With Friday’s announcement, Na’Ty Rodgers aims to close a process more than two years in the making. He began gaining notice among recruiters during his sophomore season when he helped the Rams to the 2010 Maryland 2A state title. He picked up a scholarship offer from North Carolina during his first offseason camp that year, and ultimately piled up 34 offers. In the beginning, Rodgers thought it would be cool to earn offers from as many states as possible, but he quickly realized that he’d have to narrow his focus.
Of the schools that showed interest, Rodgers picked about 20 to talk with beyond the initial recruiting pitch and then cut it down to 10 from there. He made unofficial campus trips to nine schools across the country, and he continues to list South Carolina, which he has visited six times since April, as the front-runner.
“Like any kid, I think you learn the process as you go with a little trial and error,” Ethington said, “but with him, I think there was more trial and less error.”
Football players cannot sign binding letters-of-intent until National Signing Day, which falls on Feb. 6 this year, and early oral commitments can come into question for any number of reasons.
Unlike basketball, there is no early signing period for football, and Jeremy Crabtree, ESPN’s Senior Coordinator of Recruiting, said the long gap between oral commitment and signing can leave coaches feeling as if they must “baby-sit” recruits to keep them happy through the process.
Last year, the top recruit in the state of Maryland, Good Counsel’s Stefon Diggs, waited until a week after signing day to announce his plan to play for the Terrapins, but it has become common for players to race for coveted spots in a recruiting class. Football Bowl Subdivision schools can allocate up to 25 of their allotted 85 football scholarships for incoming recruits in a given year, according to NCAA rules, but that number is often lower based on the number of returning scholarship players.
Recently, Briar Woods linebacker Matt Rolin, who was selected for the Under Armour game but will not play because of a knee injury, flipped his commitment to Florida from South Carolina. All-Met linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, who will play with Rodgers for the White team Friday, was one of three Friendship Collegiate players to pick Maryland in a two-day span over the summer, but he has since de-committed and will decide between Maryland, Miami, Florida State and South Carolina.
Currently, Rodgers, rated by Rivals in the preseason as the sixth-best Class of 2013 prospect from Maryland, is the top uncommitted player on the recruiting site’s top 25 list for the state. In all, 21 of the 25 listed players are currently committed and two of those had previously made oral pledges.
“If you talk to college coaches across the country,” Crabtree said, “they’d certainly like to see more kids like that who make a lot of visits and do the diligence that it takes to make sure the decision is solid.”
In part because of the number of offers he accumulated, Rodgers felt comfortable waiting out the process, wading through a daily barrage of phone calls and messages on social media from coaches and fans from around the country.
During the football season, Rodgers attended three games at South Carolina, two at Maryland and another at Oklahoma. Rather than picking a trip that included a glitzy game-day experience as his favorite, he talked about his official visit to Washington last month because he could relax and hang out with a few players he’d competed against at national combines.
After all the deliberation, Rodgers said he’s ready to take the final step and get ready for his college career. He will make his commitment, believing he got the most out of the recruiting process.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Rodgers said. “Yeah, it’s hard sometimes with all the calls and all the Facebook messages, but you know, it’s not really that bad. Some people say ‘I’m tired of the process. I’m just going to commit.’ I’m relaxing and trying to enjoy it.”