Changes are coming to every college football commitment list-- and in short order.
It's a natural decision window for recruits wrapping up their junior year of high school in a spring time coinciding with visits to campuses throughout March. Those trips will extend into April, eventually centered on spring games and the anticipation around turning the page to the 2022 season just as college coaches become able to get back on the road to evaluate in mid April.
"It will heat up here in March and April because kids want to lock in their spots before the (transfer) portal gets going again mid/post spring ball," Cal Director of Player Personnel Marshall Cherrington told Sports Illustrated. "Going to be a lot of movement."
But some programs are already building out bigger recruiting classes, even despite the pause elite recruits are experiencing due to the coaching changes over the sport's last six months or so. Not every recruit is navigating the recruiting process slowly.
Select programs have hit the ground running in the class of 2023 with fast starts on the verbal commitment front. Texas Tech leads the nation with 13 prospects on board while Arkansas just joined the Red Raiders in the ranks of the double-digits. Notre Dame has nine recruits on board and Penn State sits at eight while the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs sit at seven.
Of the group hot out of the gates, the numbers become even more impressive when the position most associated with recruiting success and peer recruiting hasn't come into the fold just yet. Only Texas Tech, among the programs with the most verbal commitments, has a quarterback already verbally committed with in-state standout Jake Strong. Having thrown for 29 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, Strong picked Joey McGuire's program in late January.Scroll to Continue
Arkansas, Notre Dame, Penn State and Georgia are actively hunting the next addition to their quarterback room, but the call hasn't gone public just yet as the college football world anticipates the QB dominos to begin to fall sometime soon. The hype building for select programs, especially without an extension of the coaching staff like a quarterback recruit on board, is the exception thus far in monitoring the 2023 cycle.
Historically strong programs like Alabama, LSU, Florida, Texas and Clemson are not as tangibly hot out of the gates, though most expect it to turn relatively soon. Those five programs combine for just seven recruits in tow, to date, but just like those on the other end of the spectrum, each is involved with the top available quarterbacks in the class. One commitment can alter perception and/or spark a run of pledges, and few names can do it like a headlining quarterback can.
In looking at the fast starts, there is a common ground between Tech, Penn State, Georgia and the others ahead of the curve -- geography. All 13 of McGuire's commitments reside within state lines,more than half of Kirby Smart's do and all eight of James Franklin's early gets are from the PSU pipelines in Big Ten country. Other teams with some volume attached to their name include Baylor, with all eight commitments within state lines under Dave Aranda. Arkansas' group is similar to PSU's in its pipelining under Sam Pittman, with three commitments from the state, three more in Texas and one each from Oklahoma and Kansas in the region.
Then there's Notre Dame. New head coach Marcus Freeman's early build may be the most impressive, not only in holding highly-coveted recruits despite the coaching transition, but in bringing in national talent to kick off the class. It's another reminder of the reach the Irish has on an annual basis when the top commitment is from Tampa in pass rusher Keon Keeley, in what is a strong defensive foundation in South Bend with commitments in from Texas, Nevada and Massachusetts. As of this writing, on March 17, the staff remains ahead of the curve in being busy with 'Pot of Gold' day, establishing communication and/or extending new scholarship offers out to dozens of recruits in the following class (2024) on St. Patrick's Day.
While the 2023 class is strong at the top in both talent and volume, it doesn't mean the staff is turning the page to the next wave just yet. In fact, the Irish has a chance to linger atop the rankings even while the Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Ohio State group picks up steam as the year wares on. The program is in the middle of the Dante Moore sweepstakes, just hosted arguably the nation's top wide receiver Carnell Tate and holds high regard with two-way IMG Academy athlete Samuel M'Pemba, among others.
The Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher and Ryan Day recruiting runs are on the way, and perhaps soon, but if the Irish can keep pace near the top of the list as time wares on, it could begin to change perception of the ceiling of the program where it counts most -- on the recruiting trail.
A program outside of the SEC hasn't claimed a recruiting national title in the brief history of SI All-American and the overall streak extends back to the class of 2006, when USC was under the direction of Pete Carroll, per Rivals and 247Sports.