With just over a week left before the early signing period for college football, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown said he is not expecting there to be much of a difference compared to past years, despite the pandemic-induced recruiting restrictions.
Talking on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference, Brown said he expects similar numbers of student-athletes to sign letters of intent next week and that the biggest difference this recruiting cycle has been the NCAA’s restriction of in-person visits.
“I think it’s warranted and it should be in place, but I hate it for two reasons,” Brown said. “I hate it for our program and college football programs in general because you can’t do as thorough an evaluation as you would normally do. And I hate it for the potential student-athletes too because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them and they’re not able to experience an official visit or experience gamedays. It is what it is, it has to be this way, but I think it’s a negative for both sides of it.”
Brown said the biggest aspect missing from virtual recruiting is the opportunities for evaluation.
“I’m talking about academic evaluation, character evaluation, playing ability evaluation,” Brown explained. “You’re not able to have guys in to really get a good understanding of how they learn in a meeting room setting. You’re not able to get around a lot of people within their school, whether it’s teachers, administrators, teammates, and get an understanding of how they handle adversity, for example. I’m a big believer in live evaluations, not just because you can evaluate talent and those kinds of things, but also how do they handle different aspects in practice or are they the first in line, do they challenge their teammates. When you get those live evaluations, you can tell a lot and then also we missed the whole camp setting and how they take coaching and things like that. The evaluation process has not been the same.”
Even with the restrictions, Brown has 16 players verbally committed in WVU’s 2021 class. 247Sports rates the class as the 32nd-best in the nation and the third-best in the Big 12. Brown said he has tried to make virtual recruiting as close to in-person as he possibly can for the players.
“Virtually, what we try to do is, we try to bring everything that we would normally do in an official visit of junior day setting, whatever it is, and try to do the best we can virtually,” Brown said. “We try to establish relationships and I think that’s what it’s all about. We’re trying to do the best with what we have. It’s not perfect but it’s better than nothing.”
The early signing period for college football teams begins next Wednesday, Dec. 16.