The world of college football recruiting is ever changing, never stable and always surprising, and it's that inconstant environment that makes it extremely unwise for recruits to make commitments as only juniors in high school.
Remember, we're not talking about the most stable age group in the first place.
If you can, remember back to when you were a junior in high school (if you haven't experienced that yet, just roll with it). Most high school students can't even decide what size Slurpee they want at 7-Eleven or what movie to go see with their friends, yet we find it perfectly acceptable that these kids are making a decision that will impact the rest of their lives long before they need to?
Is Junior year too early to commit?
Choosing a college to play for is so much more than a football decision, and that's extremely hard to see at just 16 or 17 years old. You're essentially choosing who will be your extended family for the next three to four years of your life. You're choosing your next group of friends—who will ultimately decide who you are as a person—and the quality of your education, and in many cases the quality of your future.
What high school junior has the wherewithal to make that decision and really stick by it? Most seniors aren't even emotionally qualified to make that decision without the help of great family and friends. Why do you think it's commonplace for junior recruits to make a visit, get emotionally invested in a program, and then months or even a year later realize that they want to have options and end up decommitting?
Oftentimes the pressure or excitement of committing to a college almost forces these kids to make quick, knee-jerk reactions, and in the end they end up regretting them. Check out these quotes from 4-star junior wide receiver Demaree Kitt, who just decommitted from Georgia, illustrating this point perfectly via Michael Carvell of ajc.com:
“I think I committed too early; Clemson and USC are still recruiting me hard, and I still want to give them a fair chance,” Kitt told the AJC.
Need I say more?
Kitt is just one example of a junior in high school who made a very important decision far too quickly, but that's what we are setting these kids up for as long as we're okay with juniors being able to make verbal commitments.
In the end, perhaps we should put the blame on our culture as a whole.
We've put so much emphasis on getting ahead that kids are no longer able to be kids. Parents have their children working on their resumes by the time they're able to talk.
There should be no reason to commit to a college as just a junior. We should just let these kids focus on being exactly that—kids.
Being a part of a high school football team is something these players should cherish and try to hold onto for as long as possible. Instead, they're looking forward and essentially becoming part of a college program before they've even played a snap their senior year.
How many of us look back on high school football and wish we cherished it for what it was? How many of us wish we soaked up every moment like it was our last and really took time to just enjoy being a high school football player?
Football is a beautiful game and some would argue that its purest form is at the high school level. Why are we putting pressure on these kids to rush out of it, to not live in that moment?
Recruits should seriously start thinking about college the summer of senior year. If they're really so good, the programs and recruiters will still be there waiting for them. The only difference is these players will have another year of experience under their belts—not in just football, but in life as well.
There's plenty of time to be serious when you're an adult, and believe me, most of us take ourselves far too seriously anyhow. Let's let these kids enjoy growing up while they have it.