June and July have been good months for both the Michigan and Michigan State football programs.
The Wolverines received a commitment from 3-star athlete Joey Velasquez on June 22. Since then, Michigan has added eight players to its 2019 class, which is now ranked No. 3 in the nation and first in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports Composite.
Michigan State also began its recruiting run on June 22, with a commitment from 3-star athlete Tate Hallock. They’ve since added six commitments, including 5-star offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs (Belleville), and their class is ranked No. 20 in the nation and fourth in the conference.
But this isn’t an anomaly contained to just Michigan and Michigan State. All across the country, recruits are making verbal commitments in droves. Entering Thursday, there had been 50 commitments to Division I schools since July 1.
Allen Trieu, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports who focuses on the Midwest, believes the biggest reason for the spike in commitments is last year’s change to the NCAA calendar. Beginning this year, prospects could start taking official visits April 1 of their junior year and through the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June (which was June 24 for this recruiting cycle). In the past, such official visits weren’t allowed until September of a prospect’s senior year.
“It moved around the timeline a little bit,” Trieu said, “and as it turned out, a lot of kids wanted to take official visits the last weekend that they could, which is the last weekend in June, and then a lot of them wanted to make their decisions right before the dead period.
“I think that’s why you saw that that big run for both of those schools, was partly because of the new calendar this year.”
Now, though, schools and recruits are in a dead period, which means coaches can’t have any in-person contact with prospects or their parents until July 24. Recruits can’t resume taking official visits until Sept. 1 — which means prospects who wanted to take more official visits before making a decision would’ve had to wait at least two more months to do so.
“A lot of kids like to try to make some decisions before they really start getting into practice with their own high school and just a chance to enjoy their summer,” Trieu said. “I think from the school’s perspective, both Michigan and Michigan State wanted more kids on campus towards the end of that period so that they could kind of have the last crack at some of these kids, so I think that’s why I think you saw a lot of the visits pushed toward that last weekend (in June). I think it was by design, and it worked out for both schools.”
Of course, the new official visit calendar hasn’t just changed the decision-making process for recruits. It has also affected how teams operate, and several Big Ten programs already differ in strategy. According to Trieu, Wisconsin and Penn State had their big recruiting weekends begin June 8, whereas Michigan’s began June 22.
“Some schools like to get in front of it and be the first official visit that a kid takes, and some like to be the last,” Trieu said. “So I think it was just a difference in philosophy. But you did see kind of a spike in verbal commitments toward the end of the month.”
Schools like Michigan must also weigh the benefits of early official visits versus in-season visits — especially when it comes to recruiting out-of-region prospects.
Take the case of 4-star Chaminade-Madonna Prep (Hollywood, Fla.) cornerback Te’Cory Couch. Couch took an official to Ann Arbor on April 13 and committed to the Wolverines on April 15. On June 9, he decommitted before picking Miami (Fla.) a week later.
If Michigan still wanted to pursue Couch, it would be at a serious disadvantage. U-M would have to convince Couch to pay out of pocket for an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor, while visiting the in-state Hurricanes would be significantly easier (and cheaper) for his family.
That’s why schools like Miami, Clemson and Georgia — all based in the South, which by and large is the most fertile recruiting region in the country — are all playing the long game, according to Steve Lorenz, who covers Michigan recruiting for 247Sports. Those schools want recruits to visit during the season instead of the offseason.
“When Michigan’s recruiting against those schools, they’ve got to be careful about when they push a kid to come up,” Lorenz said. “The thing about Georgia is they’ve got 50 4-stars in their state, all of which are just a drive away from Athens.
“Georgia probably looks at it and thinks, ‘Man, we want as many of those kids to take officials to the Michigans, the Ohio States earlier in the year, because who knows if their families can even pay for them to come back up again? We can just get them up for an official for the big game against Alabama, there’s 100,000 people going nuts, they get to see the stadium and all that jazz.’”
The long-term impact of the early visit period still remains unknown. Perhaps there will be more situations like that of Couch, where a school may regret scheduling an official visit during the offseason and adjust their game plan accordingly.
One thing is for certain, though: Michigan and Michigan State’s strategy has paid off thus far.
“I’ve covered (recruiting) for a while,” Trieu said, “and I can’t remember a stretch like this where Michigan and Michigan State both picked up this number of commits and the quality of commits.”