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Recruiting terminology you need to know before National Signing Day

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One shirt, two shirt, blue shirt, gray shirt

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day is approaching and there's a lot of recruiting terminology and information that you should be aware of concerning all the latest recruits.

National Signing Day is such a huge day for a football program. To put it simply, teams that win on signing day win games. The kids in each recruiting class are the future of the program, and that's what drew my interest towards the topic a few years ago.

When you look at the top 25 teams, or even the top teams in the Pac-12, those are the teams that are recruiting the best talent. Arizona has hovered around the top 40, sometimes around the top 30 mark, but when compared to the Pac-12, that's usually about 7th-9th in the conference. And the difference in recruiting shows when you look at Arizona's record vs. Pac-12 South rivals Arizona State, UCLA and USC. Rich Rodriguez has gone 2-10 against those three teams in his time here at Arizona.

Now, onto the recruiting terminology you need to know.

Scholarship count

Every program, unless mandated by the NCAA for violations, is given 25 scholarships for each recruiting class. The recruiting class currently has 13 commits, so that allows Arizona to fill up with 12 more. Should Arizona go over that 25, there are multiple options for a recruit from there.

Gray shirt

The first option is to gray shirt. A gray shirt can be brought up by the coaching staff for a few reasons: 1) The recruit suffered an injury and will be recovering throughout the summer and fall camps, 2) the staff feels that the player needs to train to get bigger, faster etc., or 3) the recruit is ineligible academically and so on.

When a kid is asked to grayshirt, his enrollment is essentially delayed by a semester. Rather than joining the team in the summer, going through fall camp and the entire regular season, the recruit must wait until the spring semester to enroll and then join the team for spring practice.

Sharif Williams, Keenan Walker, Antonio Parks were all gray shirt recruits, all of whom suffered injuries that set back their timeline. It's a strategic move for coaches that ends up benefiting both parties in this situation. However, former Arizona commit Sean Riley was asked to gray shirt, likely because they already had four running backs in the class and saw this opportunity as a benefit for both.

Sometimes, kids can also go to, prep school, which has been a common thing for many. Guys like Tyrell Johnson and Paul Magloire went to prep school, both at Milford Academy. Prep school is an option for a multitude of reasons; grades, physicals, etc.

Blue shirt

Blue shirt is another option for recruits if a team begins to over sign on their allotted 25 scholarships. This option essentially makes the recruit a walk-on. This type of recruit cannot go through the normal recruitment process, much like a walk-on. There is no in-home visit, no official visit, no scholarship offer.

The recruit will be able to pledge to the university, and arrive on campus with the current recruiting class. The recruit is still eligible to play for that season as well, the only problem is that they will not be on scholarship until the following semester. When I spoke to former Arizona commit Jabari Watson, this is essentially what the staff wanted him to do, which resulted in a decommitment.

The recruit will then go on scholarship in the spring semester and that scholarship will be counted towards the following recruiting class.

Preferred Walk-on

The preferred walk-on is a kid who the staff really wanted, but just didn't have the means to offer him a scholarship. A regular walk-on is typically someone who expresses interest in the staff first and literally walks onto the team after reaching out to the staff. The preferred walk-on is someone the staff seeks out and still wants on a team, with the hopes of one day offering him a scholarship should he work hard and go above and beyond. We saw this with two local Tucson products in Jared Tevis and Jake Matthews.

Early enrollee

An early enrollee is a member of the recruiting class who wraps up their high school or junior college career a semester early. This has to be organized well in advance for a recruit to pull this off, simply because they're graduating an entire semester, or two quarters, earlier than your typical student.

Upon graduation, they'll be able to head to campus for the first day of classes of the spring semester. From there, they're able to begin working out and practicing with the team, taking a huge edge off the learning curve for most recruits.

This year, Arizona had three early enrollees, with Khalil Tate, Isaiah Hayes and Kahi Neves.

How can guys still leave after committing

Some people question if the word commitment truly means anything these days in the world of college recruiting. The sad thing is, not really. Whether a recruit commits early in the process and his recruitment starts to blow up, with bigger schools coming after him, too much competition ahead of them, or even the coaching staff backing off and parting ways with a recruit who has been nothing but loyal to the program.

All of the decommitments can happen because the recruit has only given a verbal commitment. Nothing actually matters until the recruit signs a National Letter of Intent. Unless a recruit plans to enroll early, a recruit can only sign on the first Wednesday of February, which is National Signing Day. Until that letter is signed, guys can commit, decommit and flip at any time, for as many times as they want.

Official vs. unofficial visits

When recruits visit campus, their trips are classified as either official or unofficial. If the recruit is being offered a scholarship, they can get an official visit. Their flight, hotel, meals, everything is paid for by the university. They're then escorted around campus and Tucson by their host, typically someone from the same city or position group.

When a recruit comes to campus unofficially, they pay their way for the trip. This is more so if the recruit just wants to continue coming to campus on an open weekend, much like Khalil Tate did all of 2015, or if they're current juniors and decide to take unofficial visits, as official visits are only offered to those who are seniors. One player can take five official visits, and an unlimited number of unofficial visits.

For preferred walk-ons and blue shirts, they can only take unofficial visits.

In-home visit

Whether the recruit is committed or uncommitted, a coaching staff can go out and visit a recruit within their home. Here they can talk about the recruit's future on the field, academics, high school, play video games, have dinner, anything. We've even seen Jim Harbaugh take it to the extreme this year and have sleepovers with some potential commits.

Satellite Camps

Satelite Camps are super hard to explain, so here's a great breakdown about satellite camps, and how they're actually legal.

Scholarship Types

Here's a great breakdown I found of how it all works out, describing the four scholarship types.

Scholarships In-home visit? Official visit? Class Enrolls
Early enrollee Yes Yes 2015 Spring 2015
Fall enrollee Yes Yes 2015 Fall 2015
Blueshirt No No 2016 Fall 2015
Grayshirt Yes Yes 2016 Spring 2016