In my previous post I wrote about UND receiving their earliest commitment ever in Park River product Sam Hagen. A junior committing this early to an FCS school was definitely unique but in hindsight it may have been a sign of things to come.
UND AD Bill Chaves recently announced that “all University-sponsored summer events on campus are cancelled” due to COVID-19. This means all sports & all camps are cancelled. For us the most important part of that announcement was this: the two Elite Camps that UND typically holds will now not happen. Those two camps were slated to take place on June 18 and July 18.
The Elite Camps have consistently been the main recruiting tool to lock up commitments – allowing the staff a chance to evaluate the prospect on campus before finalizing the offer. UND typically had around 80% of their signing class attend one of their Elite Camps. There were certainly other ways to evaluate a prospect, like when the staff would work camps at Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa State, etc. But, there is a very good chance those camps aren’t going to take place this summer, either.
What does that mean for 2021 recruiting around the region? There is no way to be 100% sure but after talking to several FBS/FCS coaches, along with UND OC Danny Freund, it sounds like ‘real’ offers are going to go out sooner than ever. Which means it’s possible that commitments are going to be wanted sooner than ever. The pressure on college staffs and their recruits has just been elevated immensely. The term “this is unchartered territory” was used several times by everyone we spoke with.
One FCS assistant coach told me a position like quarterback will be an interesting one to evaluate. Typically, he said, they insist on seeing the prospect throw in person before offering or putting a number on the offer. Now it’s all about film and any previous workouts the staff had witnessed. The coach also mentioned ‘senior film’ – meaning they are going to wait on some kids until they see how much they have progressed from their junior to senior seasons.
It was also mentioned to me that lineman are probably going to get most of the attention early by schools because they are the hardest to get and most coveted. “There will be alot of very good skill guys available come November/December” was a thought posed by one FBS assistant coach.
The last thing that staffs in this part of the country want to be doing is frantically filling out their class in December. Some schools out west, like Weber State, only sign a couple players in the early period and prefer to sign the rest in February. It’s the opposite in the Midwest. Most schools get their 18-22 commitments by the time fall camp starts in August and then typically only host one, maybe two, recruiting weekends in December before early signing day (Dec. 18-20) – usually for their already committed players. That may not be the case in this year.
One factor that Freund mentioned to me was the upcoming actions of FBS schools. As happens at times, they will control how the recruiting goes for several of UND’s top targets, meaning the Hawks need to wait and see how fast the FBS schools are going to move with this Covid-19 situation going on. If they choose to slow-play their recruits and drag it out that means UND would more than likely have to do the same.
However, there are some schools that are already showing signs of making quality offers and securing commitments based on their early relationships – like Northern Illinois. The Huskies have popped up on our radar a bunch this spring as they already have seven commitments (several of whom UND offered) and appear to be pushing to get the guys they want and fill the class early, if that’s even possible. Seven commits is impressive for a G5 school at this time of the year. By comparison, Ohio State has 15 commitments. So you can see how the trickle down effect may be starting to happen.
Another unique entity to all of this is communication. Being there will be no face-to-face visits this spring & summer, the UND staff is relying on social media and text messaging, much like other staffs are doing. Calls are limited by the NCAA but messaging via Twitter, Instagram, text and email is not. The staff members that are savvy with social media are more important than ever.
Where Does This Leave UND?
UND has offered 31 players in the Class of 2021. That’s not a very high number (considering some FBS schools have offered 300+) but well over half of those have come in the past two weeks. That tells us the staff got wind that things were looking bad for the summer and it’s time to get moving on offers/commitments.
Extremely blessed to say that I have just received my first Division 1 offer from the University of North Dakota! Thank you to all of my friends, family and coaches that have helped me get to this point! @SamKing10 @dfreund7 @pawlakjoe @BubbaSchweigert @nextlevelposit1 pic.twitter.com/zhTM3coZ6Q
— matteo.bonnin11 (@MBonnin11) April 1, 2020
We fully expect UND to continue to put out multiple committable offers to players over the next 2-3 months. The difference between this year and prior years is they will actually put a number on these offers without being able to evaluate the prospect at a camp. It’s not ideal at all but it’s really the only way.
Many people don’t realize that spring offers to juniors typically don’t have a number attached to them unless the recruit is a complete no-brainer. There’s going to be a whole lot of ‘projecting’ happening based on junior film and any recent winter workouts the staff may have seen in January.
By our estimations, UND hosted around 70-80 juniors at their various “Junior Day” events that were held in January-February. This is important because the Hawks won’t be able to get any recruits on campus in the next few months so possible commits are going to come from that group, IMO. After that it gets tough.
There is a very real chance that UND has the least amount of commits they have ever had as the season approaches at the end of the summer. Recruits are not going to commit to a place they have never been to. Meaning it’s possible that not much is going to happen in-person around the country until the NCAA lifts the moratorium on recruiting. But, for that to happen COVID-19 needs to get under control first and nobody knows when that will be. I assume soon but that’s for another discussion.
To sum it up: it’s going to be a unique spring/summer recruiting season and we have a feeling it won’t be anywhere near as eventful as the past summers for all the reasons we have mentioned above.
This means many more 2020 in-season home game official visits by senior recruits & much bigger December recruiting weekends with many more uncommitted players visiting. These in-season official visits will stretch staffs thin as G5 & FCS programs don’t have the staff numbers to host prospects and get ready for a game. At least not without major coordination and new stressors.
The staffs that adjust the best, stay in touch, and create the best relationships will succeed during these strange times. Strange times indeed.