academics and being mentored by someone like David Cutcliffe was too hard to pass up."
And finally, while prospects might have various reasons for making their college choice sooner rather than later, Texas commit QB Garrett Gilbert (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis) summed it up quite simply by telling us, "I really wanted to go to Texas."
Fair enough, Garrett.
Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.