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What we learned on the first day of the Early Signing Period

Dabo Swinney
Dabo Swinney (AP Images)

The first day of the first-ever Early Signing Period is in the books, and after a noteworthy day of action it’s time to take a look at what we learned.

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There are plenty of stories from over the years about prospects being ready to make a commitment, only to hear from Urban Meyer asking them to delay their plans. Oftentimes, Meyer’s tactic works and more times than not it allows him and his staff the opportunity to make their pitch and land said prospect’s commitment. But on Wednesday it was another school’s coach, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, sneaking in and stealing an elite player right out of Meyer’s backyard. Five-star offensive lineman Jackson Carman made his commitment to the Tigers, and afterwards said that Swinney had planted a seed of doubt in his mind over how much longer Meyer might actually be coaching. Swinney gave a non-denial, denial when asked about it later in the day but whether he said it or not, all is fair in love, war and recruiting. While Meyer is still one of the best closers in the game, it’s clear Swinney now belongs in the conversation alongside Meyer and Nick Saban.


Georgia’s historic day saw the Bulldogs rise to No. 1 in the Team Recruiting Rankings and their reign upon the top of the charts might not just be a short-term thing. The Bulldogs signed 18 players, and likely aren’t done nabbing elite recruits. Four-star wide receiver Tommy Bush recently took his official visit to Athens and is very much in play to sign the Dawgs in February, as are elite tight end Luke Ford and elite linebacker Channing Tindall, both of whom are also waiting until the traditional signing day to make their final decisions. Georgia is also off to a very good start in the Class of 2019, with one five-star commitment and five others who are ranked as four-stars.


Wednesday was relatively drama-free, in terms of some of the unknown factors that were in play for the Early Signing Period. There were a few flips, but not as many as expected, and there were a few prospects who didn’t sign that were expected to sign and might end up elsewhere. But for the most part it went much like a traditional signing day. So what is left for the month of January? Well, that’s where it might get complicated. The prospects who elected not to sign are going to be chased by more schools than ever before. They will be under a barrage of constant messages from schools and reporters alike trying to get an idea of their plans. Another aftereffect of the early period that hasn’t been discussed much is how prospects who signed Wednesday will react when their favorite assistant coach takes a new job in the coming weeks. Several coaches alluded to changes on their staff during media availability on Wednesday, and most are anticipating a record number of moves in January. Will any prospects demand to be released from the letters they just signed?


A player breaking up with a school or vice versa is quickly becoming messier than a short-lived summer camp fling. Several prospects flipped to other schools on Wednesday, meaning they went into the day committed to one school and ended up signing with another. By the account of those players, they changed their mind. Of course, according to the fans of the school that got dumped, there was no room to take said commit, so therefore he never flipped. It was instead a parting of ways. Depending on the particular case, each side can be right. Maybe there wasn’t room, or maybe the prospect did just change his mind. But one thing is clear: Just like when someone tells you a breakup is mutual and it’s likely not true, the same goes for breakups on the recruiting trail.


Schools and prospects out West might not have gotten the memo when it came to the new Early Signing Period. Most Pac-12 schools only had about half of their prospects signed, with even some long-term commitments electing to wait and let things play out. Part of the reason some prospects might be waiting is to see how things out with various assistant coaches, especially considering the new coaches at Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State. Half of the conference’s 12 teams have 12 commits or fewer, so even if they had received letters from 100 percent of their commitments they would still have a lot of work to do to fill a 25-player list. The West Coast has a reputation for being more laid back and going with the flow, and it appears as if that’s the case when it comes to a sense of urgency and LOIs.