While I appreciate the lack of sympathy on display there for Nick Saban’s whining about the early signing period, that’s not what really has his knickers in a wad. This is:
The other factor is that Arizona doesn’t have any five-star recruits and isn’t in the running for any. Rivals recently elevated defensive end Adam Plant of Las Vegas to a four-star recruit. Everyone else has three stars.
Plant, who de-committed from Arizona in June and re-committed in November, isn’t expected to sign until February. Analysts believe many of those decisions will fall along those lines: The higher-rated players will wait and bask in the courting process, while the lower- and mid-tier prospects will sign now with schools that expressed interest in them from the outset.
As such, the schools that traditionally sit atop the recruiting rankings — and often swoop in for players very late in the process — probably will land smaller hauls during the early signing period.
“If you’re a four- or five-star, they’re not going to say you’re out” if you don’t sign, Biggins said. “But if you’re a two- or three-star, you’re committed to a school like Nevada and you don’t sign, they’re going to keep recruiting your position.”
Biggins and Gorney say that dynamic puts pressure on prospects who aren’t in that elite class. It isn’t quite at the ultimatum level, but the message is clear: Sign with us now or we’ll move on.
Therein lies the rub. Alabama isn’t going to fill its 2018 class this week. There will a few recruits left to sign by the traditional February signing date. In years past, that would leave Saban and his staff time to turn up a few underappreciated nuggets as well as flip a few recruits from other schools who simply couldn’t match the opportunity being presented.
That script’s been changed, though. “Bird in hand” has a lot more leverage now than it used to. The three-star recruit who was told last year to wait and see if something might come up in Tuscaloosa didn’t have much to lose by waiting, since his existing offer with Southwestern State A&M was still on the table. This year, though, he’s got to weigh losing that offer if he doesn’t sign early against keeping his fingers crossed that Mr. Medical Hardship actually comes through in a couple of months. Any way you want to look at that, it’s not as appealing for the recruit — which means it’s not as appealing for Saban, either.