Five days before Parish Episcopal High School (Dallas, Texas) opened its 2020 football season against Liberty Christian on Sept. 25, Parish Episcopal senior offensive lineman Austin Uke committed to Holy Cross, one of seven FCS scholarship offers the 2021 recruit carried into the season (247Sports). He didn’t have a single FBS offer. Four months later, Uke signed with Stanford, one of 15 FBS programs to offer the three-star, top-500 recruit since the end of October.
Uke was the only late-period signee for the Cardinal in becoming the 16th member of David Shaw’s 2021 recruiting class. It took Shaw 68 offers to land the Pac-12’s seventh-ranked class, which finished one spot above Arizona State for a second straight year. It took Herm Edwards 338 offers to finish below Stanford for a second straight year (though, for what it’s worth, above Stanford in national championship odds).
Arizona State offered the most 2021 recruits of any Pac-12 program and is the only Pac-12 program with more than 300 total offers and more than 70 offers to one position group (78 to defensive linemen). And of the 28 FBS conference programs with at least 300 offers, the Sun Devils were the only one to finish eighth or worse in conference team rankings.
Those staggering numbers, however, don’t paint the whole picture for Arizona State football or 2021 recruiting across college football. The Sun Devils signed four four-star recruits, including the nation’s ninth-ranked corner Isaiah Johnson, and ranked third in the Pac-12 with a 31-percent four- and five-star signee rate (percentage of total signees who are four- or five-star recruits). And while Edwards’ parade of offers led Pac-12 programs, it paled in comparison to other FBS programs. Had he made one fewer offer, Arizona State wouldn’t be in the top 20 nationally in total offers.
Five teams have made at least 400 offers to 2021 recruits, a group led by Army and Air Force, though both have a unique recruiting model that allows for 50- and 69-man classes as they have in 2021, respectively. Tennessee leads all non-service academy schools with 479 offers, nearly all of which were made before Jeremy Pruitt was fired and replaced with Josh Heupel one week before late signing day. Four hundred and twenty-three of those 479 offers were made by Pruitt at least one year ago.
Stanford, meanwhile, routinely offers fewer recruits over an entire year as many programs offer in one month. Since Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh in early 2011, Stanford has only once twice offered more than 100 recruits: 2011 and 2012.
“We let them know at least our process is an honest process. It’s an up-front process,” Shaw said last year. “We offer you when we have a spot for you. If we don’t have a spot for you, then we don’t offer you, but we continue to recruit you. And like I said, that’s off-putting at times in the beginning, but once we talk them through it, they go back sometimes, look at their other offers and say, ‘Wow, they offered me, but they also said I can’t commit, so is that really an offer?’ “
In each of the last nine years, they’ve never made more than 80 offers and have posted a commitment rate of at least 20 percent. With 16 signees from 68 offers in the 2021 class, Stanford’s commitment rate of 23.5-percent ranks sixth nationally.
Stanford’s selectiveness helps the Pac-12 rank third among all conferences in average offers–an average of 194 per team–and second in commitment rate–9 percent. The 10 conferences and seven Independent teams have combined for nearly 30,000 offers. As of Sunday, Feb. 7, 29,746 offers have been made to 2021 recruits, an average of 228 for the 130 FBS programs.
The SEC accounts for more than 4,000 of those offers and ranks first in total offers, average offers, and total decommitments. And their 6.9-percent commitment rate ranks ninth, only behind the Sun Belt.
There is no strong correlation between coaching changes and more offers, neither in the immediate class (e.g. 2020 class if a change occurs after the 2019 season) nor in the next class (e.g. 2021 if a change occurs after the 2020 season).
Of the 30 teams with the most 2021 offers, only five changed coaches since the end of the 2019 season: Tennessee, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, FAU, and Florida State. Southern Miss, for example, offered everyone under former head coach Jay Hopson. The Eagles set a single-year record with 590 offers in 2020 and a two-year record with 1,097 offers from 2019-20. And they were over 300 when Hopson resigned in September.
Thirty-eight teams changed coaches the last two cycles (post-2019 and post-2020). Those 38 teams averaged 233 offers compared to 227 offers for the 92 teams that didn’t change coaches. Unsurprisingly, decommitments are higher–5.6 vs. 2.9–among programs with changes, but average commits is identical–19–and commit rate is similar–8 percent vs. 8.4 percent.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM.