Georgia, like every other college football program in the past few months, has been greatly affected since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Its interference with regular everyday life and how we communicate has made a significant impact on traditional recruiting methods. Bulldogs’ head coach Kirby Smart spoke with the media Thursday morning via Zoom, and explained about how recruiting has been since the start of sheltering-in-place.
“First off, it’s extremely different,” Smart said. “The recruiting world has probably changed as much as anything because you’re just not capable of going to high schools. You mentioned May was a very active month for all of college football coaches, not just us. We would be going out, watching spring practices. We would be going from school to school. I wouldn’t be able to because I don’t get to go out in May, so that didn’t really change for me, but it changed for a lot of our coaches. We’ve done what you guys know to be the case. There’s no magic potion. There’s nobody doing something magically that everybody else isn’t doing. We’re jumping on Zoom. We’re communicating with parents, coaches, recruits. We’re doing everything virtually and that’s the really the best we can do.”
As of right now, Georgia has eight verbal commitments for the class of 2021, which is a group that is ranked No. 15 in the country and No. 4 in the SEC. This week, the Bulldogs received their first commitment for the 2022 cycle in four-star cornerback Marquis Groves-Killebrew from Brookwood High School in Snellville, GA. They also have a commitment from class of 2023 Trinity Christian Academy running back Treyaun Webb out of Jacksonville, FL. Currently, Smart feels the absence of face-to-face interaction over the last two months has taken its tole on the recruiting trail.
“They keep extending the period that you can’t come on campus, the recruiting, the ability to come to our campus, they just extended that again so it’s looking like that’s not going to happen through the end of July,” Smart said. “So it’s going to be a very different May, June, July period and that’s unique. Who manages that the best will be important. A lot of this, to me, is who had the best relationships going into this because, at the end of the day, you can only develop so much of a relationship through phone, through a text, through a virtual activity. We’ve tried to be creative in the way we use that. I’m certainly not going to divulge everything we’ve done because I don’t think that’s open for everybody to do and I think that we’re all competing in the SEC to try and make ourselves different.”
Since the coronavirus outbreak started, the communication between coaches and players has greatly increased due to the NCAA allowing unlimited contact between the two parties. With recruits at home with nothing to do, and coaching staffs left with huge chunks of time open in their schedules, more communication is bound to happen. Usually, coaches would reserve an hour out of their day after practice for recruiting business. Now, there is always constant communication from sunrise to sunset.
The NCAA has also mandated that support staff members are also allowed to join the coaches in participating in calls with recruits. This allows coaches to speak to more than one recruit at a time, and also allows current student athletes to speak with targeted prospects on calls. As a result of this, the communication lines have been busy because contact has never been this unlimited.
“I can tell you this, it has probably created a bigger burden on our recruits and if I was a recruit or a recruit’s parent, I would be more concerned with that volume of virtual usage and phone usage and it has probably led, and evidence shows that it has led, to more kids committing,” Smart said. “Because you can make the case that they’re committing because they can’t go anywhere. I would make the case that they’re committing because they’re sick and tired of being barraged by phone calls and virtual activities. So will we see more kids come December or November either de-commit or go back and start visiting? I don’t know because I don’t know when we’re going to be able to bring kids to campus and all of that will come out probably at the end of July when we know more about what kids are going to be able to do in recruiting.”