There is a saying about recruiting: “It’s like shaving. You’ve got to do it every day or you look bad.”
But how does the adage apply when not everyone is necessarily shaving every day?
The freeze that the coronavirus has put on college football extends to most of the important dates on the spring calendar — campus visits, off-campus contact with coaches, June camps (whether on campus or not) that usually serve as important opportunities for evaluation.
“Those have been really big events for Alabama under Nick Saban,” said Rodney Orr, a long-time recruiting reporter as one of his duties as the owner of the Tider Insider website. “You’d normally see Alabama making a lot of offers in July.”
Some programs, like Alabama, have continued to follow that timetable. In hindsight, one wonders if most football programs wouldn’t prefer to have the old single February signing date back but that’s water over the dam at this point. The Crimson Tide has four total commitments, two wide receivers from south Florida and two in-state defenders, all of whom have been Saban targets for some time, and thus thoroughly vetted.
Others have been more aggressive, to put it mildly. The team that has been sprinting while others have been trotting, attracting a tremendous amount of attention, has been the University of Tennessee.
This is not an attempt to evaluate the 21 recruits that UT has at this point, including a flurry of highly-rated (four- or five-star) players that have committed to the Vols over the last 10 days. Jeremy Pruitt is a solid recruiter, a good evaluator and has more knowledge of his current roster than anyone else, and if he is bringing in players that can make his team stronger, there is no reason to criticize that.
But here is the thing: 21 commitments in mid-May doesn’t leave much room in a class. UT probably has a little flexibility to go past 25 signees, but then they get to 27 or 28, things will start to get tight. As a point of comparison, here are some other significant commitment numbers from the SEC: Ole Miss has three, Alabama and Auburn each have four commitments, South Carolina has six, Georgia and Texas A&M each have seven, LSU (riding on the wave of a national title) has 10, Florida has 12. Tennessee has 21, 12 of whom are rated as 3-stars.
One can look at it from different perspectives. Viewed with an orange tint, Tennessee is rolling, has added some top-notch players (including the No. 1 player in Alabama per the 247 rankings) and is going to add nothing but Top 100 national talent down the stretch. The other viewpoint: there is not a milk-off at the dairy and there is no prize for filling up your bucket first. The Tennessee class includes a lot of players who haven’t had an evaluation opportunity since their 2019 high school season ended. Either UT is going to roll with that or some of its commitments may not have firm offers later on, which is part of the game but makes it awfully difficult to view the current 21 commitments as anything other than “options.”
Alabama fans are spoiled, of course, and UA coming in with a current No. 47 ranking behind Toledo and Purdue is not what those fans are accustomed to seeing. Getting attention in May is important, especially when little else is happening and headlines are there to be grabbed. But the numbers game in recruiting has a way of evening itself out.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt