It didn't take long for college football to transition from signing their respective 2016 classes to recruiting the class of 2017.
In fact, the rush to extend early scholarship offers has quickly become an arms race of sorts.
Illinois head coach Bill Cubit and his staff didn't fare well with their recently signed in-state 2016 class, adding only East St. Louis safety Stanley Green and Lincoln-Way East offensive linemen Kurt Gavin.
So the Fighting Illini have made sure to hit the upcoming in-state class hard, extending more than 25 verbal scholarship offers already. Illinois also brought in a huge group of in-state names from the junior class a few weeks ago. The message from the Fighting Illini coaches to the players and parents in attendance?
“When they (Illinois) offered, they told me that this is our state and our team," according to Bolingbrook junior wide receiver Kendall Smith. "The Illinois coaches then told me that I had received a full scholarship to play there. They definitely wanted all of us to know that in-state kids are a big priority to them in this class.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Illini fans!]
Illinois, though, is far from the only school extending (and in some cases, already drawing) verbal commitments from players. All of this just under a year from actually signing a national letter of intent.
Western Michigan already has added three verbal commitments from the Land of Lincoln in East St. Louis QB Reyondous Estes, Bishop McNamara wide receiver Chris Bell and Rockford Lutheran defensive back Marcus Hayes. The Broncos and head coach P.J. Fleck have also extended over 30 verbal scholarship offers to Illinois athletes for the upcoming class.
Other rival Mid-American Conference schools such as Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), Toledo and Central Michigan have also been working the junior class hard.
So why extend so many early scholarship offers?
Some college coaches attempt to be the "first" scholarship offer for a prospect. Kids and parents alike will talk about colleges "taking a chance" and showing "loyalty.”
For the college coaches, it's pretty much a win-win scenario at this stage of the recruiting process. The most important point to remember is that everything is verbal and doesn't become legal until Feb. 1, 2017, the first day recruits can sign a letter of intent.
Both players and college coaches alike are on the trust system when it comes to college coaches accepting a verbal commitment. In many cases, these same players who give very early verbal commitments with the best of intentions wind up de-committing for various reasons, including coaching changes.
In the meantime, get ready for more breaking news and verbal commitments all year long from a recruiting process that literally never stops.