Maurice Heims had a plan.
And now he has a problem.
Originally, UW’s three-star outside linebacker commit — who moved from Hamburg, Germany, to California to continue his football career last year — was slated to fly home in December to sign his national letter of intent surrounded by family and friends. That was before the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced Monday that its fall sports seasons will be put on pause until December or January because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Which leaves Heims with a pair of options: He can play his senior season at Santa Margarita Catholic High School and sign with Washington from the United States, or he can skip his senior season, sign with UW in Germany and enroll early to get a head start in Seattle.
In a direct message, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Heims acknowledged that Monday’s news “changes a lot of things for me.”
And he’s one of the lucky ones.
On Tuesday the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association officially moved its football season to the spring, with practices beginning in late February and playoffs ending in early May. Highly coveted recruits such as Heims — or Washington standouts J.T. Tuimoloau and Emeka Egbuka — have earned scholarship offers. They can sit out a season and still sign with their school of choice.
Five-star Centennial (Calif.) High School defensive end Korey Foreman — the No. 1 player in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings — tweeted, “if they make me choose between my senior season or going to college … please believe i’m headed to my first (college) camp .. no questions asked”. Four-star Lincoln (Tacoma) High School linebacker Julien Simon also announced on Instagram that he will forgo his senior campaign to enroll at USC in January.
On the other side, five-star UW quarterback commit Sam Huard told KOMO on Wednesday that he will play his senior season at Kennedy Catholic next spring rather than enrolling early at Washington.
But what about less publicized prospects who were banking on breakthrough senior seasons to be noticed by college coaches? Considering that college football’s Division I signing periods — Dec. 16-18 and Feb. 3-April 1 — end before the conclusion of Washington’s spring football season, some local recruits may move out of the state to play their senior seasons elsewhere.
“I’ve had kids that don’t even have offers that have already told me, ‘I’m transferring to Utah. I’m transferring to Michigan. I’m transferring to Montana, because I have to play my senior year,’ ” 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman said. “Will that even move the needle with college coaches? If you didn’t have an offer by July and now you’re moving, what makes you think just moving to another state is going to naturally guarantee an offer?
“I think you’re going to see a lot more people moving, but I think the colleges are also going to have to adjust their recruiting. That’s why I think you’ll see more (2021) offers go out in January and February.”
But if “a lot more people” move, where will they be welcome? To this point, roughly a dozen states have delayed the start of high-school football, according to ESPN, with more expected to announce similar decisions. In Texas the University Interscholastic League — which oversees the state’s premier public powerhouses, in Class 5A and 6A — pushed its season opener by one month, to late September.
Still, it won’t be so easy for outside recruits to settle in the Lone Star State.
“What’s going to be interesting is to see what the ruling becomes by those particular states’ governing bodies, because I’ve talked to a couple sources in Texas,” Huffman said. “The UIL has already made it very clear that athletically motivated transfers will not be permitted to play.”
And the recruits, in this case, aren’t the only ones being asked to adjust. Huffman expects college coaches to be allowed more access to high-school prospects between January and March, in what had previously been considered a recruiting dead period. Though college football’s regular “signing day” is set for Feb. 3, recruits can technically sign between that day and April 1, and more 2021 offers could go out in those months as coaches essentially play catch-up.
Washington, for one, has 14 commits in a 2021 class expected to settle at 20 or 21 signees. Coach Jimmy Lake and Co. are still waiting for their first 2022 commit.
And that 2022 cycle will be significantly affected as well. Because last spring’s evaluation period was canceled, Huffman said that “far less 2022 offers are out at this point than they would have been.” With prep seasons being pushed to the spring, prospects will basically be subjected to a marathon of football in multiple forms. Their junior and senior seasons will be separated by a few short months, which will also be filled with recruiting camps and 7-on-7 tournaments. Any semblance of an offseason will be swallowed by the mitigating circumstances.
Or, in other words: College football’s recruiting machine will continue to churn — even if prospects’ best-laid plans are replaced by problems.
“I have no clue what’s going to happen with the season being so late,” Soquel (Calif.) High School offensive lineman and 2021 UW commit Robert Wyrsch said when asked if he’ll skip his senior season. “As of right now I don’t have an answer on what I plan to do. It’s a very heavy question.”