Most college football teams will wrap up their 2017 signing classes on Wednesday, getting the binding letters-of-intent that officially turn their commitments into actual roster members.
On Thursday, they’ll turn their eyes to their top 2018 quarterback target, 247Sports national recruiting insider Ryan Bartow said.
“That’s the first thing that really goes into effect after signing day is, ‘OK, now it’s junior quarterback recruiting time,’ ” Bartow said.
Recruiting at every other position is a quantity game – get as many of the best linemen and linebackers and pass catchers, etc., as you can get and then try to get some more. Quarterback recruiting is a little more delicate.
“There are the top 25 and they go off the board, and the top-25 programs get to pick one each year,” Bartow said. “It sometimes goes beyond that to 40 of them, but that’s how it works, domino effect because you only get to play one at that position.”
And the one you get often means more than all the other players in the class.
“That was a 3-9, 4-8 roster Will Muschamp inherited last year,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said Monday. “Without Jake Bentley, there is no way that team is going bowling.”
The process of trying to find the next Bentley never ends for the Gamecocks or other teams. On Wednesday, South Carolina will sign Wren’s Jay Urich, a three-star prospect who’s rated the country’s 22nd-best dual threat quarterback, according to 247Sports.com.
“It was the relationships I built with the coaches and the players,” Urich said of the reason for his commitment to USC. “How I felt when I visited was really the key. I felt comfortable with them and I could really see myself playing at South Carolina.”
Urich, who committed on May 27, also had scholarship offers from Tennessee and Duke. Urich attended several Gamecocks football camps on campus before his commitment, which allowed him to build his relationship with the coaching staff and allowed the coaching staff to do the critical due diligence needed on a modern quarterback prospect.
“The game has changed so dramatically in terms of how the position is being taught from grassroots on up because of the spread offense, because of the shotgun-based offenses. It’s becoming more and more difficult to evaluate what a kid actually knows,” Luginbill said.
“What has he been taught? Is he just out there winging it? Does he understand anything about concepts, the theory of the game? Oftentimes in the spread offense, especially at the high school level, you’re not taught to read coverage, you’re taught to read space, and that’s different than it was 20 years ago. The most important thing you can do in player evaluation at the quarterback position in today’s landscape is to never offer a scholarship to a kid that has not attended your camp and worked out and sat down and met with you where you got a chance to spend two to three days with him.”
A camp appearance also allows coaches to evaluate system fit, another critical component in a landscape where offenses are increasingly partisan – the spread systems with mobile quarterbacks on one side of the aisle and the pro-style systems with more traditional pocket passers on the other.
South Carolina offensive coordinator Kurt “Roper and I talked a little bit and I went down to spring practices and we had different meetings to talk specifically about football and how I fit in the offense,” Urich said. “That did have something to do with it, going somewhere where my talents will be able to be fully used.”
Bartow believes signing the same style of quarterback year after year is the most sensible approach to a long-term quarterback recruiting plan.
“You see teams that are spread, tempo dual-threat and those are the ones they go after,” he said. “They do not try to fit a triangle into a square.”
Luginbill believes it’s less important for teams with offensive versatility at other positions.
“I think that can be evaluated on a year-to-year basis,” he said.
The Gamecocks have offered two pro-style quarterbacks and 10 dual-threat quarterbacks for the 2018 class, according to 247Sports.com. Their top target is four-star Fort Dorchester quarterback Dakereon Joyner, who also has offers from most of the major programs in the country.
“Everyone tries to get the best one they can get every year,” Bartow said. “Sometimes they don’t get them.”
The dominoes will start falling soon.
“These guys know they have to lock in their spots, so if Michigan takes a guy,” Bartow said, “all of a sudden that means UCLA’s guy might be next.”
And on and on it goes.