Pros and Cons of Attracting Early Commitments

Submitted by oakapple on May 27th, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Michigan now has 12 commitments in its 2012 football recruiting class, currently (by at least one measure) the top class in the Big Ten.

That #1 ranking is partly real, partly artificial. What’s real is that Brady Hoke has recruited some pretty good football players. What’s artificial is that no other Big Ten school has more than eight commits, and nine teams in the conference have four or fewer. That obviously won’t last.

When Michigan has 12 commits and Nebraska just 2, you can’t really say that Michigan is out-recruiting Nebraska. All you can say is that the Cornhuskers must not be particularly eager to get kids to commit this early. (I have no doubt that if the ’Huskers wanted them sooner, they could have them.)

The strategy of accepting so many early commitments has advantages and disadvantages. Clearly it tells the story that Hoke and his team are ace recruiters. When you haven’t coached a game yet, it’s about the only way you can show the world how good you are. It also makes positive news for a program that hasn’t had much of it lately. Nobody needs to be persuaded that great players will go to Nebraska. At Michigan, you couldn’t take that for granted anymore after three bad years.

Tactically, the strategy could push wavering players to commit sooner, fearing that if they don’t their spot in the class might at some point be no longer available. But the players you attract that way are probably not the very best ones. I never heard of a school that couldn’t find room for a five-star athlete (who was academically qualified). Obviously, every commitment takes the player away from other potential suitors, although only loosely, since other schools can still recruit the player between now and signing day.

It feels good to be cleaning Michigan State’s clock on the recruiting trail. But it also says a lot about the current state of Wolverine football that we even care. Five years ago, nobody worried about whether Michigan would have a better recruiting class than the perennial middle-tier team in East Lansing. It was simply a given—something like a sell-out at the Big House, that we hardly ever thought about, because it was expected.

The strategy could also have drawbacks. Michigan has made hundreds of offers for 2012, and it can accept no more than 20–25 (depending on the number of scholarships ultimately available). Every spot you fill early is a spot not available later on, either for players who don’t want to decide this early, or for players off the radar who might make a jump in their senior seasons. Likewise, players who look great based on junior-season film might regress as seniors.

It would be interesting to study whether there is any measurable advantage to accepting commitments early vs. waiting until the fall. A look through the Rivals database shows that there is a pretty wide variance among the elite programs. For instance, Alabama currently has 12 (same as Michigan), but Auburn has only 5. There are two widely different strategies there.

(I am assuming that no player with a chance at attending an elite program rushes to commit to Indiana or Vanderbilt, but that there are plenty who would eagerly commit at places like Auburn and Oregon, to the extent the coaches want them so soon.)

One would think, offhand, that you take the commitments of a four- and five-star kids whenever you can get them, since those players (when correctly rated) are the ones that usually go on to be multi-year starters, NFL draft picks, and so forth. That would also apply to the three-star or unrated kids whom you believe very strongly that the recruiting services got wrong. For a correctly-rated mid-level three-star, the advantages of getting an early commitment aren’t as clear. At that level, players are much more plentiful, and schools like Michigan should be more choosy.

I don’t claim to have the answer, nor am I uncomfortable with Hoke’s strategy. He’s a proven recruiter at places like Ball State and SDSU that are much harder to sell, and in the absence of more concrete data I’ll assume he’s getting it right. I do think it’s a point worthy of further research.


El Demonio

May 27th, 2011 at 4:38 PM ^

can a school defer commitments?  In other words, the post suggests that Michigan is accepting commitments earlier than other schools.  Is Nebraska really saying "Hey recruit, yes, we gave you an offer, but we don't want you to commit until November?"  That doesn't make sense and I don't think that happens.  Early commits are excited about the school, see that there may limited slots for certain positions and want to be in the class.

I think Michigan makes room for the 5* kids, no matter what, but they are taking the same quality players that they would be taking in January.


Zone Left

May 27th, 2011 at 6:34 PM ^

None of these "commitments" means anything right now according to the NCAA. They exist to keep Rivals and Scout in business and for kids to get other recruiters to quit calling them.

If, say, Troy* wanted, it could take the first 25 eligible kids who asked to play and fill its class. Then, they could rank them, continue recruiting other kids, see what happened, and when 300 people fax in a LOI on Signing Day, Troy only needs to accept the ones it wants to accept. Everyone else can figure out something else to do or they could accept all 300, get them to show up for Summer workouts, pick the top 85 players they wanted to keep on scholarship, and then cut everyone else right before the scholarships actually start to pay money. Troy wouldn't even have to tell the kids--they could just get evicted from the dorms when nobody paid the bill. 

