When the league’s presidents voted through that very same cap at the behest of commissioner Mike Slive, we said, “Don’t worry.”
Yes, the league’s administrators were taking a step to stamp out oversigning in the SEC. But it was little more than a PR step. In other words, “Don’t worry… ’cause this is a 25-man soft cap,” we said.
Schools can still backcount and grayshirt their way right past the 25-man “limit.” Take Tennessee’s Butch Jones as the latest example. He’s putting together a top five recruiting class in Knoxville as we speak. His program appears to have room for as many as 30 signees in February (thanks to backcounting), but the Vols are already up to 33 commitments. And they’re still out recruiting. Jones offered up this tease to a booster group yesterday:
“If I can find a way to sign 35 guys, I’m gonna sign ‘em. There is a plan in place. It’s very strategic but it’s all gonna work out. I promise you.”
The “secret plan” Jones has in mind is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard to imagine he’s found a loophole that’s not been taken advantage of by someone else somewhere else.
More than likely, the Volunteers will have to yank offers from one or two kids who’ve already committed if their ranks grow further. And from an overall roster standpoint, a purge might also be in the offing. Jones said yesterday that offseason practices and skill-development sessions are “gonna be a grind… the ones who are committed and want to win for Tennessee will stay.” And those who aren’t committed?
Jones has said his team has a lack of speed and depth (and anyone who’s seen the Vols this year knows he speaks the truth). So it’s no wonder UT’s coach is looking to replenish his roster with as many athletes as he can find as quickly as he possibly can.
To date, he’s adding both quantity and quality. He’s buying in bulk, yes, but his shopping cart is full of four-star players and one five-star. That’s an awfully big positive for an SEC school in serious need of a talent transfusion.
But if the league itself truly wants to shed itself of the reputation as the Oversigning Capital of College Football it will have to come up with a signing cap a bit more hard and fast than the current soft cap it adopted in 2011.
That or it can maintain the status quo and let administrators from other conferences moan, groan, pout and tsk-tsk. It just depends on how much guff SEC presidents are willing to take.