The 2014 cycle is already started as the 247 Sports class rankings show schools hard at work for the next year's class. Schools are already taking commitments, handing out offers and hosting Junior Days to help try to build the next crop of ball players to fill their ranks.
Texas is leading the way with eight kids in the boat for 2014. A school that's made a habit of nabbing a boatload of early recruits, the Longhorns, and their rivals, Texas A&M, are leading the way for next year. Between them, 15 kids have pledged, and while there is a long way to go, they're off to a great start.
While the schools love getting the early pledge, it is a mixed bag for the kids, as there is both good and bad to being an early commit.
On the good side of things, kids can use their place to lock into a highly desirable offer—at least in theory, they can. That commitment to the school of their choice should assure them a spot on the list as a part of the upcoming class. For schools like the aforementioned Texas, they have a finite amount of space and a plethora of kids who want to get on board.
An early commitment secures your place in that scarce environment.
Another plus for the kids who commit early is the ability to shut down their recruitment and focus on school, getting better at football and their senior season.
Kids who make a hard commitment and tell all the other schools to back off can drastically limit their mailings, phone calls and the like. That's a plus for those guys who feel they are locked into their scholarship and are certain about where they want to go to school.
Unfortunately, the "cons" of it all can serve to wipe out the two biggest "pros" of the early commitment.
As we've seen, time and again in recent years, schools can force kids out of their commitments, refuse to honor commitments and simply pull scholarship offers. It's not pretty, and often, the schools get the bad press, but ultimately, none of that matters to the kid who has to go without the offer that he thought he had in the bank.
This is especially true for the kid who shuts down his commitment.
For all the great things that come from shutting down a recruitment—free time, fewer calls, a less-than-full mailbox—even worse things happen when an offer gets pulled and the player's been dormant in recruiting for an extended time period.
Coaching is a fluid situation in college football, and as Tommy Tuberville to Cincinnati showed, recruits who commit early hamstring themselves on this landscape.
In the grand scheme of things, it is a lot less about committing early versus committing late and a lot more about how recruits manage their recruiting process. If a schools wants you to be on their team, whether you commit early or late, you're going to have a spot, and they will make it work. The key is for players to protect themselves in the process.
First and foremost, that means not shutting down the process. A player should maintain contact with coaches and take visits where you can. Do not cut yourself off from others, because when it gets down to crunch time, the more options you have, the better. If there is a coaching change or the school tries try to squeeze you out in favor of a better player, it helps to have somewhere else to go.