None of that would be against NCAA rules as I understand them.

*Not to pick on Troy, even though they sign about 35 kids each year.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:55 PM ^

I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet that the prospects likely to commit early fall into one or more of the following groups:

1) Kids who grew up as Michigan fans and are already emotionally invested in the program and would prefer to play at Michigan rather than any other school;

2) Kids who value the education piece as much as the footabll piece and recognize that Michigan is in a class with just a few other schools (e.g., Stanford, Texas, etc.) as offering the best of both worlds;

3) Kids who have already established themselves as top prospects by their junior year of high school and are not counting on a breaktrhough senior season to generate more and "better" offers;

4) Kids who are very pro-active and who have already checked out the schools they are most interested in, rather than waiting for the recruiters to come to them;

5) Kids who are not particularly interested in remaining the objects of mass speculation and signing-day drama, or in circus-style recruitments;

6) Kids who might enroll early;

7) Kids whose dad is Fred Jackson;

8) Kids who are eager to recruit their talented friends and acquaintances to join them in future dominance, or who realize their early recruitment might automatically attract talent at other positions (e.g., WRs may be drawn to QB commits, RBs to OL, etc.).


May 27th, 2011 at 5:18 PM ^

It's probably not worth worrying much about.

While you can certainly argue that filling up certain positions with recruits that aren't as good as some of the ones you might be able to get later, the reality is - it's a risk worth taking.

The Texas argument people bring up is not pertinent because Texas is only taking their 1st or 2nd choice at a given position.  Michigan is offering something like 10 times as many people and accepting whoever is willing from that group -- not the same thing.

Looking at recruiting by position the coaches seem to be striking a balance - they're approach depends on the position and the roster need:

QB, RB, FB, WR: only elite prospects are being offered right now - if those don't pan out Michigan will move on to Plan B.  Because available scholarships are limited, Michigan is only accepting early commitments from elite prospects that won't make them regreat anything.

DL, OL:  Michigan may end up using up all their scholarships and not getting any elite guys, however, these are positions of extreme need.  Michigan is offering guys they'd be happy to take and the first ones to commit are going to be accepted.  Here, the risk of striking out on a short-list of elite prospects is too big, so they have to cast a wide net and just find players the like.

LB:  Michigan got 4 guys they seem really happy with.  Maybe a 5-star was going to come, but realistically, they probably did as well as they could.

DB:  This one is a more interesting case.  Its clear that they'll take guys like Richardson, Morgan, and a few others with no question.  However, you kind of wonder about a guy like Gant, if he was to be the final DB commit and that closed us off to players like Wilson or Bush, how wise is that?  I don't know but you have to trust the coaches for now.


Bottomline: the program still has work to do to get back to being perennial conference title contenders, so we can't worry too much about getting high 3 and 4 star prospects on the off chance that they're taking a 5-star prospects spot at some point down the line.  When we start hearing 5-stars say "I would've committed to Michigan but they were full..." then we can get frustrated.


May 27th, 2011 at 5:58 PM ^

This really isn't something to worry about, in my opinion.  I'd much rather worry about having a class that's "too full" and then whittling it down if necessary, rather than having 10 open scholarships in mid- to late January and having to offer a bunch of random guys to fill the class.

Rodriguez turned away some commits (Jordan Barnes, Dewayne Peace) late in the process, and Hoke basically did the exact same thing to Devin Lucien once he was hired.  "Well, son, I realize you ONLY want to play wide receiver...but we want you as a cornerback.  Do you want to play cornerback for us?  No?  I didn't think so.  See you later."  You can either fail to renew a 5th year guy, or you can ask a lesser commit to move on.

Furthermore, a lot of these guys who say they're waiting until the Army All American/Under Armour game end up announcing earlier, anyway.  Look at Terry Richardson.  He was going to wait, but then peer pressure and coach pressure got him to commit.  If Josh Garnett really wants to come to Michigan but Hoke has five linemen and is putting pressure on Garnett to decide sooner, Garnett's going to drop.

Just because all these players want to commit on the biggest possible stage (national TV) doesn't mean they all will.


May 27th, 2011 at 6:01 PM ^

Agreed. Why date a really good looking girl who really likes you when there are still some single supermodels left in the world? I mean, waiting for them to come around is the best strategy, right? I like the idea that Michigan could be saving themselves for 5-stars.


May 27th, 2011 at 6:57 PM ^

early commits (such as shane morris/gunner kiel/zeke pike) should help get highly rated wide recievers interested in the program, wheras if they commited later, they might not attract such highly touted complimentary players


May 27th, 2011 at 8:29 PM ^

"It feels good to be cleaning Michigan State’s clock on the recruiting trail. But it also says a lot about the current state of Wolverine football that we even care. Five years ago, nobody worried about whether Michigan would have a better recruiting class than the perennial middle-tier team in East Lansing. It was simply a given—something like a sell-out at the Big House, that we hardly ever thought about, because it was expected."


I'm not sure if this is entirely true. I think the reason that most people were not worried about Michigan's recruiting classes about five years ago was because of a lack of recruiting coverage.


The scope of recruiting sites and the amount of followers have blown-up in the past few years, and I think this is where you find the greater obsession over which players Michigan is hauling in each year.


May 27th, 2011 at 8:36 PM ^

get the worm and it's good to see Coach Hoke has laid a solid foundation of our top local talent for this years class. Getting the best Michigan kids is just as important as getting the best Michigan Man in Hoke. It's certainly generated a lot of buzz and momentum and the current verbal commits are leaning heavily on who'mever the coaches have their eyes on next. One of the reasons we've had so many-so early is because they were close and could just drive here with their parents to visit. We've nearly tapped our well of local offers and the big fish nationally are still waiting to take their highly documented-double and triple checked-paid for visits. Once they get on campus they won't be able to say no either.


May 28th, 2011 at 12:16 AM ^

Just imagine the wailing if Hoke hadn't been getting commitments by now.  Some people are never going to be happy.  He knew he had to start building momentum and is doing what he needed to do.

We will be fine.

Bobby Boucher

May 28th, 2011 at 10:15 AM ^

Based on these factors:

Players might regress in Senior year - All recruits bring some degree of risk associated with them.  Their have been recruits in the past that didn't do so hot in their senior year, and yet did well in college.  Coaches just have to get recruits on campus and evaluate them as best as possible as far as how they fit in with schemes and projected ceiling.

Positions of need - IMO, a quality recruiting class is one that fills vital needs, not on a ESPN grading scale.  This class has been right on target for the most part by going after recruits who'll fill big-time needs, except for maybe DT and WR.

Quality vs Quantity - Even though there's no evidence to suggest that our current recruits will be a disappointment, I don't see how going after quantity would be a bad thing during Hoke's first year.  I say go for the full class and worry about next years numbers next year.  If we have a decent season and a Bowl win then it should translate into picking up some good blue chips in 2013.

Just my two cents worth

King Douche Ornery

May 28th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. The OP would be crying like a bitch if Hoke has just two commits, saying "WOWZ it was a mistake to hire this guy! Brandon is a ratard!"

There are no disadvantages to early commits. Expecially this year. The staff needs momentum, the school needs to get something good going, and these are highly regarded players.

Michigan never has gotten all the five starz people seem to think they have. Get the recruits you like.

I mean, something tells me MOST coaching staffs kind of know what they're doing (Turdriguez did not).

Dumb thread by a guy who thinks and worries too much about the wrong things. Sigh.

MGoBlog-Making Scout Look Intelligent One Thread at a Time

maize and brew…

May 29th, 2011 at 8:57 AM ^

You got to be thinking about the effect Hoke's recruiting has done. When was the last time Michigan was a top 5 choice for the most talented prospects in the country. I dont think its because we got a new coach. Also its like a game of chess. When kids see that Michigan is pulling in some very good prospects and the spots are limited, they start to adjust their time frames quite a bit. Hoke has put a lot of pressure on the top recruits in a good way by getting great talent to commit early and its a huge advantage for Michigan.


May 30th, 2011 at 9:14 AM ^

   Its been said already but if you have 25 kids this year and 25 the next and 12 are already accounted for you already have free up 25% of your recruiting time and can now refocus on the other 75%.

    Nebraska is still working hard selling themselves to number 3-12. Think about how much time we would be spending on those recruits. Also in MSU's case they have wasted time on plan A's and are now spending time on Plan B's all the while we are focusing all attention on our last few head to head recruiting battles.

     The more assuance you can get from march-september the better. How nice would it be to know your last five players will be either 5 top notch or your plan B's but either way they are locked up. Now go out and coach your tail off and get started on 2013!