Early Signing Day’s Impact on Brock Purdy’s Recruitment

Arizona Sports News online

Sometimes, it comes down to timing in recruiting. 

When an offer comes in for a player can set the tone for a potential relationship. When a depth chart is favorable for a player to find the field early can impact a commitment decision. When a player commits can have reverberations through multiple classes.

In the case of former Perry quarterback Brock Purdy, when a new aspect of the recruiting timeline came into effect helped light the way for his decorated career at Iowa State.

A quick refresher on the quarterback’s unprecedented and unparalleled recruitment: 

Purdy was a two-year starter at Perry High School and was coming off a junior season in which he threw for 3,333 yards, second in 6A, behind only Chandler’s Jacob Conover. He was first in the state in passing yards per game at 333.3 yards per game. His recruitment was quiet throughout the offseason leading into his senior season with offers from NAU, New Mexico State and UNLV. At 6-feet tall, he heard from some college coaches that he did not have the ideal size. Other schools may have targeted Arizona quarterbacks like Tyler Shough or Spencer Rattler. Whatever the reason, things were slow for Purdy. 

247 Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman remembers seeing Purdy at a 7-on-7 showcase in Las Vegas leading up to Purdy’s senior year and walking away impressed with how the Perry quarterback performed. Huffman didn’t understand why things were so quiet for him.

“As other quarterbacks received offers in the spring and summer, I kept thinking back to how good he looked in Vegas and yet no one was biting,” Huffman said. “Other quarterbacks, who have since transferred after never having played a significant snap in college, were far more attractive to schools.”

Purdy then set a single-season Arizona record for passing yards and 68 total touchdowns as a senior. But, to many’s surprise, it continued to be crickets on the recruiting trail.

“I was always patient with it,” Purdy said. “I never freaked out. I know people outside did because you hear things, but being able to handle that, I think it allowed me to stay calm and stay poised and know everything was going to be all right.”

After willing the Pumas to within a touchdown in the state championship against Chandler, a big-time FBS program finally pulled the trigger on Purdy. First, it was Boise State. Kansas followed suit a few days later. Then, a flood of offers came in: UCF, Iowa State, Colorado State, Alabama, Illinois and Texas A&M all offered in January.

From radio silence to juggling offers, jumping on flights to official visits and a February signing day announcement, Purdy committed to Iowa State. 

Contrary to Purdy’s recruiting process, the quarterback did not have to wait long to find the field with Iowa State. Purdy stepped in as a change of pace in the Cyclones’ fifth game of the 2018 season, which happened to be against No. 25 Oklahoma State. He walked away with 318 passing yards and a 48-42 upset. He followed up that performance with a statement win over No. 6 West Virginia the next week.

And he didn’t look back. No matter the month, it was Brocktober in Ames moving forward.

In his three seasons with the Cyclones, he has accumulated close to 10,000 total yards and 78 touchdowns. Iowa State has gone from a giant-slayer in the Big 12 to potential conference giant moving forward. When the Cyclones go head-to-head with powers like Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State, it’s must-see TV.

Jan. 2 could be a next step for Purdy when Iowa State takes on Oregon in the Cyclones’ first-ever Fiesta Bowl appearance. It could also be quite the highlight to his Iowa State career, playing his final college game in his home state and then heading off to the NFL.

It was a wild ride to get him to Ames, and a new wrinkle in the recruiting calendar may have helped him out.

The class of 2018 was the first recruiting cycle that had an early signing day. If a player had his mind made up, he could sign his letter of intent with a school in December instead of waiting for the usual first Wednesday in February, meaning the binding agreement had been formed now that pen had been put to paper.

No more recruiting calls to that player, no more anxiety for coaches about a player potentially flipping to another program. Essentially, that player is off the board and the class resets after early signing day with the rest of the class signing two months later.

“I think with coaches spending less time babysitting commits in the weeks leading up to the February national signing day, they can rest knowing that the majority of their class is signed and untouchable by other schools,” Huffman said. “They can spend that time focusing on their remaining needs, get a head start on the next class and not have to do maintenance of relationships but instead close on their uncommitted targets.”

The picture was not only clearer for schools as to who was available, but also for Purdy. He had a much clearer sense of where he stood with these schools once the snowball effect started and the offers came rolling in. 

“Some schools recruited him as their second quarterback, some recruited him as the alpha dawg in his class and their energy showed it,” Huffman said. “He could see where he truly sat in a school’s plans when their class was signed…He had a lot more context by waiting, and then you see just how many schools got involved based on his senior film.”

Alabama had already signed Layne Hatcher to their 2018 class and was looking for another quarterback to add. In the previous class, eventual No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagovailoa and current Alabama Heisman finalist Mac Jones signed with the Tide. Texas A&M had already signed James Foster to the class, and Kellen Mond, the Aggies’ current starter, was signed in 2017. 

Iowa State had already signed Re-Al Mitchell out of St. John Bosco. Mitchell is an ultra-athletic quarterback who was featured in the “QB-1” documentary series on Netflix. He’s ultra-athletic but a very different quarterback stylistically from Purdy.

Toward the end of the 2017 football season, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell decided another quarterback would help stabilize the class. The position became a clear priority after Cyclone coaches were unsure if then-starter Kyle Kempt would get a sixth year of eligibility after transferring into the program.

“Who’s the best quarterback that has not signed?” Campbell recalls asking his recruiting department. 

“We watched Brock’s film and instantly fell in love with the competitor and the leadership that almost exploded off the videotape,” he said.

And it wasn’t just the film. Purdy and Campbell were quickly in-tune. They both wanted to build something sustainable out of the program, and they’ve done exactly that – and then some – over the past three seasons. Purdy was the perfect quarterback for Iowa State, and Iowa State was the perfect program for Purdy. 

But it begs the question: Would Purdy have been the obvious player to pursue if every quarterback in the class, even those verbally committed elsewhere, were still on the board? Would those same offers have come in or would the schools have held on to them in case of a late potential flip, forcing Purdy to look elsewhere or bet on himself as a preferred walk-on?

There’s no way to know this, but those rabbit-holes weren’t even up for exploration because of that early signing day, silencing the noise and clearing the path for Purdy to join Iowa State and reach new heights with the program with Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl as the next stepping stone for the program.

“Having that first signing period I do think really helped me out,” Purdy recalls. “And, for me, I was thankful everything happened the way it did. But it allowed me to find Iowa State as a home, and now here we are, able to play at the Fiesta Bowl. So it’s pretty sweet.”

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