With 31 commitments in hand and four of them already on campus, South Carolina’s recruiting efforts in the Class of 2011 are essentially over.
The class could grow in the coming weeks when Jadeveon Clowney, Phillip Dukes and Jerell Adams make their college choices, but the Gamecocks have made their best pitches to Dukes and Adams, who plan to announce their college destinations next week. They push for Clowney could continue until he announces his plans on Jan. 14.
An NCAA dead period, limiting in-person exchanges between college coaches and prospects, begins Monday and runs through National Signing Day on Wednesday.
USC will host a number of juniors on campus this weekend but does not have any official visits planned for members of the senior class. Originally, Washington, D.C.-area defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds was scheduled to visit this weekend before falling off the Gamecocks’ recruiting board.
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Though it won’t be an important weekend for USC in the Class of 2011, it will be for other schools across the country. This is the last weekend that prospects can take official visits if the plan to sign a National Letters of Intent on National Signing Day.
Typically, when prospects are lining up official visits, schools work to insert themselves into that final spot, giving them the chance to leave the last impression. In recruiting, the first and last impressions are sometimes the strongest.
“I think the last official visit has a lot of value,” 247Sports recruiting analyst Barton Simmons said. “Schools kind of scrap to get that last official visit. Leading up to signing day, that’s the visit that will be most fresh in his minds. It’s hard for a kid to go on a trip and not enjoy himself. They are going to have fun and enjoy it there.”
That high can carry over for several days. An impressionable teenager may sign their National Letter of Intent several days later based solely on their most recent experience. It’s the ultimate sales pitch, using the closing window to play on one’s emotions.
But it’s how recruiting battles – and football games – are won in major college football these days. That doesn’t work for every player, however.
“I think every recruit is different,” ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said. “When you’re recruiting a kid, you should know who all is after a kid and strategically set up your visits accordingly.”
Newberg pointed to the case of Pedro Menendez (Fla.) linebacker Tony Steward, who is widely considered the nation’s top player at his position. He is likely to choose either Clemson or Florida State on National Signing Day.
The Tigers were in position to host him this weekend. However, Clemson was concerned that he might visit FSU on Jan. 21 and make a commitment to the Seminoles. So, Clemson bumped up his visit to Tiger Town a week ahead of his trip to Tallahassee.
“It all depends on that specific recruit,” Newberg said. “I’ve always been a believer that maybe best is last, but that’s not always the case.”
While many recruits end up playing for the schools that first offered them or hosted them on an official visit, there are dangers of bringing recruits on campus too early.
USC hosted Clowney in November, giving him plenty of chances to check out other schools before it came time to sign. Luckily for the Gamecocks, he has been back on their campus in an unofficial capacity since that visit and has made just one official trip (Alabama).
Ultimately, the Gamecocks had the first opportunity to make a lasting first impression. That may be enough to secure his services.
“You’ve got to decide if a kid is going to make all his visits,” said Spring Valley coach Miles Aldridge, a former college assistant. “If he’s going to make all his visits, then you’d like to take the last shot at him. If you think he’s going to take one or two and make a commitment, you can’t afford to wait until the last one. I think that’s the recruiter knowing what is the best shot at a kid.”