Zone Read: Offers – Separating Fact From Fiction

Arizona Sports News online

High school spring football in the Valley means a rise in temperatures, as well as the usual swell of college recruiters heading to the desert for an in-person eye test on our high volume of next-level players.  

These college coaches make the most of their time, dotting the AZHS football maps in their rental cars using the Loop 101 and Loop 202 as their directional compass towards potential future talent.

Recruiting isn’t merely big business, it’s THE business of college football, especially in fertile states like California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Jersey, and right here in our own backyard. 

Recruiters are trusting their eyes, player scouting reports from area high school coaches, and hoping for a little luck along the way. In many cases, their jobs depend on it.

In this “Zone Read,” we unpack the specifics of college football offers, while separating fact from fiction as these once-perceived “golden tickets” are, in reality, sometimes merely a small percentage chance of playing at the next level.

Defining an Offer 

This is often where the confusion starts.

“In the most basic form, at the Division I level, you’re being promised an athletic scholarship,” Brophy head coach Jason Jewell explained to the “Zone Read.” “It depends on what level of Division I. If you’re talking, FBS Division I, it’s a full scholarship. If you’re talking FCS Division I, it doesn’t have to be a full scholarship, it can be a partial.”

It gets even more convoluted at lower levels of college football. 

Division II schools have an allotment of 36 full-ride football scholarships, as compared to 63 at Division I FCS schools, and 85 at the Division I FBS level. NAIA schools provide only partial scholarships, while there are no scholarship opportunities at the Division III level.

While families may be thrilled their son connected with and was subsequently offered by a Division III program, said offer holds zero financial assistance. With 80 percent of Division III schools being private, families may explore academic scholarships (if applicable) to offset the steep tuition costs at private institutions.

Playing the Percentages

The give-and-take between prospect and potential future school is a high speed, two-way street.

Every school, especially at the FBS and FCS levels, has their own recruiting model, or “big board.” This detailed blueprint is the topic of endless coaching meetings, talent evaluations, hours pouring over Hudl highlights, and several other variables in finding the perfect recipe for the type of player that school is looking to sign.   

How these programs distribute “offers” can vary as much as their game plans. Certain schools may hand out 150 offers 25 spots, others may give 50 for 25. 

Programs, just like prospects, are fishing to see what the recruiting waters may bear.

“When you put an offer down on a house, you’re probably going to put down multiple offers on different houses, right?,” Jewell noted. “You’re hoping to get one of them. That’s the same scenario for a prospect. You’re going to offer three or four kids of the same caliber and, hopefully, you’ll get one or two of them.”

Another differentiating factor is position need. Obviously, schools will offer more offensive and defensive linemen than quarterbacks, kickers, and specialists (long snappers, punters, etc).

Other circumstances like graduation and transfer portal losses, coaching turnover, and scheme changes can impact a school’s recruiting cycle.  

Offers vs. Non-committable Offers

It’s commonplace for colleges to throw “offers” out like Halloween candy. Some can be of substance, others simply for show, a “favor” for a high school coach, or even just social media exposure, AKA a program showing “recruiting presence” in the area.

“Zone Read” was told one Power 5 assistant called a Valley head coach recently and asked who his top, younger prospects were and what position each played. The P-5 assistant then instructed the head coach to “offer” all of them. He never spoke to them, much less even took the time to make it to campus while in the area to try to start a relationship with them.

All of those offers were non-committable.

These types of recruiting practices are uncommon, but not unheard of. 

Non-commitable offers do nothing but further blur the recruiting lines for high school players, coaches, and parents.

So, what’s the purpose of schools giving non-committable offers if they hold little to no value to the player receiving them?  

“Great question,” Chandler head coach Rick Garretson said to the “Zone Read.” “I don’t have the answer because I’ve asked [college recruiters] that, as well. Why issue something that’s non-committable? Why would you do that to a kid?”

A committable offer is an opportunity, but an opportunity with an asterisk…or four. 

So, your little star tight end got offered? Unless that tight end is named Duce Robinson, he’s likely on a long list of other tight ends that school has offered and is targeting to fill a roster spot, maybe two depending on the position.

More often than not, the schools hold most/all of the leverage. Prospects may need some breaks (players above them picking another school or de-committing) in order for a scholarship to become available.  

Overall, most college coaches will be honest with their expectations when offering a potentially committable player. They’ll communicate improvement they’d like to see in their games, maybe adding more weight to their frame, or even boosting their GPA a bit to stay recruitable throughout the process.

Just be cognizant to the fact that recruiter may be saying the exact same thing to the other recruit(s) you’re, essentially, competing against for that scholarship slot. 

Knowledge is Power

“Today’s [recruiting] world is very different than it was three or four years ago,” Garretson explained. “The portal has changed things dramatically as far as what [schools] are looking for and if they have needs. Not necessarily the high school kids, just ‘fix its’ for the needs. It’s a different world in that sense.”

Recruitable players, and their families, can never over-educate themselves on the nuances of the recruiting game.

As we’ve discussed in this column numerous times, it can be stressful, frustrating and, occasionally, simply unforgiving.

Perspective isn’t just important, it’s essential throughout the recruiting process.

“You only control the things you control,” Garretson noted. “You don’t control your measurements. You don’t control certain facets, like how people view you, so to speak…it’s a process. We always tell our players and parents to let the process play itself out, and generally it does.”

I asked Jewell what the most misunderstood aspect was about receiving an offer. 

“That they last forever,”  he said without hesitation. “They certainly don’t. So, if you figured out what school you wanted to go to, and that school is willing to honor that commitment, you should probably take it. Or, you could be left with nothing.”

Welcome to college recruiting.