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.



May 27th, 2011 at 3:17 PM ^

as long as its quality players, it doesn't really matter when they commit. If coaches feel players like Braden and Stacey are the kind of student-athletes that fit with the program, bring them on. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer here, just bring in quality players when you can.


May 27th, 2011 at 3:13 PM ^


We've filled half of our class, especially at serious positions of need.  We filled them with a number of 4 star athletes.  We now have very few true needs, and half of our recruiting spots left....what exactly did you expect to get down the line?  If we have a good season, we will fill these spots with 5 star players easily.  If we come out sluggish and drop a bunch of early games, we will be glad as hell we had solid class in place before the season began.


May 27th, 2011 at 3:24 PM ^

Even in the best of times following a great season we have rarely gotten more than one or two five star recruits, so filling "spots with 5* players easily" is a pipedream.  Also, while we have filled some of our needs with solid recruits, the two biggest weak spots have not been addressed as yet: OT and DT.  


May 27th, 2011 at 3:21 PM ^

Sooner > later. 

I would much rather have commitments early on in the process and run the risk of a stand-out player regressing as opposed to waiting and risk having to scramble at the last minute at whatever talent might be left.  Plus, by having so many commits now there is this real luxury for the coaching staff of being able to spend as much time and energy as they want on the handful of guys that they really want to fill out the rest of the class.

Yes, there are going to be guys that just starting playing ball in high school that are going to come out the woodwork and have breakout senior seasons, but those guys are going to be relatively few.  The 6'9" junior on the other hand isn't exactly going to get shorter. 

In short, I see few drawbacks, and I'm excited about the recent recruiting successes.



May 27th, 2011 at 4:15 PM ^

I agree... the poster states that you can assume Nebraska is going to get commits, and that those commits will be better. That argument is asinine.  Top talent attracts top talent. It happens at every school, bc most kids want to be a winner, and they will believe they have a great chance with classmates who they know are there and are talented. We have great kids now and the making of a great class....That attracts attention from coaches, analysts, and players alike


May 27th, 2011 at 6:17 PM ^

Getting a bunch of early commits and creating this sense that Michigan's getting a bunch of talented recruits is particularly important this year, because of the way it changes the stories people tell about Michigan football. This early start allows the larger narrative of "Hoke is turning Michigan around," "Michigan is back," to take shape. It's especially important given the relative lack of knowledge the general public has about Hoke as a coach. That sense is obviously allowing him to get in on next year's class, as well, given Morris's commitment.

Creating these stories isn't just some minor thing. Selling  a recruit on a story is key. We live our lives within the stories we tell about ourselves. Being able to say "all these guys are coming to return Michigan to glory, come on and join them" is a powerful recruiting tool. Telling that story is easier if there are already a bunch of players committed.




May 27th, 2011 at 3:24 PM ^

I keep hearing that if a 5-star player c wants to commit, the school will "make room for them".  Does this mean that if a 5-star announces at the all-star games in January (or on signing day) that we will quietly be telling one of our 3-star recruits who committed in May that they are SOL?

I, too have been concerned with this point.  If, for example, 3 or 4 of the lower ranked linemen we have commit, and then come January Peat, Diamond, Magnuson and Banner all announce, what will the coaches do?   Take 8 O-Line prospects? 


May 27th, 2011 at 3:29 PM ^

I have never heard of that happening because schools in the SEC and other conferences can just use their slick maneuverings to make room. 

In the B1G we have a hard cap at 25 and I think you are allowed 3 more as long as you don't go over 85.  If I'm not mistaken the most you can sign is 28, but that is only if you haven't hit the magical number of 85.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:07 PM ^

At Michigan, you make room by telling one more fifth year that they won't be invited back.  

We have 12 players this year with fifth year eligibility. If signing day comes and a 5 star o-lineman decides to come, maybe Jordan Kovacs (or another contibuting player) wouldn't be invited back.  While we love Kovacs, I'm sure the staff would prefer 4 years of a 5 star player to one more year with Kovacs.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:34 PM ^

I was merely using Kovacs as an example.  Clearly there are fifth year eligible players that wouldn't be invited back before Kovacs.  I used him to point out that if we were really in a crunch, there are ways to make room for an elite player.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:54 PM ^

I'm in EGD's camp. Kovacs could realistically be our best safety for the next 2 years. He has to be one of our most important redshirt Juniors next year along with the likes of Omameh, Roundtree and Demens.


May 27th, 2011 at 8:49 PM ^

I'm interested in your premise of usefulness. While I agree that I'd prefer a 5th year senior not to be invited back than a recruit kicked out, I'd rather have it so that we only sign/recruit those we can take. Whether a player is contributing or not, they're still working their ass off for the team. It'd be an ugly situation no matter how you dice it, and I think too that the policy should be relatively consistent for all 5th year seniors. Those who would be willing to take the hit should be the ones who do. If that's "Kovacs" (who really was just an example in this case, but basically any on-field contributing player), then good luck to you, and we're sorry we couldn't have you. We will be a good team with or without you.

No man. No coach. You know how it goes.

