Last spring, the NCAA Division I Council and Collegiate Commissioners Association approved legislation to enact an Early Signing Period in college football. From Dec. 20-22, prospects can now sign their National Letter of Intent and officially join the program of their choosing.
This 72-hour window, which begins on the same day as the signing period for junior college players, is a welcome addition to the recruiting calendar for players who are certain of their decision and coaches who won’t have to worry about commits flipping to another school between now and the traditional February signing day.
But that’s not to say it hasn’t come without its fair share of criticism, as well.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was initially against the idea of the Early Signing Period, specifically a proposed June date that faced heavy opposition from the American Football Coaches Association and was ultimately not included in the final proposal.
“I just don't want these kids to be rushed because once you sign, you can't change.”– urban meyer
“I just worry about the calendar and everybody moving things up,” he said earlier this year. “I just don't want these kids to be rushed because once you sign, you can't change.”
One additional but unintended consequence of college football’s first Early Signing Period has been the seemingly rushed coaching carousel.
Tennessee, for example, fired head coach Butch Jones in early November in order to have a new head coach in place and salvage a class that had just seen Volunteer legacy and five-star offensive tackle Cade Mays reopen his recruitment just days prior.
Ignoring how Tennessee’s coaching search actually unfolded — or, rather, how the administration repeatedly stumbled through the process — it was the smart move considering programs without a head coach next week would be at a serious disadvantage. Nearly a dozen other Power 5 programs have fired or watched their coach take another job since the end of the regular season, and quickly filled the vacancies in order to hold onto their commits and/or land their top remaining targets.
The Buckeyes were, of course, spared of any coaching changes when Tennessee backed out of a deal with defensive coordinator Greg Schiano amid protests on the Volunteers’ campus and social media posts questioning his past as an assistant at Penn State. But that’s not to say it won’t have an impact on the recruiting trail moving forward.
Four-star safety commits Josh Proctor and Jaiden Woodbey have been the subject of much speculation in recent months as programs like Oklahoma and USC push for a flip. Had Schiano left for Knoxville, it’s not out of the question to think they would have at least reconsidered their respective commitments.
In both cases, the Early Signing Period can’t get here soon enough for Ohio State. The expectation is that almost every commit will sign on Dec. 20, and those who don’t won't be viewed as committed and aren't likely to end up with the Buckeyes when things are said and done.
Four-star running back commit Brian Snead and three-star defensive back pledge Marcus Hooker are the exceptions, however, as they reportedly won’t sign until February. It’s been cleared with the staff and both remain 100 percent committed to Ohio State.
|MATTHEW BALDWIN||QB||★★★||AUSTIN (TX) LAKE TRAVIS|
|EMORY JONES||QB||★★★★||FRANKLIN (GA) HEARD COUNTY|
|JAELEN GILL||RB||★★★★★||WESTERVILLE (OH) SOUTH|
|MASTER TEAGUE III||RB||★★★★||MURFREESBORO (TN) BLACKMAN|
|KAMRYN BABB||WR||★★★★||ST. LOUIS (MO) CHRISTIAN BROTHERS COLLEGE|
|L'CHRISTIAN "BLUE" SMITH||WR||★★★★||HUBER HEIGHTS (OH) WAYNE|
|JEREMY RUCKERT||TE||★★★★★||LINDENHURST (NY)|
|MATTHEW JONES||OG||★★★★||BROOKLYN (NY) ERASMUS HALL|
|MAX WRAY||OT||★★★★||FRANKLIN (TN)|
|TOMMY TOGIAI||DT||★★★★||POCATELLO (ID) HIGHLAND|
|ANTWUAN JACKSON JR.||DT||★★★★||BRENHAM (TX) BLINN COLLEGE|
|TARON VINCENT||DT||★★★★★||BRADENTON (FL) IMG ACADEMY|
|TERADJA MITCHELL||ILB||★★★★||VIRGINIA BEACH (VA) BISHOP SULLIVAN|
|K'VAUGHAN POPE||ILB||★★★★||DINWIDDIE (VA)|
|DALLAS GANT||OLB||★★★★||TOLEDO (OH) ST. JOHN'S JESUIT|
|SEVYN BANKS||CB||★★★★||ORLANDO (FL) JONES|
|TYREKE JOHNSON||CB||★★★★||JACKSONVILLE (FL) TRINITY CHRISTIAN|
|JOSH PROCTOR||S||★★★★||OWASSO (OK)|
|JAIDEN WOODBEY||S||★★★★||BELLFLOWER (CA) ST. JOHN BOSCO|
The biggest question mark facing the Buckeyes in the next week is the status of five-star quarterback Emory Jones, who committed in July 2016 but has taken four trips to Alabama since the spring. A flip to the Crimson Tide has been expected since early November, but there’s increasing optimism in Columbus with every passing day.
Will Ohio State end up taking two quarterbacks this cycle, or will the decision to pursue three-star Matthew Baldwin pay off if/when Jones decommits? It’s likely we won’t find out until he holds a ceremony at his high school on Dec. 19.
If Jones remains in the fold — and the Buckeyes secure a commitment from Fairfield five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman early next week, as is widely expected — they’ll have put themselves in position to finish atop the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings for the first time, thus ending Alabama’s seven-year run in the process.
A lot can and will happen in the next week and a half, so make sure to stay tuned to Eleven Warriors for wall-to-wall coverage of college football’s first Early Signing Period. It’s going to be fun.