By Mike McCall
Last week, Charlotte Independence High cornerback Victor Hampton (left, photo from Scout.com) announced his verbal commitment to play for Florida. He's 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, from former UF quarterback Chris Leak's alma mater, and I'm sure he's really fast and athletic.
That's all great, but here's what's not: Hampton told The Gainesville Sun that he has never visited UF. He said he'll check it out sometime this month, and he doesn't plan on visiting any other schools. Also, an Independence coach told The Sun that Hampton's recruiting process only took two weeks.
Especially in light of losing Greg Reid (committed to UF in Feb. 2008) to Florida State and Nu'Keese Richardson (committed May 2008) to Tennessee this year, do Gators fans really feel good about this?
Signing Day for the 2010 recruiting class is still 11 months away, but there are already five verbal commits:
OT Ian Silberman: 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, Orange Park Fleming Island High, committed July 2008
QB Trey Burton: 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, Venice High, committed July 2008
S Matt Elam: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer High, committed Oct. 2008
S Demar Dorsey: 6 feet, 175 pounds, Lauderdale Lakes Anderson High, committed Oct. 2008
CB Victor Hampton: 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, Charlotte Independence High, committed Feb. 2009
Don't get too attached to any of those names. There's a lot of time left in the recruiting season, and even though these kids think committing to UF will make the other schools leave them alone, it won't. They'll all be hounded, especially Hampton, who will be bombarded by teams closer to home like UNC, N.C. State, Clemson, South Carolina and of course, Lane Kiffin and Tennessee.
Now, those other coaches vying for their signatures have a specific target to attack. Hampton will surely get an earful about how Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, Jeremy Brown and others have the cornerback position on lockdown in The Swamp for the next few years, and eventually, he'll start to listen to that.
Hampton, his family and his coaches will try to block out the suitors, but even that isn't a good thing.
Hampton said he saw all he needed to see when Florida took home the national title this year, and he knows this is the place for him. Sure, if I were a bigtime recruit, the Gators would be near the top of my list no matter how far away I lived, but I'd at least have a list and work my way through it.
By not visiting other schools, Hampton is doing himself a huge disservice, and Urban Meyer should discourage him from following his current plan. Recruiting is too often looked at from the schools' perspectives. It's about filling needs and strengthening next year's team, but it's also about high school kids finding the place that's best for them.
If Hampton doesn't do any looking around and he makes an uneducated decision, that could come back to bite him when he gets to Gainesville. It's much better to find out where he fits best during the recruiting process, because if he doesn't discover that until he gets to UF, there could be trouble. No one wins if he's upset or transfers.
The trend of committing early has gotten more and more popular. Coaches want to start filling their classes and players want to get it over with, so they're reaching agreements sooner and sooner. Scout.com did a study in 2007 with some interesting results.
For the 2004 recruiting class, 61 players made commitments to BCS schools before June 1, 2003.
By June 1, 2007, 323 kids had done so for the class of 2008. That's an increase of 500 percent, and I don't think it's a good thing.
I'm still kind of on the fence about whether or not there should be an early signing period (interestingly, Meyer said this year he's in favor of it, despite his past comments. I'm convinced his new philosophy is due to Kiffin pulling Richardson and Marsalis Teague away from him). I don't have a big problem with kids signing early, as long as there's a way out if coaches get fired, etc., but they have to at least make an informed decision. In most cases, that means they need to take their time.
Take a look at how Gators signees who committed before June 1 have fared in the last few years:
2005 class: LB Kalvin Baker: committed April 2004, never played, transferred to Tennessee State.
2006 class: RB Chevon Walker: committed April 2005, a few bright spots, but transferred to Eastern Illinois.
2007 class: TE Aaron Hernandez: committed April 2006, doing wonderfully.
RB Chris Rainey: committed May 2006, ditto.
QB Bryan Waggener: JUCO transfer moved again and is now at Northern Colorado.
There are lots of reasons why players transfer, but it certainly doesn't help to enter the recruiting process with your mind made up, like Hampton is.
On the flip side, I think it's worth commending Hernandez and Rainey for sticking with their early committments. Some guys know where they want to go from the jump, and they're great fits because of it. But they're the exceptions, not the rule.
How do you feel about this? Do these five commitments mean anything to you, or do they just set you up for disappointment?
Also, should there be an early signing period?