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Recruiting Glossary: Terms to know for the Early Signing Period

Derek Stingley
Derek Stingley (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

The Early Signing Period for the class of 2019 begins on Wednesday and it’s easy to get confused by some of the lingo thrown around by recruiting insiders. Here’s a quick and easy guide of terms a recruiting novice needs to know.

Early Signing Period: In 2017, the NCAA instituted an Early Signing Period in football for the first time. More than half of the Class of 2018 recruits signed their letters of intent during this period and a similar number is expected this year as well. This year, the period begins on Dec. 19 and ends on Dec. 21. Recruits who don't sign a letter-of-intent during this window will have to wait until traditional National Signing Day on Feb. 6.

National Signing Day: This is the start of the regular signing period for high school prospects. It occurs on the first Wednesday in February and runs until April 1. However, this title likely will move toward being the first day of the Early Signing Period in future years.

National Letter of Intent (abbreviated as LOI or NLI): A binding agreement between a prospect and an institution in which the institution agrees to provide financial aid in exchange for the student athlete to attend the university. All FBS programs participate in the LOI program, so once a prospect signs an agreement he is no longer allowed to be recruited by other programs. College coaches are not permitted to comment publicly about prospects until they sign a letter of intent.

Grant-In-Aid Agreement: Similar to an LOI, but is non-binding from a prospect’s perspective. These are often signed by early enrollees but can be signed by any prospect if offered by the school. This agreement binds the school to the prospect, but the prospect can still change course and attend another institution.

Blueshirt: A relatively new practice, blueshirt recruits enroll in the fall at the respective school at their choice, but are awarded a scholarship upon arriving on campus. This allows the schools to count players toward the next signing class, allowing for programs to sign more than 25 players. Blueshirt recruits often take the place of players who are dismissed from their teams and/or transfer between Signing Day and the start of fall practice.

Grayshirt: This term refers to a play who has committed to a school, but will delay enrollment to the winter or spring term after the traditional academic year begins. The delay is often due to an injury or a scholarship numbers crunch and preserves a year of eligibility for student-athlete.

Redshirt: Players who redshirt are full members of the team and participate and all team functions, except for the games themselves. A player who plays in just one game can lose his redshirt status, but typically a redshirt is planned heading into a season. By taking a redshirt year, players pause their eligibility clock and still have four years of on-field eligibility.

Early Enrollee: These are prospects that graduate early from high school and elect to attend school in January of their graduating year. Players who enroll early are often expected to be early contributors. The drama of Signing Day has already passed for them as they are typically almost a month into college before other prospects sign their LOIs.


Official Visit: These are all-expenses paid 48-hour visits to college campuses. Each prospect can take up to five official visits starting in September of their senior year and many of the top-flight prospects take advantage of the opportunity. This is a college program’s best chance to pitch both their football program and academic opportunities to the prospect.

Dead Period: The dead period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches are restricted from making contact with recruits in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations. Recruits can reach out to coaches during this team. The dead period began on Sunday and runs through Jan. 11. Prospects cannot take official visits to campuses until the dead period is over.

Preferred Walk-on: This term refers to a prospect that is invited to join a college team as a walk-on, without going through an on-campus tryout. Essentially, a player commits as a walk-on because their spot on the roster is assured, even if it doesn't come with a scholarship.