College Football Recruiting 101: The "Offer" Game, How It All Works

Justin HokansonSenior Writer IJune 18, 2009

Last July, I released an article a recruiting article, Stars Mean Everything and Nothing at All. This time around, we will take a look at what the "offer" means and how it should be viewed in current college football recruiting.

For many college football fans, the recruiting game is a brand new world. Obviously recruiting is the lifeblood of your program, but many fans didn't really follow it year-round. They just wait to see the product on the field and don't know any better.

The last few years though, recruiting has absolutely taken off, and the importance and the interest has grown immensely.

So as someone who has followed recruiting closely for awhile now, I thought I'd give you a quick rundown of a trend going on in college football recruiting, and it centers around the "offer".

Someone asked me the other day, "what the heck is the point of offering a kid a scholarship if he can't accept it or commit to it?"

What he's referring to are offers given to kids, that are clarified to be offers that aren't committable. Meaning if the player tried to commit to the offer, he'd probably be turned down or told to wait.

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So the question stands, why make an offer to a kid if you won't accept his commitment?

Here's why.

Most "offers" to kids at this stage, are bogus offers. Sure many are the real deal, but there are that many more that are nothing more than a way for your school to stay in the game with a prospect without losing ground on him to other schools. When in reality, the offer isn't a committable one, though it could be down the road.

These "offers" mostly consist of certain verbiage such as, "we are offering you a scholarship depending on three main goals being met: keeping your grades up, continuing to get better on the field, and staying out of trouble off the field."

That way the school has "offered" the prospect, but they have given themselves wiggle room if the prospect wanted to commit right then, saying the offer is based on certain things that must be met first.

Nowadays, offers go out before evaluations are even made on many of these kids. If not, then you won't sign many of these prospects. So if you "offer" a player before making an evaluation, you can see why the so-called offers aren't exactly iron clad.

One example is when Chan Gailey came into the college game at Georgia Tech from the NFL. In the NFL, you better be very sure about a player before you draft him, or you will be fired. Well Gailey brought that same approach to college and tried to make sure about a kid before they offered a scholarship.

Problem with that is by the time a full evaluation is done on a player, if you haven't offered him, other schools have and you don't have a chance to sign him.

Basically the "offers" are a way to keep the school in the thick of the race for the kid, but if he tried to commit at that time, he would be turned down. That's the way the game is being played now.

Tennessee and Alabama for example have offered close to 150 kids a scholarship this year so far. Keep in mind you can only bring in 25 players a year, so offering 150 seems outrageous.

Not when you take into account that many of those offers are simply a way to stay in touch with a player that might be further down the board, but you might want him down the road if you have lost out on other top targets.

It gives you a backup plan basically.

Some might think this is disingenuous to the player if he thinks he has an offer, but really doesn't, and that may be. The kid could turn down other schools thinking he has an offer from a big time school, only to find out that it isn't exactly a committable offer at the time. But that's the way the game is being played right now, and it's up to the player to find out just how sincere this offer is.

If school A reads about a stud player that has 10 offers, that school will most likely send an offer in the mail as well, whether they think they want him or not. The point is to not fall behind in case you do need or want that player.

So you get your foot in the door with an "offer", and then evaluate him. If he's a player you want, then you become the first school to offer him, and he remembers that and it's your advantage.

If he's a player you do not want, then you just forget to call him come spring.

Offers breed offers.

I can't tell you how many times you will see a kid that is relatively under the radar get an offer from a big time BCS school, and within a month he will have interest from many more programs. If one premier school is "offering" the kid, then maybe we should get in on him too.

The bottom line is you have to offer kids earlier now, if you don't, you probably won't land the prospect because everyone else already has "offered" him.

Recruiting is an ever evolving game, and this is just one of many little "secrets" that recruiting entails, but you must grasp this concept to have a better understanding of how the game is being played these days.


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