football Edit

Who stands to gain from early signing period - and who doesn't?

Nick Saban is not a fan of the new early signing period.
AP Images

Even though the early signing period is just a few days away, there’s plenty of uncertainty among coaches and recruits about how everything will play out once the letters-of-intent can start rolling in. Various media members and college head coaches – including Alabama’s Nick Saban – have come out against the early period while others have voiced support. So who stands to benefit the most - and the least - from the new period? Today we examine.

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Dabo Swinney
USA TODAY Sports Images

1. Longtime commits: While prospects who flip between multiple schools and release a new top five list every other week consistently make headlines, there are plenty of other recruits who quietly commit to the school of their choice and stay out of the limelight, for the most part. Signing in December will give those prospects a chance to lock in their commitment for good and put to rest any slim chance of other schools working to get into the mix in January or February. The thought process of instituting the early period was that most prospects would fall into this category, and while from a pure percentage point it will be, there still will be a lot of unexpected drama for the rest of the nation’s top players.

2. Schools with stable coaching situations: There are several programs that do a great job of building their classes early and staying away from the mad dash to the finish, and often times those are schools with very stable coaching situations. For example, Clemson has had most of its class built for months, and while it’s waiting on elite players such as five-star Cade Mays, the Tigers will have essentially their full class sign early. High-profile programs are usually involved with the most high-profile players, and the fact that schools such as Clemson, Miami and a few others will be mostly relaxed during the early period is a credit to the hard work they put in early.

3. Grumpy old sportswriters who only pay attention to recruiting one week a year: For years, traditional college football media members have been calling for an early signing period. Why, you ask? Because they don’t like how National Signing Day becomes more of a circus every year. These are the type of guys who still think it’s cool to say “surfing the web” and often like to open postgame press conferences with the phrase “talk about …”. They only check into the recruiting scene once a year and can always been counted to write a column about how it’s “out of control.” Those writers have finally gotten their wish and have the early period. It will be interesting to find out how they feel once they realize most of the nation’s elite prospects will only receive more attention in January and February once they don’t sign, creating more of a “circus” focused on a smaller pool of players.


Jimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Sam Craft

1. Schools with new coaching staffs: The last few months saw one of the most active and unique coaching carousels in recent memory, and the ramifications from all the moves are still being felt on the recruiting trail. Most of the new coaches have yet to finalize their staffs, and the uncertainty is causing problems as those programs try to build their classes. Most of these programs will likely be battling one another to fill out their classes after the early period, and it will be tough because there will be limited unsigned prospects available.

2. Recruits who don’t know they’re about to be blindsided: After the traditional National Signing Day every year there are tons of assistant coaches who change jobs and move onto new homes. In the past, this has led to hurt feelings among recruits who felt like they were signed under false pretenses. But like most rules that are laid out in recruiting, the actual prospects are often the last people considered. So there figures to be plenty of recruits who sign, thinking they are going to playing for a particular assistant coach only to have him leave and end up elsewhere. Those recruits will have no recourse to get out of their letters-of-intent and had they waited until February to sign, they would have had a clearer picture of their future.

3. Teams playing in early bowl games: Bowl season kicked off in full force this past weekend, with more than a dozen teams playing their postseason contests. But with most of them not receiving those invites until early December, it caused major headaches on the recruiting trail. Oregon, for instance, was forced to scrap a major official visit weekend – the last one before the dead period – in order to travel to Las Vegas and play its bowl game. For some of those schools, it meant a chance to impress prospects was lost. For others, it meant that they had to ask prospects to delay their decisions until February. To make matters even worse, eight programs will be playing their bowl games during the early signing window from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22, which could mean missing an important phone call from a potential signee.