DETROIT – There were 113 hard-fought yards against powerhouse Brother Rice in the state quarterfinals. There was the assault of six touchdowns—three rushing, two receiving, and one on a 95-yard return—in the semifinals. There was the rush of 207 yards and two more TDs in the title game against Muskegon.
In total, Sterling Anderson Jr. scored. 15 touchdowns in the state playoffs alone as he helped Detroit King High School win a Michigan state championship last month. It was part of a nearly 2,000 all-purpose yard, 21 TD season, even though King’s starters often sat out after the first quarter of early season games.
Anderson, a senior running back/slot receiver/return man, is only five feet tall and never expected colleges to come to him as if he were an elite five-star recruit, as they did to his King teammate, the Oregon native. tied quarterback Dante Moore.
Still, the boy is an elusive runner who can really play.
But as National Signing Day approaches in a week, Anderson is still awaiting a Division I offer. He is one of hundreds of similarly talented players – DI talents with no DI options – trapped in the limbo of the currently overcrowded and confusing December schedule of college football.
“We thought the playoffs would show everyone what they can do, but we’re still waiting,” said his father, Sterling Anderson Sr.
Blame the transfer portal. Blame the coaching carousel. Blame it on a lack of leadership or foresight, but this is the reality. The sport is currently trying to cram free agency (the portal), the draft (national signing day), the postseason (bowling begins Friday), and the coaching carousel (23 of the sport’s 131 programs have new head coaches) into a pair. week stretch.
It’s not that DI recruiters don’t think Anderson is good enough. “What an absolute stud,” said a Mid-American Conference aide. “His athleticism is incredible,” said another.
It’s just that, thanks to the transfer portal, no coach is sure what their needs are.
Do their returning backs go away? Will they stay? If they have an opening, should they offer Anderson, or could they take a shot at, say, an older, more established, high-major running back who might want to transfer? Anderson is going to be a good college player, but an experienced 22-year-old can already be a good college player.
It has left high school football full of Sterling Andersons, who don’t expect Alabama to call, but feel that someone should.
“It’s a mess now,” Anderson Sr. said. “With the players entering the portal or arriving through the portal, these coaches say they don’t know what the roster will look like tomorrow.”
College football needs a calendar adjustment because the current system is not good for anyone – coaches, players, recruits – and will only exacerbate the problems in the future.
The solution isn’t simple, or certainly not all-encompassing, but the easiest is to get rid of the early December signing day (December 21 this year) and move the traditional signing day back from February 1 to the middle of the month, or even March.
The sport needs time to settle down. Clarity is needed about schedules that must be drawn up. It needs head and assistant coaches to move to new jobs. A Midwestern aide who may be pleading for a recruit is suddenly hired on the West Coast, where priorities are different.
And recruits and their families need to have a better idea of where they fit best and what schools they really want.
Right now, coaches are trying to sift through a transfer portal of 1,000 players to close gaps in their teams while guarding against unexpected departures that could change plans. “It’s chaos,” said a Big Ten offensive coordinator. “Every day, every hour, is something new.”
Yet it is the current calendar that fuels future transfer portals.
Some of it cannot reasonably be moved. Transfers need time between the end of the season and the start of the spring semester to find a school. And coaches always change jobs in December. The wheels of capitalism will not stop turning.
It’s the high school recruiting calendar that can be moved around, which benefits almost everyone.
While elite programs want to lock up elite recruits as quickly as possible, the benefit of doing so was soon outweighed by the circus of the portal and not knowing who to make an offer to or when.
A number of large programs leave parts of their roster available for transfers instead of offering high school recruits. Michigan State has only 10 pledges. Ole Miss and UCLA only 12. Historically, each program signed about 25 prep players.
Each of those schools has a lot of high school students waiting in the wings and if they are not happy with what they get out of the portal they can offer 10-15 kids in the next week. It’s a continuous process that then impacts programs further down the food chain.
If a Big Ten school tells a recruit to hire him, then the recruit probably won’t commit to a MAC school that is desperate for him, which means the MAC school might hold a spot for him hoping it works out instead of taking someone else who is desperate for it.
“Early signing day is affected by the transfer portal because they have to hold scholarships for the children of the transfer portal,” Anderson Sr. said. “We understand, we just don’t know what’s available.”
Perhaps the only tangible impact of doing away with the early signing period will be on the small number of high school students who graduate early so they can enroll in college in January and get a head start on prep. Yet they do not have to sign a letter of intent on December 21 to start classes on January 3, for example. They can simply register on January 3.
Everyone else could wait.
That would allow coaches to have a better idea of whether they need this or that recruit. And that would allow recruits to have a better idea of who will coach them and to provide as much information as possible before making a commitment that – in the absence of such knowledge – is often doomed to fail.
A month after igniting competition in a state title, Anderson Jr. going anywhere from Power Five to D-II. It’s not his ability that’s his biggest problem. It’s that he was a much better player as a senior than he was as a sophomore when most of the scouting advisories and recruiting lists were formed.
As such, it is a musical chairs game.
So eliminate the early signing period and push back recruiting in high schools. The business of player acquisition has changed. The calendar must follow.