FAYETTEVILLE — Last year by June 12, Arkansas had hosted 13 official visitors to the campus, but this year that number is zero.
The official visits last year started April 5, April 13, May 3, May 31 and June 12. Due to the COVID-19 shutdown across campuses and thus the NCAA not allowing any off-campus visits by coaches or on-campus visits by prospects that aspect of recruiting halted.
Coaches still did virtual visits and other forms of recruiting, but nothing in person. So now University of Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman expects prospects to check out campuses during the season. Last season, Arkansas only had eight prospects officially visit during the season.
“What I can see right now, I can see a lot of official visits during the season,” Pittman said. “I think right now if you’re a young man, you’re sitting there going, ‘Can I wait 95 or 94 days or whatever the number is until the first game?’ Well, that’s one program. If you’re going to try to visit five, you’re sitting there this summer and of course you’re not going to be able to do much.”
Some states are starting to allow high schools to resume various forms of football. States have different rules. Pittman thinks that is a plus as well.
“I think it will help the kids when they’re able to go back to their high schools, which Arkansas and I think Florida and some of the other states are starting to go back and Texas, but once they’re able to start doing something, I think it will help them with recruiting,” Pittman said. “I think right now, all they are doing is sitting around and reading about themselves or getting calls and Zoom meetings and all those things.”
Pittman doesn’t see much change in the percentage of athletes signing early as opposed to possibly waiting until Feb. 3, 2021, to sign. That would allow them use some of January for official visits as well.
“I think there will still be a pretty large percentage of guys that sign early, I really do,” Pittman said. “Like you said, there are more now that are committed than there has been in the past. I think a lot of that is that their minds going, ‘Can I wait another 100 days? Can I do this for another 100 days?’ The answer is no.
“I think you’ve seen a spurt of recruiting commits going on here lately and a big reason is they come out and said we’re dead until July 31. They’re just like, ‘Well then I’m just gonna go ahead and commit somewhere. I don’t know that but that’s how I feel. To answer your question, I think that there will be a pretty high percentage of kids still sign early because I think the official visits will amp up.”
Most coaches like to normally limit official visits during the season because it puts a strain on both the college and high school or junior college coaches as well as the prospect as well as his parents.
“I think at that point hurts high school football,” Pittman said. “I do. It’s going to be hard for you to play a Friday night game and have your mind totally on that Friday night game when you know after the game or at 5:30 in the morning you’re flying to wherever you’re flying to. So, it’s just like anything, you know and I know, it’s just the situation that we all have to deal with.”
The college coaches are preparing for a game that Saturday and having official visitors forces them to take time for that as well. As with most things in 2020, recruiting has been anything but normal. But, then again, so has everything else.