December is all about hustle and bustle.
Heavy traffic to get to holiday events. Shopping mall parking lots circled a dozen times for a spot. Airports packed with people and packages.
December is some serious hustle and bustle for college football coaches, too.
Less than 24 hours after stepping off the field for their final regular-season games, college coaches are usually in those crowded airports crisscrossing the country to make recruiting visits while also getting ready for bowl games and practices.
This December — with the new early national signing period thrown into the mix — hustle and bustle doesn’t even begin to describe it.
“Basically was on the road for three straight weeks, coming back and having practices,” Cats Coach Mark Stoops said on Friday night. “We’ve been overwhelmed.”
It’s especially complicated for the head coach, trying to get into the living rooms of every likely signee for this 2018 class. “Extremely busy, hard to manage, but we’re making it work,” he smiled.
The new expedited recruiting schedule isn’t just difficult for head coaches. It’s made for rapid changing of metaphorical hats for many on the football staff, too.
“Honestly, we had a staff meeting this morning and it’s usually like, ‘Let’s prepare for the bowl,’” recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow said recently. “Now we’re meeting on official visits, signing day, trying to wrap this last week up of going out to see those guys before Dec. 20.”
That’s the day that UK expects to lock down a majority of its 2018 signing class, a full seven weeks ahead of the usually scheduled national signing day in February.
It’s made for some December madness.
“We’ve got recruits coming in on officials, you’re getting ready for a bowl game and our kids are getting ready for finals, so we’re wearing a lot of hats right now,” Marrow said last week. “But if you don’t other schools are going to get ahead of you, so we’re bringing guys in so we can get most of these guys signed on the 20th.”
The new signing day has amped up the intensity factor a few notches.
“The hours and the travel and that stuff would be the same, there’s just a little bit more intensity out there because this isn’t just setting the kid up for a visit and he’s going to sign the first Wednesday in February,” special teams coach Dean Hood said. “He’s going to sign here in a couple weeks.”
It’s also made for “very busy weekends” for Kentucky, Stoops added. There have been scheduled recruiting weekends with important visitors thrown into the mix along with scheduled bowl practices.
This weekend there’s more hustle and more bustle in the form of those on-campus recruiting weekends Stoops mentioned, including an important one with 24 players on official visits.
The group will take in the men’s basketball game versus Virginia Tech at Rupp Arena on Saturday and then have a “big dinner, celebration” afterward, Stoops said.
Despite the chaos of the past few weeks, the coach sees a lot of positives in the new early signing period, especially for Kentucky.
“I’m still in favor of it,” Stoops said Friday. “I think it cleans it up for us to lock these guys down and get it cleaned up. Next Wednesday I’ll be very happy about that and then you’ll know if there’s any snags.
“You have a way to get it corrected in the next month and recruit other guys or other positions should you get any surprises.”