Sextus Empiricus

May 28th, 2011 at 10:05 AM ^

question who are we getting a look from by taking these commits.  It goes both ways.

There's no long standing strategy here IMO...we're seeing good coaching and huge opportunity pay off.  If recruiting well is a just can't win.

It is a product of's Danny O'Brien's take on Dantonio (as seen on a post at UMGoBlog - I think this comes from a 24/7 interview ($).

“I really like Coach D a lot. Coach (Mark) Dantonio really shows me he’s not here to pressure me and he’ll ride it out all the way until I’m ready to make my decision. He’s not the kind of guy that if I’m going to offer you, you have to commit now. He’s a real relaxed guy and a players’ coach.”

You win with lose with others. That's the reality of it.  It's not a sprint clearly...




May 27th, 2011 at 3:27 PM ^

The only drawback I see is for the recruits who live outside of "our area."  An example of this is Joshua Garnett.  Coming from Washington to Michigan on an un-official visit costs lots of time and money.  Recruits are only allowed to take officials during the season.  By that time the class might be filled at that position. 


May 27th, 2011 at 3:29 PM ^

You're missing the point with Michigan State. Michigan fans aren't just excited because we are doing better than Michigan State in recruiting but we are absolutely crushing them in state in a way that no one has seen before. Especially considering the past 3-4 years this is extraordinary.

Also, I think you're too focused on the recruiting numbers rather than the actual talent. We are getting the top talent in the state and three and four stars at positions of need. I don't think with 13 spots available many players (unless maybe you're a TE?) are going to think that the class can no longer fit them or anything.


May 27th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

Your sentence beginning, “Especially considering the past 3-4 years,” is precisely the point. When Michigan is Michigan (which lately, it has not been), the Wolverines recruit so much better than the Spartans that it isn’t even an issue on anyone’s mind.

I am not focused on recruiting numbers rather than actual talent: I realize the coaches may have different insights than the recruiting services. But we don’t know what those insights are, since the NCAA doesn’t permit coaches to comment publicly on unsigned players.

That there are roughly 13 spots remaining somewhat misses the mark, because they’re allocated by position. For instance, if the coaches have allotted one slot for a quarterback, then they’re “done” at QB as soon as someone commits (unless they deliberately push that kid aside if they realize they can get someone better—a strategy that likewise has some pros and cons).

Hardware Sushi

May 27th, 2011 at 6:15 PM ^

I guess I see what you're saying, but there are several factors at play.

1. You're focused on talent, not numbers. Fine, but our star/ratings averages are near the top for each recruiting service within the Big Ten. Plus we have numbers.

2. As stated by an earlier poster, talent attracts talent. RJS, Ross, Ringer, Richardson, Morris, etc. have been camping and talking up Michigan/Hoke/etc. to quite a few top prospects. The value of that is immeasurable and something our coaches simply cannot do. We've ended up with the "Detroit Three" already and it was just February that we were hoping to get one or two. We've landed a second FHH kid because he came out with his teammate and loved it so much. Maybe that's three but I don't want to speculate.

3. I think you're viewing this from a very fan-centric viewpoint. First, not all offers are equal. Some are commitable, some are not. I bet we could have 25 recruits right now if we really had commitable offers out to every player we've "offered."

When your coaching staff has roughly 200+ years of collegiate coaching experience, you probably have a decent idea of whose commitment you will take regardless of this "slotting" you believe the coaches do, kind of like how NFL teams have positions of need picks and value picks in the draft.

4. You state "when Michigan [was] Michigan" we weren't worrying about competing for recruits versus MSU. Yes, I agree we weren't as worried 5, 10, 15 years ago. But I would add recruiting services and their media impact have dramatically changed how recruiting is followed since the last time you could officially say Michigan is Michigan (circa 2006).

My position is simple: Have a specific vision for your team makeup. Take talented players and players that fit your system as early as you want. Period. Adjust interest in less-wanted recruits as necessary when the class starts to fill. We still have 10-13 spots, for God's sake (to borrow from the Hokester). That seems to be the strategy here.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:58 PM ^

There are not 13 spots available. There are 6 spots available plus whatever attrition we have. To say that there are 13 spots available means that 7 guys currently on the roster must leave. That is not a small number. Didn't Hoke say they expect about 22 spots in all? That means they expect roughly 4 more guys to leave, not twice that many.


May 27th, 2011 at 3:30 PM ^

One word: Texas. I realize they have an advantage being in the state of Texas, but they always have a stack of commitments early in the process and they dominate their turf, much like we're doing now.

Early commitments are valuable commitments. And let's keep in mind the fact that Hoke and company have their own rating system. They could see recruits like Ben Braden (a consensus three star) as a highly touted prospect, so if they get his verbal commitment early in the process it's a definite win. Taking commitments earlier also gives you the luxury of forgetting about certain position groups that you already have locked up (LB, TE) and go hard after other positions (OL, DL, DB). 

Zone Left

May 27th, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

Michigan's filling its class with a bunch of highly rated guys, so life is good. If the four or five top 200ish players Michigan had commitments from were middling recruits, then there would be serious issues. Don't read beyond that. Michigan will certainly have room if a top 30 player decides to go blue.


