Campuses across the country have closed, and official visits are on hold for the foreseeable future. That will trigger recruits waiting until the world resumes before making their commitments.
The official visit — a prospect’s trip to campus paid for by the program — remains the biggest weapon in recruiting, and most prospects won’t feel comfortable pledging the next four to five years of their life to a school without first taking a few. Think of it like accepting a job without conducting that last interview. Or going straight from dating to marriage without an engagement period.
The recruitment process sped up with the addition of the December early signing period. Juniors are now allowed to take visits in the spring and summer, leading to more and more commitments being made before the season begins in the fall. Texas picked up nine commitments for its 2020 class between last June and the 2019 season openers.
Prospects now are moving their timetables.
“I probably won’t commit until late in the season or in December now because of the coronavirus,” said Alvin Shadow Creek outside linebacker Terrence Cooks, “and I was hoping to put recruiting behind me by the start of my senior season because we want to defend our state championship without distractions. It’s impossible to go see the schools I want to see before I’m comfortable deciding, so everything gets pushed back.”
Most recruits echoed those sentiments.
“I can honestly say (COVID-19) has impacted my recruitment in a major way,” Fort Bend Hightower wide receiver Latrell Neville said. “I planned on taking four of my officials this spring and committing on my birthday, which is May 14, but now I don’t see that happening.”
The NCAA canceled March Madness and it is increasingly likely that spring football for colleges and high schools across the country will be canceled as well, as a growing number of states limit big gatherings or shut down cities altogether. The health of the public supersedes our insatiable need for sports competitions, but recruiting isn’t about competition. It’s about finding a home and a place to grow as a young adult while playing sports and hopefully getting an education.
“An unofficial (visit) is great and all, but those are usually big events where you don’t get one-on-one time with coaches and a true experience of the college life, so an official visit is where you can really get that last bit of knowledge you need to make a decision,” Neville said. “Unless you’re somebody who gets to go all over the country without the school paying, it is tough to make a decision, especially if you’re considering going out of state.”
That could be true for the Brockermeyer twins. Tommy and James, a pair of coveted offensive linemen from Fort Worth All Saints, spent much of last year traveling to programs across the country, collecting offers like souvenirs.
“Obviously, if we aren’t able to take any visits, it may complicate things, but we’ll see,” said James Brockermeyer, a four-star center. “We were able to visit most of our top schools, but not everyone is in that situation, so I’m sure lots of people will end up pushing back their commitments.”
Former UT commit Lake McRee, a tight end from Lake Travis, also said that he could commit to a program without taking each official visit if the travel restrictions remain in place throughout the summer. The Longhorns are still in the picture, he said.
“I would say it would only impact my timeline by postponing everything,” McRee said. “I do plan to take my official visits, but it is not a 100% guarantee that I do before committing.”