Pandora's Box about to be opened with new Early Signing Period
The first ever three-day early signing period for college football begins Wednesday, and I have no idea what to expect.
According to the composite rankings at 247Sports, it appears to be more of the same in the SEC. Georgia and Alabama, which are both headed to the College Football Playoff, have the premier projected classes in the conference.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss and Arkansas are bringing up the rear. Each program has gone through a recent coaching change — Matt Luke went from interim to full-time in Oxford, while Chad Morris followed Bret Bielema in Fayetteville — plus the Rebels finally learned their fate from the NCAA and have to deal with further penalties.
That being said, South Carolina is currently fifth in the league and ahead of annual recruiting powerhouses like Texas A&M and Florida.
Not only does coach Will Muschamp have a solid rep on the recruiting trail himself, but the Gamecocks sure seem to be pointed in the right direction after an 8-4 campaign. Recruits are confident that he’ll be in Columbia for a while.
That’s not the case for the Aggies and Gators, even if Jimbo Fisher and Dan Mullen feel like upgrades over Kevin Sumlin and Jim McElwain, respectively. For example, 4-star quarterback Matt Corral — a prior commitment to McElwain in Gainesville — flipped to Ole Miss despite Mullen’s legend as a QB whisperer.
Even if all the vacancies have been filled, the coaching carousel spun wildly for several weeks. It’s still windy out there.
Likewise, it wasn’t that long ago when Tennessee had the No. 6 class in America. Currently, the Volunteers are ranked just 12th in the SEC after an avalanche of decommitments. A 4-star signal caller, Adrian Martinez, was one of them.
If the ability to recruit was the only attribute that mattered, then Butch Jones would still be the coach in Knoxville — his problems weren’t on National Signing Day. New coach Jeremy Pruitt has been voted national recruiter of the year before by scouting services, so it’s fair to assume that he’ll reel in plenty of talent.
It doesn’t happen overnight, though. After all the drama on Rocky Top this past year, some serious rebuilding must be done.
Usually, when a new coach enters the mix, he inherits a team in disarray. However, when Mullen made the move to Florida, Mississippi State was quite healthy. The Bulldogs are preparing to play in a school-record eighth straight bowl game.
As a result, first-year coach Joe Moorhead hasn’t necessarily had to pick up the pieces of a broken recruiting class. On the contrary, 20 commitments are supposedly en route to Starkville — only South Carolina (21) can boast more. Like Mullen, Moorhead is a creative offensive mind. He doesn’t have to strip it down to the studs.
Compare that to Arkansas. In the SEC, Bielema was a square peg in a round hole. Morris (below) has to do things differently.
And, presumably, he will. A proud Texas with deep connections in the prospect-rich Lone Star State, Morris is very fluent in a language that Bielema tried to learn on the fly. His philosophy will be much more 21st century, too.
Whatever coach Kirby Smart is doing at Georgia, he simply has to keep on doing it. On the field, the Bulldogs ran away with the East, won the conference — getting revenge for their only loss of 2017 to Auburn in the process — and are in the Final Four. Off the field, he’s set to ink another stacked recruiting class.
At this point, the league only has three 5-star recruits committed. All three of them are packing their bags for Athens.
Justin Fields, the No. 1 dual-threat passer in the nation, is the obvious crown jewel. Never mind that Jake Fromm is a freshman All-American and entrenched atop the depth chart. Fields wants to compete with the best of the best.
Despite getting off to a slow start this cycle, once again Alabama is on its way to the top of the rankings — don’t be surprised if the Crimson Tide finish with the No. 1 class in the land for the eighth straight year when it’s all said and done. Some 5-star studs will likely board the train to Tuscaloosa soon.
But throw out everything you thought you knew about recruiting. The early signing period changes the game forever.
What’s interesting is that we don’t understand exactly how recruiting will be different just yet since this is Year 1 for a brand new system. Pandora’s Box is about to be opened. We’ll have to wait and see what’s actually inside.
For example, Kentucky could have a verbal commitment from a 4-star receiver, but he takes a pass on the early signing period — he’d rather wait for National Signing Day in February. Do the Wildcats pull their offer? Clearly, the kids’s actions suggest that he’s not truly “committed” and hopes to go elsewhere.
It’s a distinct possibility that he’s hoping for another offer to materialize from, say, LSU.
Also, there could be a 3-star safety verbally committed to Florida. While he wants to take advantage of the early signing period, the Gators never send him the paperwork. They could be playing the waiting game for a better option.
Every year, we hear awful stories about players anticipating to sign with certain schools only to find out that there’s no room left for them in the class — a dream quickly becomes a nightmare. Should something similar happen during the early signing period, National Signing Day is a built-in second chance six weeks later. That seems like a good thing.
Still, there are now double the opportunities for letters of intent to be John Hancock’d. Look for there to be double the chaos.