Now that SEC media days have come and gone, and since NFL training camp starts later this week, we can honestly now say that football season is here.
There is one part of football that never seems to care what the month is on the calendar: college football recruiting. It’s a 12-month-a-year business. It just seems to never stop, with constant reports about camp visits, official visits, lists, leans, and, of course, the all-important verbal commitments.
The two biggest college programs in the state have been on a huge run recently. Georgia has received six verbal commitments this month, with five rated as four-star players by Scout.com, and 12 since June 1. The Bulldogs now have 16 commitments. Georgia Tech has received nine verbals since June 1. The Jackets have 12 overall.
It’s late July, and yet Georgia has all but about five or six spots available for this year’s recruiting season already tied up. Georgia Tech is expected to have a larger class this year, but even it has probably half of its class finished -- at least with kids who have given the non-binding verbal commitment.
The season is still six weeks away, and it still shows how crazy recruiting has gotten during the past few years. Programs have to get the verbal commitments as early as possible. They feel if they get the verbal from the prospect, he’ll be less likely to go to another school for a visit and change his mind.
But it also makes it so much more important to correctly evaluate the players, since they are simply finishing their junior season and programs have to immediately offer them a scholarship without knowing how well or how poorly they might play in their senior year of high school.
That just seems backwards, in a way, to want prospects who haven’t even played in their final season of high school. I guess it’s much like the NFL, where teams want players who haven’t finished college but seem good enough to play at the next level. But we’re talking about high school kids, and we know how unpredictable they can be at times.
The process has also seemed to limit what football programs can do when it comes to bringing in kids who might not be prospects right now but then have solid senior seasons and warrant a scholarship. Since they have to take kids so early, will they have room for those types of players? Not always. They may try to leave a spot or two open for a surprise who might have emerged as a serious prospect in his senior season, but if that means you turn down a five-star player who was already rated high going into his final high school season, they’ll rarely do it.
Of course, the smart coaches are usually savvy enough to make sure they can squeeze a kid like that in if necessary. There are certain restrictions on the size of the signing day classes, but they know with normal attrition there likely will be openings on the roster.
Some of the games that go on in football recruiting could be wiped out with an early signing period, much like an early signing period has in college basketball. But that’s just too logical. Plus, with ESPN turning National Signing Day into a television event the past few years, that seems unlikely, as we all know how TV -- and particularly the four-lettered network -- runs everything in sports.
Even if you are not a recruitnik (that’s what they call people who are obsessed with recruiting), you might pay enough attention to what your college team does to know when it picks up a huge verbal. Of course, getting excited about a 17-year-old making a verbal commitment, knowing it’s non-binding and could easily change with the wind before he signs on the dotted line, is a little scary in itself.
Perhaps it’s a good thing, however, to have recruiting in the news almost every week of the year. It is football, even if it’s not on the field. And when we are anxiously waiting the brilliant sound of the football pads popping and the sight of players tackling, we’ll usually take anything we can get.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.