The year 2020 has been strange in a lot of different ways because of the coronavirus pandemic, including from a recruiting standpoint in the sense that college programs have not been allowed to play host to recruits since the spring due to the NCAA dead period which has been in place since March.
“It’s 2020. Everything about 2020 is odd,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said this week. “Just like last week, Thanksgiving, you’re so programed that you eat Thanksgiving dinner and then the next day you’re getting ready to play your in-state rival. So, that was different last week. But everything is different, and so what you’ve learned in 2020 is just roll with the punches, take it one day at a time because you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”
Elliott certainly feels for prospective student-athletes who are not able to make unofficial and official visits, which are a crucial part of the recruiting process and typically play a pivotal role in helping them weigh their college options and make their commitment decisions.
But at the same time, from a coaching perspective, Elliott pointed out that there is a benefit of coaches not being able to spend time with recruits on game days due to the ongoing NCAA dead period.
“It’s really, I think it’s unfortunate for the players,” Elliott said. “But as a coach, there’s a little bit of a silver lining because on game day, you can really focus in on the game whereas in the past, you come over, you kind of take the game out of your mind, go focus on recruiting for a couple hours and then lock back in right before kickoff. So, that’s actually a silver lining for the coaches.”
At the end of the day, though, Elliott understands how important college visits are for prospects and their families – allowing them the opportunity to check out campus, meet the players and get to know the coaching staff – and he sympathizes for recruits who have had that critical element of the recruiting process taken away from them because of the pandemic and resulting NCAA dead period.
While some prospects have still attended games at various colleges and sat in the stands as spectators with other fans, the dead period prohibits them from having any in-person contact with coaching staffs while on their respective campuses.
“I hate it for the players and the families because they’ve got to make a huge decision, a life-changing decision potentially,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of things that go into this decision, and they’re not having an opportunity to evaluate the game-day atmosphere, able to see academics, able to tour campus – they’re not able to do a lot of things that provides them the pertinent information that they need to make a decision. So, it is definitely different going to game day.”
The NCAA dead period has been in effect since March 13, 2020, and has been extended several times since, most recently through April 15, 2021, meaning there will be no in-person visits, evaluations or face-to-face time of any kind until at least next spring.
The good news for Clemson’s program is the majority of its 2021 class has been committed for a while now, though the ongoing dead period continues to impact many other prospects in the current recruiting cycle and future classes.
“I don’t know what the answer is,” Elliott said. “My heart goes out to the players that are going to have to make a decision on limited information. Fortunately for us, a lot of the guys that are committed to us have been committed for a long time and they’ve already been through that process to be able to have the information that they need. But I know there’s some guys that are coming down the wire that would really benefit from being able to have some type of interaction with the coaches. But at the end of the day, the NCAA said no. We’re about doing things the right way, so unfortunately you can’t have any conversations, any contact with those young men.”
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