Top recruits in SETX see no rush to sign early
Seniors Darwin Barlow and Josh Foster play on the same high school football team and are verbally committed to play for the same college team, but you won’t see them make their pledges official together.
A 72-hour early signing period for high school football athletes in December — two months before the traditional February signing day — remains divisive for Southeast Texas’ best players in its second year of existence.
Almost 80 percent of the country’s top-ranked players last season signed in the early period, according to recruiting outlet 247 Sports.
In Southeast Texas, less than 40 percent of players committed to Division I colleges signed early last season; this season, less than 30 percent plan on signing in December.
The hesitation remains constant — players don’t want to miss out on potential better opportunities or the rest of their high school experience.
Players can verbally commit to a school at any time but can’t make a binding pledge until signing day.
“My family doesn’t want me to sign early,” Barlow, Newton’s starting running back who is committed to Texas Christian University, said. “They want me to wait until after the season and keep my options open.”
Barlow has as much national interest as any senior in Southeast Texas.
He’s racked up 24 scholarship offers in the past year and has offers so diverse he could play anywhere from California to Minnesota to Kentucky.
Barlow announced his commitment to TCU on Aug. 23, which typically shuts down a player’s recruiting process.
Less than a week later, though, Barlow announced an offer from the University of Southern California, the school that has produced legendary running backs like O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen and Reggie Bush.
“You never know what the future holds,” Port Arthur Memorial’s Da’Juan McMillan, who is committed to the University of Houston, said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen this season.”
The businesslike thinking has traction in Southeast Texas whether you’re a recruit with double-digit offers, like Barlow, or two, like McMillan.
Former West Brook standout Innis Gaines raised his stock considerably during his senior season in 2016, starting the season as a University of Texas San Antonio commit and ending it as a TCU commit.
West Brook’s Drew Rawls, a Tulsa commit with one one offer, will also wait to sign until February in hopes of a rise similar to his former teammate’s.
“I don’t plan on signing early,” Rawls said. “I’m going to wait it out and see what else happens with my recruitment.”
Other recruits just want to commit to the rest of their high school careers.
Beaumont United’s Jalen Wells, a former Texas State commit with eight offers, is signing in February so he can focus on his final season of high school baseball.
If Wells signed in December, he would enroll in college for the spring semester and miss out on baseball.
“I’ve been playing baseball all my life,” Wells said. “I don’t just want to give up on it my senior year.”
West Brook’s Deonte Simpson, who will play receiver for North Texas, wants to graduate with his friends and enjoy his final months of high school.
“I’m going to stay and finish the year off and enjoy my high school experience,” Simpson said.
For those who are signing early, there is no second-guessing.
Foster, Newton’s quarterback who will play defense at TCU, will sign in December to secure his spot on the team.
“I don’t want to take any chances of waiting until the second signing day and having all the spots fill up
Port Neches-Groves’ Roschon Johnson will sign early to play at the University of Texas.
Johnson has been committed to Texas for over a year and it is his dream school.
Woodville’s Zackary Martin, a Louisiana-Monroe pledge, doesn’t see the point of waiting.
“My plan is to sign during the early signing period because I feel that’s the best thing to do since I’m already verbally committed,” Martin said. “So why not?”