Early recruiting and early offers are the name of the game now in college football, but not everybody's a fan.
One of the busiest programs the past few months has been Rivals.com High School National Champion John Curtis Christian in River Ridge, La.
College coaches are no strangers to the John Curtis program. One of Louisiana's finest, Joe McKnight, was a five-star standout for the Patriots, and in 2003 Carnell Stewart was a Rivals100 member. In the past five years, prospects have signed with LSU, Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi State, TCU and several others.
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Head coach J.T. Curtis, fully versed in the recruiting process, has had a front-row seat for the increase in early attention and is less than pleased.
"The trend has been over the last five to seven or eight or nine years or so with early offers and early recruiting," Curtis said. "To be honest, I'm not a fan of that. I'd much rather see guys evaluated through their senior year. But it is what it is so we deal with it the best we can and try to keep a good sense about what's going on."
Even with the increased attention and prospects making earlier commitments, Curtis encourages his players to take a reasoned approach.
"I encourage them to take their time, and if we do commit we are done," Curtis said. "We are finished with any kind of recruiting and I want them and their family to know that because the word "commitment" to me means we're finished, we're done, it's locked in place. The only way that changes is if something happens in terms of the coaching staff being let go. Other than that we're not changing."
He also expects college coaches to live up to their end of the bargain.
"There's more early offers and there's more depth to them and more players being offered early now, but again I'm very frank with our players and I tell the college coaches if they make an offer to our kid unless he does something detrimental to that program I expect them to honor that offer," Curtis said.
"I don't like this business of we're changing our mind and all of sudden we're out of scholarships. I want to be kept informed about where we are so I can keep our players informed and if they don't feel strongly about him then don't offer him. It won't hurt my feelings and it won't hurt theirs. There is no question there are more early offers, but I try at our school to make sure they're legitimate and what they ought to be."
Plenty of college coaches are interested in wide receiver Malachi Dupre, linebacker Kenny Young, and defensive backs Mattrell McGraw and Terrence Alexander. Each holds around 30-40 offers at this point, and they are all well into the recruiting process.
They each continue to keep an open mind when it comes to recruiting, and while they are in the process of narrowing their lists, they do not anticipate any commitments until after the season. However, they have been busy on the road in recent weeks and there are plans for the summer.
McGraw has visited Alabama and Oregon, and over the weekend took a visit to UCLA with Dupre and Young. This summer he hopes to visit Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, Alabama, and LSU.
Dupre has visited LSU and UCLA before his weekend trip to the West Coast, and he plans to visit Florida State, Arkansas, Clemson, Notre Dame, and LSU.
Young has also visited LSU and Alabama in addition to UCLA and plans to attend camps at Alabama and LSU. This summer Alexander hopes to check out Stanford, Arkansas, Northwestern, and Ole Miss.
"It's great. I just soak it all in," McGraw said. "I have a great deal of coaches here to help me with the process and my father and my teammates. I have teammates like Malachi who is more highly recruited than I am and Kenny and all of us are close and we just talk about the process and help each other out. So it's great that I'm not really in the eye of the tornado."
In addition to teammates currently going through the process, there are a couple of other valuable resources.
"The biggest thing was probably before we even got offers and recognition, our seniors had it and seeing them experience it before we had to last year I think helped us all out a lot. So we knew what to expect coming into the recruiting process," Malachi Dupre said. "Plus the coaching staff has been through it before so they knew the right things to tell us."
The examples set by past players serves as motivation to this year's group to maintain a high standard for their teammates. In some instances, the attention could be seen as a distraction, but not at John Curtis. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
"Really, I think it makes us work harder because we've made it this far and we don't want to stop here because we haven't made it already," Dupre said. "We're almost there and when you do make it you want to dominate the next level, too. The best part is having what we have now … having all those offers. Not too many people can say that."
Dupre's comments do not come as a surprise to Coach Curtis.
"I think that's a reflection back on how they've seen it done in the past, and I think it's a reflections of how they've seen our coaches treat our players in the past in that we are a totally team-concept," Curtis said. "And as a result it makes it easier for them to find those roles of leadership and for players to accept them even though they are getting attention because they see their work ethic and they don't have any animosity towards them."
Early offers are here. Curtis knew they were coming for his 2014 class, and he is proud of the way they have handled the attention.
"It's not the first time we've been through this and we try to manage," Curtis said. "So far to this point we've done well with it."
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