FRISCO, Texas — To some, they are oral commitments.
To Kansas football coach David Beaty, though, these unsigned prospects are something else.
“A verbal commitment, for me, we liken it to a mirage. It doesn’t exist,” Beaty said Monday at Big 12 football media days at Ford Center. “I mean, it’s not real, and you have to recruit every single day with every guy. You have to work hard to acquire their services and make them understand why this would be the best choice for them.”
Mirage or not, the verbal commitment has taken on increased relevancy for the third-year coach.
According to recruiting outlet Rivals.com, the Jayhawks have the No. 27-ranked haul in the Class of 2018, built on the back of a flurry of verbal commitments in the immediate aftermath of the Class of 2017’s signing day in early February.
Among that group is five-star prize Devonta Jason, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver out of Landry-Walker High School in New Orleans and the No. 22-ranked recruit in the nation. Other unsigned talents include four-star defensive back Corione Harris — also of Landry-Walker — and nine three-star prospects.
The unofficial haul has garnered bewildered coverage nationally — “I’ve been doing this long enough to know that this is a unicorn,” Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell told Bleacher Report last month. For his part, Beaty digests all verbal commitments with a healthy dose of skepticism.
One factor that will change the dynamic this winter will be college football’s new early signing window. Approved by the NCAA this spring, recruits will have a three-day period (beginning Dec. 20 this year) to ink their name to a binding letter of intent to give both university and prospect a sense of relief.
Beaty said he isn’t sure if college coaches will know whether the rule change is a good one for a few years, but added he’s approaching the situation like this: If a orally committed recruit doesn’t sign during the early period, then they are no longer committed to his program.
“Now, they may still sign on that second (signing day),” Beaty continued, “but if there’s a paper available and they don’t sign it, that’ll be very interesting to me to see how many kids actually open their recruiting back up at that point.”
Most recruits stick with the teams they orally commit with, though Beaty admitted switching has become “a little bit more prevalent” in recent years. Those that do re-open their recruitment, though, should expect a uniform response from KU.
“The good thing for that is at least we know,” Beaty said, “and now we know where to put our resources, because if he doesn’t sign, he’s not coming to us — for the most part, he’s not coming to us.”
Coaches who hold out hope for oral recruits after the early signing period ends and don’t keep their options open won’t have time to regroup if they ultimately miss out on the prospect, Beaty said.
He used the recent case of junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong, a late signee and who became this year’s preseason defensive player of the year in the Big 12, as an example of when keeping an open mind when recruiting can pay dividends. The Jayhawks had a month to recruit Armstrong and fended off a late push from Missouri to earn the commitment — “I mean, it’s a miracle that guy is sitting next to us,” said Beaty, whose interview table was stationed next to Armstrong’s at media day.
“(The early signing period) is one of those deals where I just think it’s going to be really interesting, and I’m living in it,” Beaty said. “It can be hair-raising to you, but one of the things we always say around our place is, we’re going to continue to recruit because they’re not real until they sign, so we’re going to continue to recruit and cultivate those relationships and keep lookin’, because there’s always somebody else who shows up, and somebody wants that opportunity.”
Asked to relay the recruiting pitch that has been so successful of late, Beaty shrugged and said there is no pitch but rather cultivation of a relationship. He admitted that may sound cliché, but it’s absolutely the mindset he takes into every living room he enters.
One undeniable lift to Beaty’s recruiting efforts has been the team’s upset victory of Texas last season, which garnered national headlines.
“It’s yet to be seen just how good the recruiting hit was,” Beaty said, “but I know it certainly didn’t hurt, because every living room I’ve sat in talked about that game.”
Good, bad or indifferent, recruits are going to get the truth from Beaty, he said, and they will never get the promise of a starting position before it is earned.
“We talk about what it means to be a Jayhawk, and that’s where it starts,” Beaty said. “And if you don’t want that, it’s no big deal — you just can’t come here.”