Some of the biggest news for college football this season isn’t on the field. The NCAA Division I Council has proposed a change in the periods when recruits can sign national letters of intent. If the proposal is passed, it could change football recruiting considerably.
Previously, high school players could only sign a letter of intent in February, and junior college players could sign in December. The new rules would allow for a 72-hour signing period in June, and also make it so that high school players could sign during that 72-hour period in December that was previously only for junior college players.
Gophers coach Tracy Claeys described Thursday what the changes would mean to his recruiting.
“I’m all for the change,” Claeys said. “What it does is, it gives you a chance to visit kids. They’ll be able to come up to the Twin Cities and visit in June, and obviously the weather is a lot different in June than it is in January and December. I think that’s a positive effect, and the other thing is, you’re not going to have to deal with kids changing their mind after the season.
“The kids that want to commit and know where they want to go, they can get their paper signed and they don’t have to worry about — once they’ve signed those papers, no other schools can contact them. I think it’s a good thing for the kids that are sure and decided about where they want to go. You don’t have to worry about babysitting them for an extra three months.”
You always hear about verbal commitments for high school football players, but this change would eliminate that for those who want to sign right away.
“The signing date would be the last Wednesday in June,” Claeys said. “They can visit the first three weeks in June, the way it is written up, if it passes. They have three weeks to visit, and then they can sign the last Wednesday in June.”
Still awaits vote
The proposal has to be voted on by the NCAA board of directors.
“They would like to get it started in June of 2017,” Claeys said, meaning it would immediately impact next year’s recruiting. “It will be voted in January.”
The Gophers coach did add that it wouldn’t be a huge change for his junior college recruiting.
“It really won’t affect the junior college guys, they’ll stay the same,” he said. “Their early signing day will be still with December, but they’re also going to let you sign high school kids in that December date also. Kids that go through the season and make up their mind in December, then you’ll be able to sign them at the junior college signing date. There’s really going to be three high school signing dates.”
Claeys, like predecessor Jerry Kill, has long thought that the signing period needs to be changed. He still thinks that overall the process won’t be drastically changed by the new rules.
“I don’t know if it really will change the whole recruiting,” he said. “The calendar and everything is still the same. You’ll evaluate the kids in March and April, get a chance to evaluate them. The difference is that rather than waiting until September to visit, they’ll be able to visit in June. Then after that June signing date there’s a three-week dead period in there.
“It will speed things up a little bit, but it’s not a major change to the recruiting calendar as far as it is just letting juniors sign papers before they play their senior year. Right now a kid is committed and he commits here before the season we babysit him all through December, we go and see him every week in January until the February signing date, and I think we waste a lot of money because that kid knows he wants to come here, he should have a chance to sign earlier than that.”
So does Claeys think the proposal has a good chance to pass? “It does,” he said. “It was put together by the oversight committee, and it has the endorsement of that committee. I think there’s a good chance it will pass.”
Rating his squad
Claeys was asked how he views his team heading into its matchup with Rutgers.
“Good,” he said. “We played well at Maryland and played physical and you know [backup quarterback] Conor [Rhoda] did a good job of what we had to do. We still have things we have to get worked out, but as long as we stay patient and build it around our running game and our offensive line plays as well as it did against Maryland and continues to improve — and defensively we’re starting to play well — then I feel good about where we’re at right now.”
One of the new question marks for the Gophers is who will start at quarterback. Mitch Leidner has been cleared to play after having to sit at Maryland because of a concussion, and he wants to start.
“He’s available to play,” Claeys said. “We’ll practice him again today and then I’ll meet with [offensive coordinator Jay] Johnson and we’ll decide tomorrow what’s best.”
• Speaking about Gophers QBs, coaches are very high on Seth Green, the former East Ridge standout QB who was headed for Oregon and then changed his mind to the Gophers instead. ”He has done really good and we’re redshirting him,” Claeys said. “He does the scout team each week and is a great athlete. He has tremendous knowledge of the game. Coach Adam Weber has done a good job of working with him, and he works awfully hard to learn the football game. We’re definitely excited about the future that Seth has here.”
• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked what advantage quarterback Sam Bradford will have Sunday facing the Eagles, his old team. “He knows those guys pretty good because he practiced against them for quite a while,” Zimmer said. “So I don’t think that it’s a big deal. We still have to do what we do.”
• Don Lucia was asked how good he thinks his Gophers men’s hockey team can be this season. “I think we’re improved from last year,” said Lucia, whose team won its first two games up in Alaska. “We have a lot of young guys that played and went through the growing pains, and all those freshman that played last year are sophomores and they’re a little bit physically stronger, their game seems to have taken another step, so I like where we’re at right now. Obviously it’s a long season and we’ll have our ups and downs like every year, but we have a couple additions with Rem Pitlick, who is off to a really nice start, and Mike Szmatula, who didn’t play last year. A couple of our freshman D with Ryan Lindgren and Ryan Zuhlsdorf have stepped in and done a nice job. I’m really optimistic and looking forward to the season.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org