When starting the recruiting process, some may think that all schools start at the same time when sending prospective athletes mail. That however could not be further from the truth. Some schools like to get in early on younger players and try to show their interest in them early on. Others wait until they are older and see what kind of player that they have become as a senior.
One of the more interesting levels to follow in regards to recruiting is schools at the FCS/Division I-AA level. These programs are at a disadvantage over BCS/Division I-A schools because they do not have the resources that their rivals have. For example, a BCS school has to offer every player a full ride while the FCS school normally extends scholarships that are partials (There are exceptions at times).
Because of this, the Division I-AA schools are normally more hesitant to offer a prospect early in the recruiting process. I don’t follow I-AA schools all that closely but I have not seen them extend an official scholarship to anyone before the summer before their senior season. The reason that they wait is because even if you are the top Division I-AA program in the country, if word gets out that you have extended an offer to a player, the Division I-A coaches that hear are going to start taking a much longer look at this athlete.
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While I am not trying to knock Division I-AA schools, it really is tough for them to compete against smaller Division I-A programs. There are always going to be exceptions and there have been some that I have talked about in past years. But for Division I-AA schools, they are always at a major disadvantage when it comes to recruiting.
Right now, I suspect that many Division I-AA programs have been doing what they can to bring prospective athletes on campus. Like the major schools across the country, they are also trying to have these standouts in for Junior Days and other events. In regards to college recruiting, getting a prospect on campus is half the battle and that is why they do these.
But again, as mentioned above, it would be down right shocking to see any of these schools offer a junior currently a scholarship (There are two exceptions here. If the athlete has a relative who played sports at the school or if the school is positioning themselves in case the top prospect eventually transfer from a major school and then doesn’t want to sit out a year because of the transfer). I have actually seen both of the cases I mentioned happen to a prospect in the Class of 2011 but it is pretty obvious that the prospect is not considering either program at this time.
These schools will send mail, call, visit schools, and do the normal recruiting process evaluations. Like any other school, they will also be trying to bring the prospect on campus so that they can see them in action. Schools at the I-AA level have started to be more aggressive when offering scholarships to players at their camps. Some schools have been known to extend things that early, but again, they want as few people to know about the scholarship as possible. The more other schools know that a program has offered a player, the more those other schools will focus on the positives of this player and what he can do.
During the fall, these Division I-AA programs will have athletes take visits during the season. In the majority of cases, these will be unofficial visits just to see the campus and to see their team in action.
The time that recruiting at this level really heats up is in December. Their seasons are normally finished and the coaches now fully switch their attention over to the recruiting process. This is when they will start extending scholarships and bringing in athletes on official visits. Another reason that they wait this long to bring the athletes in is because they will know by now if Division I-A schools have offered the prospects. They know that if that is the case, it will be an uphill battle to land the prospect. And while these I-A schools could still offer late, now is the best time to tell the athletes how much the school wants on campus and how important they are to their recruiting class.
The I-A schools at the time will be telling the recruits to be patient and that they are waiting to see what other prospects will say in regards to a scholarship. I can promise you that the I-AA schools will really push that angle. December and January are major months for them in the recruiting process.
From what I have seen at one major I-AA school, they bring in their top prospects early in December for an official visit. The later that you get an official visit in January, the less they want to land you. And if they already have received commitments from players at your position, expect them to call off the official.
Like all levels, the D I-AA level is not easy to figure out in recruiting. But this is a time where you have to be extremely patient and realize that they really do take longer than other schools. They don’t want to show their cards too early because they are worried that other I-A programs will snatch up their recruits.