The Crock Pot: What recent NCAA rule changes mean for the SEC’s recruiting dominance
Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC news, notes, quotes and mishaps of the past week. Here’s what we’ve been stewing over …
Gather round, ye college football fans, and listen up as we break down the latest batch of rule changes to come rolling down NCAA Mountain.
Early signing day (pending conference commissioner approval)
On the surface, this feels like a win for recruits who know where they’re going to college — assuming they’re committed to a program with stability. The addition of a Dec. 20 National Signing Day, in addition to the one that already exists in early February, allows prospects to officially end their recruitment about six weeks earlier than they could have under the old system.
With just about three weeks between the end of the regular season and the early signing day, things could get chaotic for schools that fire coaches, or lose them to other job opportunities. This could result in more firings taking place in November, as the season winds down, as opposed to the first week of December. But you never really know how often that’ll happen in practice.
The early date would more likely affect coordinators and position coaches who find themselves on the move in December and early January.
High school players still weighing their options can still choose to delay signing a letter of intent until Feb. 1 as they could before. There’s technically nothing forcing prospects, but as we know, coaches can and certainly do put pressure on kids to make their decision when it best suits the school.
One can only assume that a handful of the country’s top prospects who don’t enroll early would choose to sign on Dec. 20. That obviously takes some of the drama out of January and February. Sorry, recruiting fanatics, but the day-long frenzy of signing day will be diluted from here on out.
As many have noted, this sweeping shift in the college football recruiting model will not take effect until the Collegiate Commissioners Association vote in favor of the changes in June. It’d be pretty surprising if that didn’t happen, though.
Early official visits
To compensate for an early signing period, the NCAA now allows juniors to take official visits between April 1 and the last Wednesday in June. The OVs cannot coincide with their participation in a school camp or clinic. Before, players couldn’t officially visit campuses until Sept. 1 of their senior year.
Some around SEC territory, such as Arkansas coach Bret Beliema, weren’t fans of this rule; some folks up north believed the SEC was trying to protect its recruiting turf by fighting the rule, which would ostensibly allow kids to visit places like Michigan and Ohio State when their schedules aren’t consumed by football season.
With an early signing date likely in place, however, adding early official visits makes a ton of sense and should in theory help both coaches and recruits get to know each other sooner.
FBS schools cannot hire “people close to a prospective student-athlete” in the two years before or after he expects to enroll.
Ole Miss, for instance, hired Shea Patterson’s older brother Sean as an off-field analyst while Patterson was committed to the Rebels. Under the new rules, that hire would not be allowed.
The rule most affects high school coaches trying to make a jump to the college ranks, especially those who coach at schools that produce a high number of big-time prospects. Guys like Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee fall under this umbrella.
Gus Malzahn, who also got his start coaching high school football, voiced his displeasure with the change last week.
“This rule will in essence be a death sentence to any high school coach wanting to coach college (football),” Malzahn said. “It’s putting an end to it, and it’s not fair.”
So high school coaches will have a much, much tougher time jumping right to the FBS level. But there’s nothing stopping them from following the career arc of Phil Longo, who jumped from high school to D-III, then FCS and finally the SEC.
A 10th on-field coach
This change is the simplest, and maybe the most-needed. Alabama and other SEC schools have begun hoarding analysts and other off-field staffers to help out assistant coaches, whose workloads have grown by leaps and bounds as recruiting becomes a year-round task.
Recruiting should be the focal point for just about every team hiring that 10th assistant, too, because of how time-consuming it tends to be. As for how schools choose to shuffle the on-field coaching duties, you’ll probably see more special teams coordinators or defensive assistants split between cornerbacks/safeties and, in 3-4 schemes, outside/inside linebackers.
So long, satellite camps and two-a-days
The SEC finally wins its battle with Jim Harbaugh over the contentious issue of satellite camps, which quickly became the hot topic of the summer last year. The new rule requires that camps “take place on a school’s campus” or in facilities regularly used by the football program.
In addition, the camps and clinics are now officially limited to 10 days in June and/or July.
So the NCAA rightfully nipped this one in the bud before it got out of control — because you know everything related to football recruiting naturally trends in that direction. Coaching staffs get to keep what little summer downtime they have, too.
As for two-a-day practices:
- “A single day may include a single, three-hour, on-field practice session and a walk-through”
- “Three continuous hours of recovery are required between on-field practice and a walk-through”
- “Activities such as meetings, film review, medical treatment and meals are allowed during recovery time
Old-school football fans and coaches probably don’t like this change. Given the legitimate health and safety concerns, however, it’s not hard to see why the NCAA passed this rule.
The NCAA’s changes are significant, to be sure. But unless you’re a high school coach or a die-hard follower of the recruiting world, you probably won’t notice much difference outside of the early signing day.
Maybe the new rules make it easier for Southern football recruits to visit the Michigans, Ohio States and West Coast powers of the world. But let’s be real: The players those programs tend to target are elite, and the truly top-notch recruits with the most to gain make time to visit wherever they want regardless.
There is so much talent in SEC recruiting territory that, frankly, it’s surprising more don’t venture outside the region on the simple basis of opportunity. Recruits and coaches are drawn to SEC schools because of the league’s proud reputation. Will spring visits to Ann Arbor really change that? I think not.
The only true change we can expect — between the coaching carousel and the anticipation leading up to the early signing date — is a potentially very chaotic December in the days and weeks before Christmas.
