The NCAA announced on Wednesday that it has extended the 2020 recruiting dead period until January 1, 2021. This decision comes as a result of COVID-19 concerns and means that there will be no on-campus or off-campus visits or evaluations, no involvement in camps or clinics and no visits (whether official or unofficial) through the end of the calendar year.
“The Council has been reviewing the dead period on a regular basis since April,” the NCAA said in a statement. “A dead period precludes all in-person recruiting. Phone calls and correspondence can continue to occur.”
For a head coach at a new program like Lane Kiffin, it isn’t ideal, but every program in the nation is dealing with the same restrictions. Despite the playing field being even, the NCAA’s announcement has a host of implications for Ole Miss football.
No Official Visits
While there are some official visits throughout the year, the vast majority are taken in the two weeks prior to the early signing period. Schools, including Ole Miss, host a large number of the most important targets leading up to decision day and walk them (and their parents) through the facilities, show them the gear and sell them on the vision.
The main goal of hosting these big official visit weekends is two-fold. On one hand, it’s important to keep the verbal commitments in the boat. On the other, extending an official visit offer to a recruit that may be committed elsewhere offers the opportunity to flip him. When a senior in high school gets on campus with what could be his fellow recruiting class, having a group of athletes who already bought in around helps make the case.
With recruiting weekends cancelled, flipping a longstanding commit from another school to Ole Miss may not be as doable.
No Gameday Visits
As has been said by Kiffin and many before him, if the Rebels can get a recruit on campus, they will have a real chance of landing said prospect.
Without the ability to host recruits on-campus this fall, recruits will not be able to experience the Walk of Champions, lock the Vaught, or the feel of a full bowl in voice roaring loud for a third down stop.
Kiffin and his staff are recruiting nationwide. Trying to convince a prospect from New Jersey, where co-defensive coordinator Chris Partridge has made his mark over the past decade, to attend school in the heart of Mississippi instead of, say, a competitive Big 10 school, is not an easy task. Getting those kids in the Grove, in the locker room and on the sideline is important. The importance of that visit extends beyond 2021 and into the 2022 class.
No in-home visits
This is the big one and it’s pretty straightforward. Put yourself in the shoes of a senior in high school and his family. It is extremely difficult to commit to a program and a staff without talking face-to-face. Phone calls and video chats are the new normal, and they both lack that same tangible personability. Also, if a coach is driving or flying around the country to meet with a recruit, as opposed to giving a rink or sending a text, it shows that extra effort. Being unable to go see a recruit in his home town may help Kiffin and co. when it comes to miles traveled, but it will slightly take away from presenting a staff that is full of characters and guys that recruits want to play for.
Every other program in the country is dealing with the same unique recruiting parameters and if a recruit is not comfortable committing in the early signing period without an in-home visit or official campus visit, the dead period is supposed to end on Jan. 1, 2020 and he will have a chance to see a sense of normality in recruiting in the new year. This places a lot of emphasis on the month leading up to signing day on February 3.
In the meantime, General Manager Matt Lindsey will have to adjust his approach to the 2021 class and rely heavily on the digital department. Social media is already king, and a lack of in-person recruiting puts a heavy emphasis on hype videos and graphics. Ole Miss already executes well in that area.
At the end of the day, Kiffin and the coaches he has surrounded himself with sell themselves. The resume speaks for itself, and the energy buzz that surrounds the 45-year-old head coach will be enough to allure top recruits, no matter the circumstance.