When the NCAA recruiting calendar changed a couple of years ago with the addition of a December signing date, hardcore followers of football talent knew that there might be unintended consequences. No one predicted, though, that the month with the most movement, the most visits and ultimately a rapidly increasing number of commitments would be June.
One could argue that, even though it has just started, it’s been one of the University of Alabama’s best months, although the Crimson Tide recruits at such a high level that there are few bad months. Nick Saban and staff picked up three commitments in the last week.
Linebacker Demouy Kennedy is one of the top linebackers in the state of Alabama. The most recent commitment, coming on Monday night, is a class of 2021 defensive back. Latrell McCutchin is also highly rated and comes from the absolute left ventricle of the heart of Texas, Lyndon Johnson High School in Austin. (You would have to be George Strait riding an angry bull to be more Texas than that.) The third, also from Texas, is 6-foot-7, 340-pound 16-year old Dameion George, notable both for his planetary size (everything is bigger in you-know-where) and because he may be part of one of the iconic recruiting storylines, the package deal. The tradition of taking one player in hopes that it will help you with another was especially common in the days before stringent scholarship limits, and has been part of Alabama lore dating back to the days when coach Frank Thomas and staff brought in several young men from the area around Pine Bluff in Southeastern Arkansas, a group that included a big end from Moro Bottom named Paul Bryant. Robert Lester from Foley High School was good enough to make it to the NFL on his own merits. Having a teammate named Julio Jones certainly gave him some extra exposure, and a friend for Jones’ college days.
In George’s case, the high school teammate and friend is Zachary Evans. If you don’t follow recruiting closely, the name may not ring a bell just yet. If you are a recruiting devotee, you probably know Evans’ name as well as those of your own children. He is the No. 1 running back in the class of 2020 — that’s for the entire nation — and he and George have talked openly to the hardworking recruiting writers who cover things on a daily basis about their desire to play at the same school.
That’s a lot of activity in what used to be the summer doldrums. There could be more. Alabama may get yet another commitment in the coming days, and there could be additional activity when the Crimson Tide hosts its annual cookout — a sort of a five-star buffet — on June 21. Early summer recruiting (or late spring, if you go strictly by the solstice) has become so important because once practice starts in August, coaching staffs have far fewer hours to devote to recruiting. Prospects certainly attend games and get a whirlwind tour, and Nick Saban, always the recruiter, shakes hands and sets aside office time on Sunday as his schedule allows. Most of the legwork, though, is being done now. Prospects can always change their commitment, although most don’t. (We aren’t talking Hugh Culverhouse Jr., here, for goodness’ sake.)
There is still enough drama in December, and the unsigned prospects still around in February get an extra amount of attention. But the old days of waiting around with a Christmas list of prospects for Santa Claus are over — the best staffs want to have a pretty good idea of which way things are going by the Fourth of July.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or on Twitter @cecilhurt.