One myth the new early signing period has exposed is the old saw about players committing to a school, not a coach. Nobody’s buying that crap now.
Depending on who you ask, opinions vary on the college football early sign period that started Wednesday and ends at midnight tonight.
After only having 13 days to recruit before the start of the early signing period, Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Chad Morris has changed his mind and is no longer in favor of the new signing period.
Pulaski Academy Coach Kevin Kelley sees the good and bad of the new period. One of his offensive linemen, Luke Jones, committed to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and former Coach Bret Bielema in July but now plans to wait until Feb. 7 to sign with a school.
“One example of bad is like in Arkansas when a coach loses his job and the next coach comes in and has to hurry and recruit before the new early signing period,” Kelley said. “The recruits built relationships with old staff and they really have to make some quick decisions with the new staff. Kids don’t usually commit to buildings on a campus. They commit to people. The early signing period happens just a couple of weeks after when staffs at FBS schools turn over.”
If that’s a problem — and note that if it is, it’s only one for the program, because a recruit can back off and wait until February to get a better lay of the land — then it will be interesting to see if any serious resistance to the new period is raised over it. Schools looking to replace a head coach are faced with a real timing dilemma. Given that it’s going to take a very strange set of circumstances to hire a new coach in the middle of a season, that leaves the disgruntled with a couple of hard choices, either get rid of the new period altogether, or move it earlier in the year.
Either way, it’s likely that resistance will be met with resistance of its own. If your program has stability with its coaching staff, you’re probably okay with the December period.
… On Wednesday, the coaches who prefer the early period came out of the woodwork. It isn’t early enough for everyone’s tastes—some would prefer an August signing date or no signing date at all—but the consensus among the coaches who voiced support is that it eliminated a lot of unnecessary silliness that would have taken place in January. “Personally, it really cleans up the month of January in a big way,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Many of the complaints centered on the compressed time period that required coaches to secure a class while prepping for bowl games. Swinney called BS on that, pointing out that NCAA contact rules haven’t changed.
“It’s not any different than it’s ever been,” Swinney said. “We’ve always been recruiting [while prepping] for bowl games. Nothing has changed. The only thing that changed is there’s a date in December that guys can sign a piece of paper. We’re on the road recruiting. If this signing date wasn’t here today, guess what? Nothing would have changed in my life the last three weeks. Nothing. I’d have still been on the road. I’d have still been doing home visits. I’d have been at schools. We’d have been bowl prepping. We’d have been bowl practicing. Nothing would have changed. The only thing that’s different is that all the guys who are committed to us and wanted to make a decision now had the opportunity to do that. So it’s 100% to the benefit of the player.”
Another coach who loved the new date was Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy. Gundy’s staff has been excellent through the years at evaluating prospects, and that has led to other schools trying to pick off Cowboys commitments down the stretch. Gundy believes the early signing period may have made it easier for his coaches to defend the class from poachers. “It’s interesting, with the early signing period we had some poachers—not as many as in the past—but we had a few poachers,” Gundy told reporters Wednesday. “The majority of them failed, and I thought that was interesting.”
I suspect Nick Saban quietly realizes the new period is more of a benefit to him than a burden. The results from this week seem to bear that out.
Judging by the early returns, the SEC signing classes have predictability and stability factors to them.
Georgia, Alabama and Auburn are the league’s three top-10 teams heading into the postseason, and the Bulldogs, Crimson Tide and Tigers each compiled early signing hauls that have been ranked in the top 10 by the various recruiting sites. The eight SEC schools with the same head coach from a year ago have averaged 17 early signees, while the six that have undergone changes have averaged 11.
“That’s a really big challenge, for these new coaches to have such a short period of time,” Auburn’s Gus Malzahn said Wednesday in a news conference. [Emphasis added.]
Gus doesn’t exactly sound all choked up about that. Not that I blame him.
Keeping up with the Sabans of the college football world just got harder.