There are lots of things that keep college football coaches awake at night. Piracy has to be among those at the top of the list.
Until a program can get a new recruit to put his name on the dotted line at National Signing Day on the first day of February, he’s not bound by the oral commitment he makes ahead of the signing period. Sometimes that can mean a full year or more, depending on how young the prospect is when he first commits.
If another school steps in before the signing period and ‘pirates’ the prospect, that’s just considered part of the recruiting game.
So, finding a top talent and then getting him to verbally commit doesn’t mean the courting process is over. Coaches still have to hold the kid’s hand, so to speak, until they can get him to submit his national letter of intent (NLI).
And right now, the University of Arizona football coaches are sweating out the next 23 days – but that’s if they’re lucky enough to get their NLIs when the signing period opens on Feb. 1. The recruits have until April 1 to get their letters in to the athletics office at the school of choice.
The Wildcats’ coaching staff has good reason right now to be skittish about some of their incoming recruits that appear to be the targets of other programs that would like to challenge their loyalty to the Arizona program.
Austin Faoliu, who gave his verbal commitment in September, is prominent in that group. After a solid senior season at Mater Dei High School (CA), his continuing recruitment has really heated up.
As the song says, the eyes of Texas are upon him. In addition to an earlier offer from Texas Christian, the Texas Longhorns made their pitch for the 6’4″, 285-pound defensive tackle just last week.
Faoliu is rated as a three-star prospect, but he’s had offers from programs like Oklahoma, Michigan State, Baylor, Illinois, and Washington State. And, yes, Arizona State threw its hat in the ring as well.
While losing Faoliu to another program less than a month before signing day would hurt, it would pale by comparison to letting Braxton Burmeister get away. The dual threat quarterback out of California is one of the most high-profile members of the 2017 recruiting class.
According to The Oregonian newspaper, the Oregon Ducks have moved the recruitment of the 6-foot, 211-pound QB to the top of their target list. Burmeister was rated as the third-best quarterback in California this past season after an impressive senior year that included 4,461 yards passing and 1,470 yards rushing. Between the passing and the running, he accounted for 80 touchdowns.
The four-star prospect has already given the Arizona coaching staff one case of heartburn. After committing to the Wildcats as a high school sophomore, he de-committed early last year, but then returned to re-commit in May.
His decision to return takes on additional significance when you factor in the departure of Anu Solomon, who announced three weeks ago that he would be leaving the program after three years as the Cats’ starting quarterback, including the 2014 season when he led that team to the Pac-12 South title.
Burmeister has had a huge target on his back as more and more colleges recognized his talent and worth. But that’s just a fact of life, a situation that many recruits are faced with when they commit so early in their prep careers.
You would think, after leaving once and returning after giving his commitment additional thought, that there would be little chance this potentially key piece to the future of the Wildcat program would take flight again.
But be assured the Arizona coaches won’t rest easy until the barn door is closed behind him. And that goes for the rest of the 2017 round-up, which has suffered several de-commitments already.
That first day in February can’t come soon enough.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)