Their fax machines still warm from the letters of intent that poured in during Signing Day, many of the nation's elite college football programs will go a long way toward filling next year's recruiting classes in the coming weeks.
As the commitments pile up, some of the beneficiaries may be the less marquee schools who get left out of this early scramble. As anybody who has been around teenagers will attest, they can change a lot in a year, so the trend of recruits committing earlier and earlier complicates coaches' already difficult task of predicting which ones will pan out.
``What's happened is it's kind of helped even things out,'' said David Yost, Missouri's quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator, in a phone interview.
he end of August, according to the recruiting Web site.
Compare that to the class Missouri signed last February. Six players had committed by the end of August; 13 committed after the start of November.
The Tigers were one of college football's biggest surprises last season, putting themselves one win away from playing in the national championship game.
Later commitments were also the norm for other unexpected 2007 success stories like Kansas and Illinois.
``It's made for more mistakes by some of schools,'' Yost said of the trend toward earlier commitments at big-name programs.
Many players who commit early change their pledges before Signing Day, and teams try to leave open spots in their classes for any late bloomers who emerge during their senior seasons. So it's not as though schools that get a lot of early commitments are completely locked into their classes many months before Signing Day.
But a team with many early commitments may have a tough time wooing a player who came out of nowhere to have a great senior season because it already has a lot of recruits at his position. And there are certainly cases of athletes who seem to peak when they're 16. They commit when they're juniors in high school, then are unimpressive during their senior seasons.
``One year can do a lot of good for a player or have a minimal effect,'' CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said.
ull the scholarship offer and develop a bad reputation among high schools, said former Miami coach Larry Coker.
``That gets around pretty quickly,'' he said.
Coker and former Mississippi coach Ed Orgeron said there are many tricks for trying to predict how a high school player will develop, even 18 months before he'd enroll in college. Coaches take into account everything from shoe size to relatives' heights to the kids' diets. They talk to school counselors, ministers, teachers.
The recruit's opportunities in high school can make a big difference. One with access to sophisticated coaching and training programs may have less room to improve than one who isn't even getting three square meals a day.
``All of it is projection,'' Coker said. ``It's no science.''
The increased popularity of summer camps that colleges hold for recruits gives coaches an additional opportunity to evaluate players. Many, though, are committing even before they attend camps the summer between their junior and senior seasons.
``You certainly have to have a great junior year'' to get on recruiters' radars, said Orgeron, who will provide commentary for CSTV during its Signing Day coverage.
Lemming cited Iowa, Boston College and Purdue as three programs that do a good job of evaluating talent and making the most of late commitments, helping to keep them competitive with bigger-name schools.
``They wait until the big guys get done and then pounce on guys they know are great,'' he said.

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