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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)


BEAVERTON, ORE. To coaches across the Football Bowl Subdivision, the addition of an early signing period comes with one clear benefit: Allowing prospects to sign in late December removes much of the drama from the homestretch leading into national signing day in early February.

The change received strong support from members of the American Football Coaches Association at the group's meeting in January. After it was approved in April by the NCAA's Division I Council, AFCA executive director Todd Berry called the rule change part of "by far the most sweeping legislative package we've had since I've been in coaching."

So it's a win for coaches - for Power Five coaches who want to lock down a top class well in advance of February and for Group of Five coaches weary of seeing their under-the-radar recruits poached by big-name programs.

But recruits see the legislation differently. For the elite in this year's class - who gathered for The Opening, a high-profile recruiting event held at Nike's headquarters - many agree it eases a hectic process but also raises potential negatives.

"I think there's a good and a bad to that," said Mission Hills (Calif.) quarterback Jack Tuttle, who verbally committed to Utah.

Related: New Early Signing Period Approved for College Football

Start with the positives. Recruits agreed that the December dates allow for the chance to shut down what can be an exhausting, year-long slog to signing day: "Once I heard that I could (sign), I knew I was going to," said Providence (Fla.) tight end Will Mallory, who committed to Miami (Fla.) in April. "If you know where you're going to go, you shouldn't have to wait."

Additionally, for those prospects who don't plan to enroll early, signing in December ensures a spot in their future program's class. "The good is getting there, signing and securing your spot," Tuttle said.

That's one of the primary benefits for programs that find recruiting success with late-blooming prospects. Rather than sweat out the final weeks and days until February, hoping no power programs drop in with a late offer, coaching staffs might be able to secure their hidden gems in December.

Yet there are potential sticking points for all recruits: While the December dates are geared to relieve pressure on coaches and recruits alike, it might instead add a degree of stress and strain to the process.

Say one recruit gives his verbal commitment to a program in June but decides not to sign in December. What signal is that sending to his potential coaches?

"That just depends on how good your relationship is with the coach," said Yoakum (Texas) wide receiver Josh Moore, who committed to Nebraska in June. "If he's 50-50 about you, he'll just move on to the next one. That just depends on how bad they want you."

It's only natural for recruits who plan to sign in December to wonder: What if my coach is fired or finds a new job? Or, on the other hand, what if the recruit has second thoughts?

"With other athletes, it could be that they sign the paper and then two months later, when they could've signed, they regret their decision. And they can't go back," Tuttle said.

The AFCA agreed that late December was the best date because most coaching changes will have occurred by that point.

"This wasn't so much for the coaches, even if there's been some perception along those lines," Berry told USA TODAY Sports. "But this was more student-athlete related because we wanted more transparency for them to make decisions."

Having open communication about the signing process will be particularly vital for recruits who plan to sign during the December period, Manchester (Tenn.) wide receiver Alontae Taylor said.

"The bad thing about that is during the early signing period it's bowl season, so you don't get that comfort with the coaches about what their mind-set is," said Taylor, who will sign with Tennessee on Dec. 22 and enroll in January. "You have to talk to them early about that."

But the legislation is a sign of progress.

"I don't think there's a down part about that," Mallory said. "If you're not ready for it, don't commit to something you're not 100% about. So it's really positive in the fact that if you know exactly where you want to go and have no doubts in mind, sign then. But it's a big decision, so take your time."

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July 3, 2017


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