Earlier today the NCAA Division 1 Council voted to approve an Early Signing Period for college football. The new rule, which could take affect this year, will give college recruits a 3 day window in December to sign a National Letter of Intent. After that they will not be able to sign a LOI until the traditional National Signing Day in February. This early period would start the 3rd Wednesday in December. The rule is subject to approval by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, administrators of the Letter of Intent program, but that is expected to occur.
At first glance this is nice step in improving the recruiting process. A lot of recruits already know where they are going by mid-December and allowing them the opportunity to sign an LOI will give them the peace of mind that they have a scholarship at their chosen school. It will also reduce the chances that a committed player is left out of luck without a scholarship if they sign the LOI in December.
The one complaint about this is that coaches could leave after a recruit has signed a LOI, but given the mid-late December date of the early signing period, most coaches will have been fired/hired by the time a kid makes his decision. A recruit also doesn’t have to sign the LOI if he’s concerned the coach or one of the assistants may get fired or move to a different job.
As nice as this is for Clemson, the truth is that we shouldn’t expect much to change. One of the hallmarks of Dabo Swinney’s time at Clemson is how stable each recruiting class is. It is extremely rare for a player to decommit. Coach Swinney’s policy of only accepting verbal commitments only when a recruit is truly committed pays off well here.
And if a decommit happens it is usually early in the process where the early signing period would not have mattered, or it is due to grades or some other off-field issue. If the early signing period was in June or July then Clemson would benefit greatly by securing commitments with LOIs early on, but December isn’t much of a change from February.
But one benefit for Clemson is peace of mind. The coaching staff can go into the final recruiting period knowing what players will be coming in and where they may need to push to fill holes in the roster. It will also help lock down numbers a bit better if Clemson is hit by a rash of transfers or early departures at the end of the season. They can cull their scholarship offer list better at each position without the uncertainty of just how many CBs or DE’s may sign and put them over 85 scholarships on NSD.
Oh and this year if one of Clemson’s top recruits doesn’t sign in the early signing day don’t panic. Some of these guys may want to be able to have a ceremony where they sign the LOI and go through the whole process. Don’t get #MADONLINE about it. These are 17-18 year old kids and there is no rule saying they have to sign in December even if they are verbally committed. Just take a deep breath and relax.
Expect to hear a lot about the new early signing day this year, but don’t expect it to do much for Clemson recruiting other than make the recruiting class official.