Monday, July 23, 2007

Recruiting 101 - Silent Commits and Package Deals

My two least-favorite terms in the entire college football recruiting lexicon: "silent commits" and "package deals". First, the definitions:

silent commitment: n. A recruit who has given a verbal commitment to a particular team, but has not announced that commitment to the recruiting media, and publicly holds himself out as still uncommitted and open. Ex. "Chris Tolliver says he's open, but he's really a silent commit to LSU."

package deal: n. A set of two or more recruits, always friends and often from the same high school or area who are said to have made a pact to attend the same college, even though the college may not be known. Ex. "JB Shugarts and Sam McGuffie are best friends, and we could have had them as a package deal if we'd offered McGuffie."

I simply never believe any statement that certain players are a "package deal" or that there are "silent commits", at least not for any appreciable length of time. I understand that players may commit and then hold off from telling the media until they can set up an announcement in their own preferred way, such as in a press conference, but people don't usually mean it in this innocuous way when they say someone is a silent commit. They usually mean that the recruit is just playing with the fans and the media and/or is manipulating other recruits or allowing himself to be manipulated by a coach to help that coach get other commitments.

How does this allegedly work? Let's say you're a coach, and you want to get two.. oh.. cornerbacks, and you have your eyes on two guys, both of whom are allegedly great. You recruit CB1 and CB2 hard. CB1 gives you his commitment, and you think it's solid, but you are scared that CB2 will be scared off by CB1 if he hears about CB1's commitment, and that CB2 will want to go somewhere else where the competition won't be as stiff. You ask CB1 to keep his commitment quiet to help him land CB2 as well, and CB1 agrees.

I have two problems with this supposedly typical scenario. One, why would CB1 ever agree to this? It's not in his benefit to hold back on telling people he's committed. Two, why would a coach set this up? If CB2 really is scared of CB1's competition, he's going to have to find out about CB1 eventually, and then he'll just be scared off at that time. Or worse, he'll be offended at having been misled. Even if CB2 commits and signs in that scenario, the coach has created a serious team-chemistry problem by using one player to deceive another player, when those players may have to be on the field, in the dorms, and in the classroom together in the future.

Coaches' deception is a time-honored practice in recruiting. It is relatively common that a coach will tell a player, "Sure, we'll let you try out at wide receiver, but if you don't work there we're moving you to safety," all the while with his fingers crossed behind his back knowing that his try-out at wide receiver will last all of 2 practices. "Sorry kid, you just don't have the hands. Report to the defense." Using another player as an accomplice in your deception just seems foolhardy, and like it has a great potential to blow up in your face. I can't imagine any good coach would do it.

Plus, it is my observation that big-time recruits are almost never scared away by competition at their position. They almost universally believe they can beat out anyone.

So-called "silent commits", which due to the nature of the beast can never be confirmed by any official source, are often the subject of message board rumors and innuendo. They have a long and storied track record of failing to come to fruition. While I suppose it is possible that silent commits exist, the unsubstantiated and eventually-disproven rumors about silent commits greatly outnumber the rumors that eventually prove true, and even those may be only by coincidence.

Package deals are a different story. They come in one of two flavors:
  1. To get a great player, you also have to offer a scholarship to his unworthy best friend, or
  2. One slick recruiting job can net you two great players.
I can see it happening. Two guys are good friends and they want to go to the same school. The only problems are that you never hear any recruit say something like, "Me and so-and-so are a package deal," and the rumors of package deals seem to almost never work out. It sounds like a nice idea, but you simply never see it, and it's certainly never openly discussed by recruits.

At this time of year, and on into the off-season, you will hear innumerable rumors of "silent commits" and/or "package deals". Don't believe any of them. These players seem to invariably make their decisions independently and with their own best interests in mind. They play a lot of games with the process, but if there is any such thing as a "silent commitment" or a "package deal" in the recruiting world, it is certainly rumored a lot more often than it is true. I just don't pay attention to the rumors, and you shouldn't either.


Anonymous said...

A different reason for a silent commit could be that the player wants to take official visits to other schools.

Richard Pittman said...

LSU, like a lot of schools, doesn't allow committed recruits to take visits to other schools. If they're taking visits, they aren't really committed, in our eyes.

Anonymous said...

That was my point. If the number one guy on our board comes to us and says he wants to commit but still wants to take free trips to other schools and get wined and dined, I'm sure Miles and company will accept his commitment and hold a spot for him. They just won't alert the general public to the commit at that time.

Richard Pittman said...

Miles and company would never alert the general public to a commitment. It's against NCAA regulations to ever discuss a recruit in specific terms or refer to him by name until he signs a letter of intent on or after National Signing Day. It's only the recruits themselves who talk about it to the general public.

What I'm saying is, Miles won't consider you "on board" until you agree to stop taking official visits to get wined and dined. Exceptions are made, on a case by case basis, but that's the general rule. If you're still taking visits, your scholarship slot is still open, potentially for someone else to come and take. Any "silent commit" to LSU would have to forego the visits, so once again there is no reason to be a silent commit.