If you’d like to read more NCAA rule jargon:
Look ahead: A big weekend for spring football games
Four SEC teams will hold their annual spring scrimmages on Saturday: Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. Here’s info you need to know for each game.
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
- Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium; Tuscaloosa, Ala.
- Story to watch: Don’t expect to get any meaningful look at how the Crimson Tide offense might function under Brian Daboll. But the players who do and don’t get extended looks during the scrimmage could give us hints as to who’s adapting well to the new system. Running back in particular is now an insanely deep position for Alabama with the additions of Najee Harris and Brian Robinson. Jerry Jeudy seems to have a shot at early playing time, too.
- Time: 2 p.m. ET
- TV: SEC Network
- Location: Sanford Stadium; Athens, Ga.
- Story to watch: Has the offense improved? Year 2 will be a critical one for coordinator Jim Chaney, particularly with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both returning as seniors. The offensive line and wide receiving corps were sore spots last year, and most folks are expecting Jacob Eason to take noticable steps forward this season. G-Day will provide Georgia fans their first glimpse at the progress, if it’s evident.
National L Club (LSU)
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV: SEC Network
- Location: Tiger Stadium; Baton Rouge, La.
- Story to watch: Like Alabama, the Tigers entered this spring with a new offensive coordinator. Matt Canada’s Pittsburgh unit finished top 10 nationally in scoring, and fans are hoping he rights a ship that’s been listing for the last few seasons now. Derrius Guice is the unquestioned successor to Leonard Fournette, and Danny Etling seems like the favorite to emerge as the starting quarterback. Can Canada find the right formula at the other positions to help them succeed?
Orange & White (Tennessee)
- Time: 4 p.m. ET
- TV: SEC Network
- Location: Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.
- Story to watch: Besides the growing list of injured guys who likely won’t play on Saturday, Tennessee has its ongoing two-man QB race between Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano. Combine that with a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterbacks coach, and you’ve got an interesting recipe for the Vols in what should be a high-pressure season. Dormady “is believed to have a slight edge” over Guarantano right now, according to our own Mike Griffith, but the spring scrimmage could give us a better sense of how close those two really are in terms of progression and development.
Highlight of the week: Thrice is nice
Mississippi State outfielder Brent Rooker is having an incredible season — like 16 home runs through 38 games kind of incredible. That type of power is rare at the college level, but here’s Rooker slugging .957 as a junior.
Last week, he hit three ding-dongs in one game, and the reaction from his Bulldogs teammates was fantastic.
3 HRs in 1 Game = The Silent Treatment
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 10, 2017
Sad tale of the week: Demetris Summers
If you don’t know the name, well, here’s a blurb from the “biggest SEC recruiting busts” article I wrote back in January:
Summers had it all: Parade All-American, 5 stars and a scholarship offer to play for his in-state Gamecocks. And while he led South Carolina in rushing during 2 unremarkable seasons, even attaining SEC All-Freshman honors in 2003, the team dismissed Summers after he failed a second drug test. He wound up in the CFL a few years later but was out of the league by 2010. Summers was charged with intent to distribute crack cocaine, having a gun illegally and driving under the influence in his hometown of Lexington in 2014.
Now 33 years old, Summers was sentenced to 8 years in jail on Friday after he reportedly pleaded guilty to manufacturing and distributing crack cocaine in Lexington County. Yikes. Add this one to the ever-growing pile of cautionary tales involving really good football players.
Headlines from around SEC Country
- ‘He’s a monster’: Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson poised to rally new-look Rebels in 2017 (Alec Shirkey)
- Position battles recap after Kentucky’s Blue-White spring game (Joe Mussatto)
- Missouri football: Starting defense shines in 2017 Black & Gold spring game (Pete Scantlebury)
- Alabama’s Braxton Key to enter NBA draft, won’t hire agent (Marq Burnett)
- Jalen Hurts, ‘shifty’ newcomers have Alabama passing game on target to be more diverse in 2017 (Christopher Walsh)
- Why G-Day and the recruits on hand mean so much again this year (Jeff Sentell)
- Next Generation: Big brother pushes J.J. Holloman to excel (Chip Towers)
- LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has passion for football — and saving lives (Nick Suss)
- Texas Tech DT transfer Breiden Fehoko picks LSU (Sam Spiegelman)
- 5 pivotal Tennessee football observations entering final week of spring drills (Mike Griffith)
- Cuonzo Martin’s success could turn heat up on Vols basketball (Mike Griffith)
- Bret Bielema sends punter Blake Johnson to ‘extreme timeout’ after off-field incident (Jason Kersey)
- Florida basketball: Analyzing the 2017-18 roster as offseason dominos fall (Ryan Young)
- What’s next for South Carolina basketball with PJ Dozier gone (Mike Wilson)
- Mississippi State women’s basketball: Coach Vic Schaefer reflects on ‘special’ Final Four run (Alec Shirkey)
Final Word: Recruiting road trip
Alabama and Auburn fans, this might be of some interest: My guys Chris Kirschner (Tide recruiting beat) and Benjamin Wolk (Tigers recruiting beat) have embarked on a state-wide trek through the Heart of Dixie. It’s a cool idea, and I know those guys will get some insightful stories out of the trip. Follow them on Twitter @benjaminwolk and @Chris Kirschner.