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March 10, 2012

Roundtable: Early commits good or bad?

MORE ROUNDTABLES:March 3 | Feb. 25 | F17 | F5

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

We've been reading a lot about the recruiting process speeding up (more underclassmen committing, the following year's class fills up quickly after NSD, etc.). Is this good or bad?

Mike Farrell: It's bad if I had to pick good or bad. It will lead to more committed prospects taking visits to other schools, more decommitments and honestly more prospects making poor decisions that aren't thought out well enough. There's a reason why players are allowed five official visits and don't have to decide until February of their senior year. It's so they can take their time, take visits to compare numerous schools and get it right. I can see prospects with one or two offers getting squeezed, but if you have 30-plus offers, what is the rush?

Adam Gorney: It leans toward bad. There are so many restrictions on how coaches and prospects can get to know each other, talk in person, etc., and when the recruiting process is sped up and players are recruiting earlier it could lead to more decommitments throughout the recruiting process and more uncertainty. I don't think there's any question coaches are taking more risks on players because they feel compelled to offer along with other schools so no one is seen as coming in too late to the process. That means offers are going out without a complete and thorough analysis of the player on and off the field. We'll see in years to come if it's bad for the game, for prospects and for coaches. We don't really know yet. But it could lead to more risk-taking which is sometimes a "win big or lose big" proposition.

Josh Helmholdt: It is not necessarily bad in each individual recruitment, but in general it is a negative trend. With all these early commitments, we are seeing an increasing number of decommitments. Those hurt both player and program. From the player standpoint, they tend to rush through the evaluation process late in the process following a decommitment. On the program's end, the coaches then have to scramble to fill a spot they thought they already had filled.

[ RELATED: Early commit trend picking up steam]

Chris Nee: It is bad on multiple levels. In some cases, you have prospects committing to verbal offers who know little or nothing about a school and have never visited. That sets the stage for them to be a future transfer when it turns out that it isn't what he thought it was. Also, in my opinion, I think some schools are neglecting the scouting process and playing follow the leader, offering a kid because this school or that school extends and offer. Some prospects are being taken because they are supposed to be really talented and not because they are a player that fits a program and will make it better. This is where doing a good job of evaluating a player as a sophomore and junior is pivotal for programs.

Keith Niebuhr: Honestly, I don't know the answer to this. It probably varies from kid to kid. The only negative for the kids would be that a lot of coaches don't want them to take visits to other schools once they've made a commitment. However, by the time most have committed, they've already taken several unofficials. When you take an unofficial, though, mom or dad must pay for it. That can be pretty costly.

Brian Perroni: It's probably a little bit of both. With a lot of these kids, it is a really good thing that they can get their decision out of the way and fully concentrate on spring ball and their senior seasons. However, many of them likely got caught up in the excitement with everybody else committing so early and will likely change their minds at least once before signing day. It is tough to ask a junior in high school to make a final decision on where he wants to attend college. Regular students don't decide that early but football prospects have sort of been forced to do so or risk losing their spot.

On average as a group, are quarterbacks better or worse coming out of high school now than they were 10 years ago?

Mike Farrell: They are more prepared but I'm not sure about them being better. There are many more personal quarterback trainers out there now than before, there are more quarterback-specific teaching camps than 10 years ago and the quarterbacks now are more athletic and stronger. But that hasn't translated into fewer four- and five-star busts. Quarterback is the toughest position to project because so much of it is mental and it's hard to tell who will handle the pressure, who will be willing to wait their turn and other factors. We have had less five-stars at quarterback in recent years than 10 years ago, but I think that's because we've seen so many bust and we are more picky than ever.

Adam Gorney: There is no question in my mind that quarterbacks are more skilled coming out of high school because of the advent of personal coaches, trainers and the numerous workouts and camps they can attend to refine their craft. I also think, though, that the incessant evaluation and analysis could lead some to believe that quarterbacks of today aren't as talented. Watching the Elite 11 and other quarterback workouts, it's clear that today's top high school quarterbacks are savvy, intelligent and advanced on breaking down film, understanding defenses and all the little things that make that position so difficult to play.

