Over the last week COVID-19, more infamously known as the novel Coronavirus, has turned the sporting world completely upside down. Every major sporting event has been either postponed or cancelled with little clarity as to when professional leagues may resume, if they do at all this season. As an indication of the potential long-term severity of the virus, the NCAA has cancelled all remaining Spring sporting events, including most depressingly March Madness, to slow the spread of the virus.
With all of that said, how does this affect football recruiting both as it relates to Clemson, as well as nationally? The NCAA has further announced that all official and unofficial visits are cancelled until at least April 15th, effectively sending recruiting into another dead period. With these changes schools are going to face huge adjustments to their recruiting calendars and strategies. How programs look to navigate the vastly different landscape will go a long way in determining the success of their 2021 and 2022 classes.
How does this impact Spring Recruiting?
***BREAKING NEWS***— Athletic Recruiting (@ncsa) March 13, 2020
The NCAA has instituted a ban on all in-person recruiting for all Division 1 sports through April 15th.
Learn more about the new rule and how it impacts your recruiting process: https://t.co/iXm2PrbIWr
As the tweet indicates, recruiting is essentially on hold until April 15th, however, it’s reasonable at this point to expect that delay to be longer. It seems that many schools are shooting for sometime in May or early June for recruiting visits to be resumed, and I think that is the most likely result. Due to the fact that there will be no more Spring visits for prospects, geographic location and proximity is going to become even more important. Taking these key visits and Spring games away limits the opportunities for prospects to build relationships with schools and coaches. Because of this, one would expect it to be more difficult for out-of-state programs to come into other recruiting territories to take their top prospects. Players are more likely to gravitate towards where they are most comfortable and familiar, meaning that there’s a higher chance they sign with in-state programs or schools from neighboring states.
Look for schools to have to restructure their visit plans as early as possible. Established relationships heading into dead period will be huge in a prospects’ recruitment. This is especially true if a school received the last visit prior to the dead period. It is going to be obviously more difficult for schools to sell themselves without in-person visits, and they’ll have to rely heavily on the use of technology for calling, FaceTiming, and any other forms of communication with players.
This is going to really hurt schools that do not have much recruiting momentum, as well as those who have not gotten many prospects on campus yet this Spring. They will be way behind those who have already taken advantage of the new year, and will have significant ground to make up when recruiting is resume. On the flip side, all schools will likely benefit from a longer evaluation period. Coaching staffs will be able to adjust and establish their boards and contingency plans accordingly. There are very real questions about how many Opening and Elite 11 regionals that will take place, which may complicate Spring evaluations. This will hurt the recruiting services’ quality of product more-so than the evaluations of college coaching staffs.
Major changes when recruiting resumes in the Summer and moving forward
For some schools, the most important recruiting weekend a program can have is during the Summer months. For Clemson, that event involves the All-In Cookout, a day that is proven to be extremely effective in not only making a move for certain prospects, but also securing and increasing the interest of current commitments and top targets towards the school/program. More schools will be putting emphasis on these aforementioned months to host these types of days or weekends.
With that likely brings more competition to host prospects during these months due to the potentially limited amount of time they can visit. Programs still must host their evaluation camps first and foremost in order to further evaluate players in each class. Players in the 2021 class may have to be selective with who they visit in the Summer, and equally so with which schools they choose to camp with. This could all change significantly depending on how the NCAA adjusts their schedule to combat this unexpected dead period. It’s unknown how this will affect the Opening Finals, which is a favorite experience for many top recruits every cycle. Additionally, there’s a strong likelihood that we see the February signing day recover some of its lost importance, as there will not be as many recruits ready to sign by the 3rd week of December as there have been in recent years.
How well are Clemson and other major programs currently positioned?
Now for the most important pieces of information: how do these changes affect Clemson and its top competitors moving forward? Because Clemson has already had not one, but two elite Junior days, it has a massive leg up on its primary competition. The Tigers hold the lead for many elite prospects, and received one of if not the most recent visit for many more. There are no schools with more momentum at this stage than Ohio State and Clemson, and because of that both schools could add more than one recruit apiece soon despite this dead period. Some recruits that were already close to decisions may seek to end their recruitments rather than continue to prolong their decisions.
Contrarily, schools like Notre Dame, UGA, and Alabama could be hurt most. While all schools will be adversely affected due to cancelled visits, the Fighting Irish were set to have one of their most important recruiting weekends in recent memory next weekend. That being cancelled could spell the end to their chances for a few 5-star talents including Will Shipley, who is looking to decide in the near future between the Irish and Clemson. UGA often uses the Spring as its springboard for long-term relationships with elite prospects. The Dawgs will land their fair share of elite prospects, just maybe not to the level of the past few cycles. The same can be said for Alabama, who has just 1 prospect committed at this time. For the 2020 class Alabama’s class received a huge shot in the arm when it flipped 5-star QB Bryce Young from USC, however, the Crimson Tide will not be granted the same luxury this season. Alabama is perhaps the program hurt the worst by this dead period, and will have to make up a significant amount of ground to recover.
QB recruiting is also impacted immensely. The quarterback position is traditionally the one schools look to lock up the quickest, as they tend to ask the future leader of the team to be one of the leaders of their recruiting class. In 2021, 14 of the top 30 QB prospects rated by 24/7 Sports are still uncommitted, including the #1 overall QB in the country Caleb Williams. How this delay affects what teams do regarding this position will be fascinating, and will surely strain staffs to tie their top guy down sooner rather than later.
It goes without saying that Clemson must try to ensure that it gets its top targets on campus in early Summer and for its cookout. By doing so the Tigers can lockdown a large majority of their class before the Fall season and maintain a commanding lead over its competitors for elite prospects and in the team recruiting rankings. Bottom line, this new dead period could exacerbate the current state of the team recruiting rankings, and could set the tone for programs for the remainder of the cycle.