Early-signing period thoughts

May, 30, 2008

The topic of the proposed early-signing period leads off this week's mailbag:

From Kirk in Georgia: I heard you on Scott Van Pelt's radio show talking about the proposed early-signing period and mentioned how some coaches have changed their viewpoint on the subject. Do you think as we go on and as recruiting draws more and more fan interest, more coaches will push for the early-signing period? And did writing "Meat Market" change your thoughts on whether the early window would be a good thing?

I do think the zeal around football recruiting has opened some coaches' minds to trying anything that might control some of the chaos. You're hearing a lot of coaches who are frustrated by all of the energy and anxiety that comes with the days leading up to Signing Day, worrying about what some 17-year-old is telling them, what the people around that 17-year-old might or might not do as well as what other coaches might do. A big thing that has changed everything is the Internet and the business of online recruiting sites. They've had an incredibly effect on recruiting and recruits especially. Kids get more and more savvy as they observe how the process works. Many play the game of inducing hype for themselves with all of their flip-flopping, and a few coaches think that an early-signing period might cut back on some of that, although I'm sure the kids who try to milk it would probably still drag it out to February. A positive would be that there are a few less "committed" kids the coaches would have to stress over, but ultimately I still don't buy that that would outweigh the other factors against the early period.

In the year-plus I worked on "Meat Market" the recruiting cycle of when the Ole Miss staff had extended the bulk of their offers had moved up two full months on the calendar from the previous year. Many staffs believe its key to be the first school to offer a kid, hoping to play the loyalty card with the recruit. Unless you one of the few true super-power schools, you simply can't afford to be late in the process.

And I do echo exactly what Urban Meyer argues against the early period:

"I think guys will make decisions to go to school without meeting coaches and coaches meeting families," Meyer said. "Those kind of decisions end in breakups or issues. That's why recruiting should be done after the end of the regular season in December and January. I think a kid should take an unofficial visit in the spring, visit a camp, go visit a game in the fall and take an official visit and then make a decision."

If a big portion of the recruiting process is shifted to the sophomore and junior years of a high school recruit, there is too much of a gray area for many, if not most recruits, not just in terms of the physical evaluation but also from a character and academic perspective.

The other point, and this is one of two big distinctions of why football recruiting and basketball recruiting are so different in regards to early-signing periods, is that most of the coaching turnover in college football happens between the proposed early window and Signing Day.

In basketball guys get fired or leave for better jobs in March and April, not December. (The other big difference goes back to the evaluation part, where basketball recruiting classes are seldom more than three players and rarely do schools have more than a dozen guys on their boards, whereas in football you have 10 times that amount to analyze.)

From Gene in Indy: What is going on with Kellen Lewis and are my Hoosiers' bowl hopes doomed if he doesn't play this fall?

Good question. IU coach Bill Lynch still hasn't clarified Lewis' status after suspending him indefinitely for violating team rules according to this update from the Indy Star.

Before speaking in Southern Indiana on Wednesday, Lynch said Lewis is "doing the things we're asking him to do" to return, and the coach estimated he would re-evaluate the situation in late June. "We kind of felt before spring ball that it was a process he was going to go through," Lynch said. "I didn't think it was going to be a quick thing. I don't have a timetable on it."

If Lewis is back I think IU has a shot at going 8-4. He's a dynamic talent and the schedule is very manageable. They don't play Ohio State and have nonconference home games against W. Kentucky, Murray State, Ball State and a good Central Michigan team. Without him, I think they might be looking at 5-7.

From Jonathan in Westerville, Ohio: How many bowls are too many, especially since a lot of college football fans are asking for a playoff system? There really seems to be more-and-more meaningless bowl games every season, and two more have just been added.

I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here among my media colleagues. I don't mind seeing additional bowl games. I'll take two average football teams playing in December over a regular-season NBA game any night. And those bowl games are only "meaningless" to people who don't have teams playing in them. I know if you're a Mississippi State fan that bowl game meant something. Same as Rutgers playing ASU three years ago, which really was a springboard for the Scarlet Knights' program. I will admit that seeing a 4-8 team get to a bowl game wouldn't feel right, but if this is such a horrible thing, no one will buy tickets or watch and the bowl will eventually disappear.

From Ernie in Baton Rouge: What is going on with all the players from Austin lately? Vince Young almost quits? Ricky would have kept Cedric Benson out of trouble had he been on the boat with him at Lake Travis? Why would anyone draft a Texas player? And if players quit getting drafted, the pipeline dries up. Are the Longhorns doomed?

I think you're taking a few issues and drawing way too big of a conclusion. Texas also did produce Pro Bowl DT Casey Hampton and OG Leonard Davis. You can't condemn a program based on the actions of a few of their players. I seriously doubt that pipeline is drying up any time soon.

From Chris in Lacey, WA: I want to comment on the gun banning issue. I don't have a problem with coaches saying their players can't have guns. I'm not a fan of gun control, but I do think coaches have the right to set rules for their players if it's what they think is best for the team. I'd be interested to hear what coaches who set such rules feel about gun control in general ... especially southern coaches.

My hunch is that most college football coaches are very conservative politically although I think a lot would prefer to not let their political beliefs known for fear of turning off some fans or some recruits and their parents. (One coach I spoke to earlier this spring had some off-the-record comments that I think would've really bothered a big chunk of his fan base, and I could see why many tend to keep things private.) A colleague and I tried to guess which head coaches were Republicans and which were Democrats, and we thought it was about 80-20 Republican. But we were really just guessing. I will see if a few would be open to weighing in on your question though.

BYU snagged a former UNLV player who might also help the Cougars land one of the nation's top LB prospects too. Malosi Te'o, a 5-11, 195-pound running back from Kahuku High School in Hawaii, announced on Thursday he will accept an offer from BYU and enroll in January 2009 instead of UNLV where he signed out of high school. He is on a mission in New York City, writes Dick Harmon.

"It's a dream come true for my son," said Te'o's father, Ephraim, who has another son, Levi, at Timpview High School being evaluated by BYU.

Malosi Te'o is a first cousin to 2008 Cougar recruit Shiloah Te'o, who also played at Kahuku. Both are cousins to national blue-chip linebacker recruit Manti Te'o, out of Punahou High in Honolulu, who is on the top of BYU's recruiting board for the class of 2009.

Manti Te'o seems to be on everybody's recruiting board.

C.J. Spiller has gotten faster thanks to his work on the Clemson track team, reports Paul Strelow.

"Spiller's best outdoor time in the 100 last year was a 10.41, and he has shaved eight-hundredths off that mark this season despite limited training. This spring's primary achievement has been learning that speed is generated from rapid arm movement, which increases the down force of one's upper body and leads to raising one's knees higher. CU sprint coach Charles Foster has worked to minimize the subtle side-to-side twitches in Spiller's running motion to make his movement more efficient."

"I don't teach him how to play football," Foster said. "I just teach him how to play football better."

• Speaking of fast, Jeff Demps might be so fast, he might just run right by Florida football. The UF RB recruit is hoping to make the 200-meter Olympic team, writes Buddy Collings.

"I want to try to make it to the Olympics," Demps said by phone Wednesday -- and he wasn't talking about four years or eight years down the road -- or after he finishes football. Demps said he is in training to make a run at the 2008 Games. The Olympic track and field events will be held Aug. 15-24 in Beijing. "If the track thing doesn't work out, all my focus will be on football," he said. "But I know I've got a good chance to make [the Olympics] now, so I'm going to try."

• Aaron Nagel, a linebacker is transferring out of Notre Dame, Mike Rothstein reports.

Nagel, who was not expected to compete for a starting job this fall, is considering Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Illinois. His brother, Brett, is going to Northwestern in the fall. The linebacker is the first player from the ND Class of 2007 to depart South Bend and the fifth player since the 2007 season began, joining quarterback Demetrius Jones (Cincinnati), tight end Konrad Reuland, offensive lineman Matt Carufel (Minnesota) and cornerback Munir Prince (Missouri). Another member of the 2006 class QB Zach Frazier transferred before the season to UConn.

• There might be another Patrick White coming to play football in the state of West Virginia, although this one is a WR-DB and he's being recruited by Marshall, according to Anthony Hanshew.

"The Pickerington H.S. standout also has been offered by Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Syracuse and Akron."

• I'm eager to watch the network debut of MMA with the big Kimbo Slice show Saturday night. I'm also curious to see how Phil Baroni does. He's always entertaining. I predict Slice wins in a first round TKO, although I wonder how much it would hurt that promotion if Slice lost.



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