Josh Helmholdt: Much better. These players are now working with individual quarterback coaches, refining their skills at an earlier age. More high school programs are willing to start sophomores and even freshmen, so the game experience is greater at an earlier age. Then, there is more opportunity with 7-on-7's, camps and combines for them to keep their skills polished in the off-season.

Chris Nee: The boom-or-bust factor of the quarterback position doesn't seem very different from 10 years ago. Currently Rivals has six quarterbacks in the Rivals100. A decade ago there were nine quarterbacks in the Rivals100. That group from a decade ago included successful college quarterbacks such as LSU's JaMarcus Russell and Florida's Chris Leak while others didn't do much as college quarterbacks such as Ole Miss' Robert Lane, who switched to tight end, and Miami's Kyle Wright, who did throw for nearly 6,000 yards but had an underwhelming career. While the proliferation of the spread offense has continued to slow prototypical quarterback development, there are still those who will excel and be valued high coming out of college while others will fail to live up to their hype.

Keith Niebuhr: I truly believe as a whole the players at the quarterback position are getting better. Maybe they're not always better at the very top, but as a group I think they are. It seems like the ones I deal with now are much better students of the game than they used to be. Because of that it seems as though they understand much about both their own offense and the defenses they face.

Brian Perroni: With all of the camps, combines, personal trainers and the like I think they are a lot better. You are seeing a lot of true freshmen come in and make an impact or even star for some teams and that is not something you really saw a decade ago. Combined with the fact that many are arriving on campus a semester early and I think you have a lot more big game-ready young quarterbacks these days.

Penn State has made a somewhat unexpected run on elite commitments lately. What will be the next "surprise" school we'll see going on an impressive run with the 2013 prospects?

Mike Farrell: I love the surprise questions. It's hard to predict surprises, but let me throw Miami out there. I know they'll have a smaller class this year, but I can see the 'Canes under Al Golden going on a mini-run through spring football. He's one of the top head coaches in the country when it comes to recruiting.

Adam Gorney: In the West, Arizona State might be that school. New coach Todd Graham has already held a recruiting meet-and-greet with many of the top players in Arizona and some of them will be returning this weekend for the Sun Devils' junior day. A bunch of top players from California including Nico Falah, Tahaan Goodman, Cameron Hunt and others are expected in Tempe as well. It was around this time last year that five Long Beach (Calif.) Poly players committed to Arizona State and while that kind of run is not expected this year, it could still be a productive weekend for the Sun Devils.

Josh Helmholdt: I am surprised that with all the early commitments in the Big Ten, Iowa still remains commitment-less in the 2013 class. But I have spoken with several players who have Iowa very high on their list and with assistant coach Lester Erb recruiting well in places like Chicago and Wisconsin - two areas that are talent-rich in this class - I expect to see the Hawkeyes go on a commitment run in the near future.

Chris Nee: It seems like Vanderbilt is continuing the momentum from their 2012 recruiting class into the 2013 cycle. Rivals100 quarterback Johnathon McCrary was a great starting piece for their 2013 class. Safety Malik Greaves was another nice addition on the defensive side of the ball. In the Sunshine State, the Commodores are heavily involved with prospects like Rivals100 safety Leon McQuay III and Rivals100 defensive end Jordan Sherit. That approach is replicated by James Franklin and his staff in states around the Southeast and throughout the country. The effort and belief that the Commodores can recruit against the best of the best will pay off with some big names joining McCrary before it is all said and done.

Keith Niebuhr: I'll go with Missouri. I like the way the Tigers have started with their 2013 class. First and foremost, Missouri is securing its borders. Its six commits are all in-state products. That's key because for the Tigers to succeed in the SEC they can't let too many good ones get away. I also like the fact they're hitting the Southeast region extremely hard. This was fairly predictable, but if you're a Missouri fan you have to like the Tigers' approach. At the very least, Missouri is making itself visible. That's a start, and sooner or later it is bound to pay off.

Brian Perroni: It's really hard to tell but two schools I expect to see some movement with soon are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Both programs only have one pledge so far after solid seasons a year ago. It seems the Sooners are almost having to let the dust settle in the state of Texas to see who the Longhorns pick up before going hard after the remaining prospects and I think you will see them land a few guys here in the near future. The same holds true with the Cowboys as they are hitting the state of Texas relatively hard with offers as of late.



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