May 27th, 2011 at 3:49 PM ^

the coaches/recruiters study a crapload of film so we may pick up a kid as a 3* that may become a 4* over time based on what the coaches see in his film.

STW P. Brabbs

May 27th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

I think you're worried for no reason - if it comes to the point that we can't accept some highly-rated players at the end of the recruiting process because we're already stocked with 4-stars and a couple of high three-stars, that's a champagne problem.

Also, you seem strangely confident in the recruiting pull of Nebraska, which struck me as kind of odd.  USC they are not, as far as I know.  They do fine, and had a pretty good year last year, but they're far from automatic top-15 types.  Matter of fact, the program took a big turn down when the NCAA closed the Prop 48 loophole that allowed the Right Reverend Tom to stock his roster with luminaries like Lawrence Phillips - certainly, if Nebraska could have pulled athletes that good without the social deviance and rock-bottom academic credentials, they would have.  That they did not speaks to a lack of universal appeal to recruits.


May 27th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

Cons: None. 

Just ask Texas.  Every fucking year they've got a 4 star mafia signed up before anyone else does.  You think they would change that?  Even for a second? 



May 28th, 2011 at 5:58 AM ^

Building excitement early and bringing highly sought after kids on board early sends a message to other kids that this is going to be a hell of a class and its best to not wait. What 5* is going to commit in January when you have, say, 5 commits?.But if a program has 17 commits with the majority 4 stars, you're more likely to get that recruit.How can anyone argue with this years recruiting?This could and should end up a top 5 -10 class.


May 27th, 2011 at 3:59 PM ^

I saw the "pros" and "cons" part of the title and thought this was another discussion of MSU's over-reliance on East Lansing city jail 23's work-release program to fill out its roster.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:15 PM ^

He didn't say getting commits this early was a bad thing. He clearly stated the advantages and drawbacks. I think he brings up very valid points. I think we can all agree that getting a four-star at any time is a good thing. So lets breakdown the three-stars.

Pharaoh Brown ( I agree more with Scout's three-star assessment not rivals)- the kid is extremely raw, but any recruit that athletic you can't ignore. Looks like he has the frame to put on some weight, and again he isn't even considered a three-star on rivals.

Kaleb Ringer (I agree with rival's three-star assessment)- looks to be very ready for the college game. Has glaring strengths (hits hard, good insticts) but also glaring weaknesses (stiff hiped, little slow). Not a huge upside, but also has a high ceiling. In other words, you know what you are getting. 

Matt Godin- see Kaleb Ringer. Glaring strengths and glaring weaknesses. You know what you are getting. These are the type of recruits that schools like Wisconsin and Iowa strive on. 

AJ williams- I don't really know why we are high on him. Seems like a tweener that is a project at whichever position he ends up. (Maybe staff was looking for an almost-strictly blocking te like webb)

Ben Braden & Caleb Stacey-  We are taking 6 or 5 OL this class. It's just not realistic to expect us to have 5 four-stars at one position. So I have no problem taking 2 three-stars OL to start filling out the position early. 


May 27th, 2011 at 10:31 PM ^

I didn't really understand AJ Williams either, especially when we all believed Thompson to be a lock. I agree with you, the only thing I can think is that Thompson and Funchess are similar whereas Williams is much more of a blocking TE, and they were planning to take Williams plus whichever of the other two came first.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:53 PM ^

I actually think this is diary-worthy.

But it should be one of the diaries with a lock on the cover.  That way it can sit on the shelf and look like any other book until you pick it up and you're like "whoa, where's the key for this thing?  I haven't seen it since that storm last year when the lights went out and I dropped my wife's earring and couldn't find it for about four days."


May 27th, 2011 at 4:17 PM ^

I don't know anything about recruiting.. but it seems that if 3/4 of the class is filled up come september (or even this summer), it would allow the coaches to really focus on the 2013 recruits.  

This seems like a huge advantage.  99% of the college teams are stressing over their current class, while we can take 80% of our resources and apply them towards future recruits, thereby getting a head start.


May 27th, 2011 at 5:04 PM ^

I like Neil's thought, and another way to spin this is that if we have a good portion of our class set by the fall, the coaches can concentrate on coaching the current players. We are going through a coaching change after all, so extra time spent with the current players might be more important now than it will be several years down the road once the system has been in place for a while.


May 27th, 2011 at 4:23 PM ^

Pro: Having early high rated commits in the ear of other highly rated prospects on jr days/camps/visits doesn't hurt, and hearing positive things about the university from their peers could help make the program more attractive to potentials than just hearing about it from all the coaches


May 27th, 2011 at 4:28 PM ^

"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.)"

I think you are overestimating Nebraska's recruiting prowess.  Scout has recruiting class rankings going back to 2002 and Nebraska has NEVER had a higher ranked class than Michigan.  

Additionally, the Huskers have a commit from the 12th rated MLB and we have 3 of the top 10 MLBs.  Their other commit is the 39th ranked WR, while we are likely to fill our WR needs with top 25 prospects.