College football’s first early signing period arrives THIS WEDNESDAY and lasts until Friday, Dec. 22. For college football, it represents a big change from the existing February Signing Day because of the accelerated timetable, though the February date is not going away.
Folks have wondered how this will impact the recruiting strategies of different programs across the country, but there seems to be a consensus — coaches are treating this as the primary signing period. This has a few advantages:
- Coaches no longer have to wait until February for the majority of commits to make it official. A school may have a very solid commitment from someone, but that commit often has to be reassured of his decision. This new signing period will allow a program like Oklahoma to spend time and resources on other things.
- Coaches can now focus on a much smaller number of recruits leading up to February, which in turn allows them to focus more of their attention on the next class (2019 in this case).
- This allows a player who truly does have his mind made up to close his recruiting process. Most of these kids are tired of incessant texts and calls and want to have some certainty about their college destinations shortly after the fall semesters of their senior years.
Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley doesn’t seem to have an issue with the change as a whole, but he has voiced his displeasure with the decision for the signing period to go into effect this season as opposed to next season. Under the new rule, prospects can now start taking official visits in the late spring, but the rule didn’t go into effect until after most of that time period had passed for this current cycle. Here’s what Riley had to say about it during Thursday’s presser:
“I know I’ve said it before, but if we had to do it over again I think we wouldn’t have started the early signing period until next season. In hindsight, it didn’t make much sense to do it before these kids could take early visits. I don’t know that it’s hurt the schools as much, but some of these kids are really almost backed into a corner in a way where there’s some pressure on them to sign, but a lot of them haven’t been able to take official visits. Hell, the state championships in Texas will be played after Signing Day. When you haven’t had the opportunity to take those early spring visits like [prospects] will in the future, it’s almost kind of like we put the wrong thing first. We should have done the visits first and then the early Signing Day.”
Riley went on to describe some of the differences.
“You can feel the sense of urgency. It feels a little strange going into these homes in December and already explaining to them the signing process when you normally do that several weeks down the line. So it definitely feels sped-up — there’s no doubt about it — I think for the coaches and for the prospects.”
“I think after this one happens and, again, once these guys can take the early visits next year it can relieve a bit of that pressure of trying to finish your season, trying to do well in the classroom, trying to take official visits, all of that, when you can spread it out a little bit more, I think it’s gonna be a better system. Doing it the way we did it this year was not a good idea.”
In short, the 2018 recruiting cycle is like none we’ve ever seen. This will also be the case in 2019 when kids will actually be able to make earlier official visits. That’s when we’ll truly be able to determine whether or not this experiment is working.
When asked if they were encouraged early commitments to sign during the early period, Riley’s response was simple.
“Yep, we have. We think that if guys are committed then they do need to sign.”
“This group’s been great. We’ve had very, very little resistance. A lot of guys are excited about getting it done.”
The vast majority of Oklahoma’s current 2018 commits are indeed expected to sign next week, and the same goes for most programs around the country. However, a select few in each class may not sign early due to a number of factors. SB Nation recruiting guru Bud Elliott recently cited one particular example:
“Sometimes, a team will accept a verbal commitment from a player with the understanding that he needs to improve his ACT/SAT score or grades. Verbal commitments are not binding, so a team is under no duty to actually send a letter of intent to sign, even to a verbally committed prospect. If a kid still needs a test score or some grades in core classes, don’t be surprised if a team asks him to wait, because they don’t want to waste a spot on a kid who won’t qualify.”
The Football Brainiacs have compiled a list of current OU commits who plan on signing early, so you should check it out. Overall, things seem to look pretty positive on that front. A few prospects took official visits to other schools this weekend — including Jaquayln Crawford to Arkansas — but that’s not really out of the ordinary. Prospects often take visits as a courtesy to a recruiter or staff with whom they’ve developed a good bond. Also, who would turn down a free trip?
Then you have the remaining defensive targets such as DaShaun White, Bobby Brown, Abdul-Malik McClain, Brendan Radley-Hiles, Jeremiah Martin, Ayodele Adeoye, Micah Parsons and weekend official visitor Nik Bonitto — most of whom are expected to sign at their schools of choice this week as opposed to waiting until February. If OU can sign White, McClain and/or Bonitto, and maybe Radley-Hiles before everything is said and done for 2018, this will be a mighty fine class.
As far as coverage is concerned, OU Assistant AD for Strategic Communications Mike Houck has said (or tweeted) that we should expect things to be pretty much the same this year on their end. That’s definitely a good thing.
Coverage will be fairly similar to last year— Mike Houck (@mhouckOU) December 14, 2017
I’d expect plenty of great graphics and video coverage from OU, as they’ve definitely knocked that kind of stuff out of the park in recent years.
We’ll also definitely be around during the signing period to update y’all on the signings and to give our two cents on the 2018 class.
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