For college football coaches, the recruitment of high school athletes is a time-consuming task that used to mean long hours on the road and the need for face-to-face contact to develop relationships with a coveted player.
In the midst of a pandemic, however, the rules this year have been tossed into the shredder. All in-person recruiting for football and other Division I sports have been suspended until April 15, 2021. Coaches may not meet face-to-face with a recruit off campus or conduct in-person scouting.
All colleges have been encouraged to stop all official and unofficial visits, although coaches and recruits may still communicate over the phone, FaceTime, text, email, and social media.
As Penn State coach James Franklin attempts Wednesday to juggle preparations for Saturday’s game against Illinois with welcoming an expected 15 athletes and their families on national signing day, he has a new matter to deal with: the one-time transfer exception, which is expected to be voted on next month by the NCAA Division I Council.
Under the proposal, athletes are given the chance for a one-time transfer during their athletic careers without having to sit out a season. If approved, the exception will go into effect on Aug. 1.
For Franklin, that would mean a need to study rosters of other teams so his program could be ready to take transfers if he deems it necessary.
“You’re going to see that on a significant level across college football,” he said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I think of how much college football has changed the last five or 10 years. It’s very different. You have to be willing to change with those times.
“I know sometimes people get frustrated with it or don’t understand it or want things to go back to how they were. That’s not happening. You have to embrace it and you have to move forward. Over the last number of years, a lot of programs have saved scholarships for transfers even before the new rule. You’re going to see that even more.”
The NCAA also has allowed seniors who are in their final season of eligibility the opportunity to come back for an extra year. Penn State seniors who were asked that question last week said for the most part they wanted to finish the season before thinking about taking advantage of the rule.
Because no in-person recruiting has been allowed, Franklin said he and his staff have had to come up with new ways to convey their message to high school players. He said most of the players who were expected to sign national letters of intent haven’t visited the campus.
“The recruiting staff has had to be very creative in finding different ways to connect and attract the best student-athletes,” he said. “A lot of it was Zoom. A lot of it was FaceTime. A lot of it was videos we tried to do to be creative and be different … as many different things as we can. We tried to recreate everything that we do, but you’re doing it virtually. That’s not easy to do.”
Franklin said he will take about three hours off from his normal Wednesday preparations for an upcoming opponent and welcome the new freshmen and their families. They will call in at a specific time and Franklin, along with position coaches and recruiting staff, will be part of the call.
“We want to celebrate that young man and their families and try to make it as special as we possibly can,” he said. “This is a day to celebrate their futures and the decisions that they have made, and we want to make sure we do everything we can, especially when they’ve lost out on so much already, like official visits and things like that.”
Big Ten awards
Penn State junior Pat Freiermuth was named the Kwalick-Clark tight end of the year by the Big Ten. Freiermuth, who played in only four games before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, also was named first-team All-Big Ten in the coaches’ vote and second-team by the media.
The Nittany Lions had four offensive linemen honored on the All-Big Ten teams. Redshirt junior guard Mike Miranda was voted to the second team by coaches and media, and guard Will Fries was named second-team by coaches and honorable mention by media.
Redshirt senior center Michal Menet was named third-team all-conference by coaches and media, as was junior wide receiver Jahan Dotson. Redshirt junior tackle Rasheed Walker was voted third-team by the media and honorable mention by the coaches.
The Big Ten will honor award winners on defense Wednesday and on special teams Thursday.