Early signing period creates more challenges for new coaches
An active coaching carousel has added more uncertainty to this week’s early signing period and its impact on this year’s recruiting cycle.
A new policy allows high school seniors to sign national letters of intent Wednesday through Friday of this week in addition to the traditional February signing date.
That left a short recruiting window for the 11 Power Five programs that changed coaches in the last month, a figure that increases to 12 including Mississippi’s decision to remove the interim tag from Matt Luke’s title . The list includes eight schools that signed top-25 classes last year according to a composite ranking of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports: Florida State , Florida , Texas A&M , Tennessee , Oregon , UCLA , Nebraska and Mississippi State .
“It’s difficult because of the relationships you have to build, which is so important in recruiting, and you have such a short time building those relationships,” Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. “So it’s a challenge, but I look forward to it.”
The newly hired coaches have plenty of ground to make up.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, Nebraska was in the 40s while Tennessee and Florida State were outside the top 50 in the 247Sports Composite . Those classes lost numerous verbal commitments amid coaching changes.
Under the old recruiting calendar, coaches that took over programs in December had a couple of months to sway recruits. Now they just have a couple of weeks.
As it looks now, many of those new coaches will have to fill their class from a small pool of available prospects when the February signing date approaches.
“The transition classes from schools that have new coaches are going to be lower rated than we’ve ever seen in some cases because now they don’t have that extra month of January for a lot of these kids to change their minds,” said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals.
The early signing period also creates complications for veteran coaches preparing teams for the postseason. That’s particularly true for teams that played in bowls last weekend as most programs were hosting prospects.
“Our message there is while staffs are out there recruiting, we’re playing, which is what you want to be doing that type of year,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, whose Broncos beat Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.
Alabama’s Nick Saban expressed his frustration with the early signing period, saying, “I have not talked to a coach that’s happy with it.”
Still, there are coaches who have embraced it.
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney said he liked the early signing period and noted it allows prospects who made their college choices months ago to finalize their decisions.
“Most of our guys are committed, and I think it allows everybody the chance to kind of move on,” Swinney said.
Here are some things to watch this week during the early signing period.
HOW MANY WILL SIGN EARLY? Because this early signing period is a new thing, nobody knows for sure how many seniors will capitalize on it. Farrell believes about 70 percent of senior prospects will sign this week.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH: At least eight uncommitted top-25 prospects from the 247Sports Composite are expected to sign this week . The list includes defensive ends Micah Parsons, Eyabi Anoma, K.J. Henry and Brenton Cox, offensive tackles Jackson Carman and Cade Mays, offensive guard Jamaree Salyer and receiver Terrace Marshall.
BIG WEEK FOR CLEMSON: The defending national champions already have verbal commitments from two of the nation’s top three overall prospects in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and defensive end Xavier Thomas. They’re also in play for Salyer, Carman, Mays and Henry among others. “They could potentially have five of the top 10, six of the top 16 players in the country,” said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports.
ALABAMA’S CONCERNS: Alabama has topped the 247Sports Composite team recruiting ranking seven straight years but could have a tough time making it eight in a row. Alabama is ranked seventh and should move up this week, but the early signing period could make it difficult for the Crimson Tide to produce its typical February rush with fewer top prospects available at that point.
SWITCHING SCHOOLS: As the early signing period approaches, about 50 recruits have withdrawn their verbal commitments over the past week . Farrell says that in many cases, those decisions are being made by the school rather than the prospect. “When coaches aren’t commenting on prospects, a decommitment can look like a kid’s decision, but we all know those can be mutual, it can be a kid saying that I don’t want to go to that school or it could be coaches saying you don’t have a spot here,” Farrell said. “There’s been a lot more decommitments than we’ve ever had to deal with at this time of year.”
AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli and John Zenor and AP Writer Dan Greenspan contributed to this report.
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