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College Football's Early Signing Period, Explained

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

College football's national signing day has become something of a spectacle. The first Wednesday in February has long been the earliest high school stars could sign a national letter of intent with the school of their choice, and the day is filled with marathon coverage on national television and surprise commitments.

The process is about to change. A little bit, at least.

Starting Wednesday, college football will introduce its early signing period, a 72-hour window in which athletes can sign national letters of intent.

Though initially met with confusion by high school and college coaches at the high school and college levels, the rules are the same. So long as high school seniors hold written scholarship offers, they can sign.

The change has not come without criticism, most notably from Alabama coach Nick Saban.

"I didn't like it when we did it. I don't like it now," Saban told reporters last week.

"I don't think it's in the players' best interest. I don't see how it benefits everybody. It's really stressful for everyone. We're all trying to get ready for bowl games and playoff games, and we've got a signing date right in the middle of when we're going to be practicing for a playoff game."

But there is another side to the coin. Take the case of Justin Fields, the highly regarded quarterback from Kennesaw, Ga., who committed to coach Kirby Smart and Georgia in October. Verbal commitments are non-binding, as Fields showed when initially backing off a commitment to Penn State.

Fields has recently been a recruiting priority for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M, Dan Mullen at Florida and Willie Taggart at Florida State.

With the rules as they were, coaches would have had nearly another two months to woo Fields. Instead, the quarterback announced he plans to sign with Georgia on Wednesday, freeing him from a two-month recruiting onslaught and giving Smart peace of mind headed into the College Football Playoff.

Here's everything you need to know about the inaugural college football early signing period.

What is the college football early signing period?

The early signing period was approved by the Collegiate Commissioners Association in May.

It allows high school seniors a 72-hour window in December to sign a national letter of intent with the school of their choice. It comes about two months before National Signing Day, which is the first Wednesday of February.

The December dates coincide with the first three days of the junior college signing period.

Will any top recruits sign?

Several are scheduled to announce on ESPNU, and, as has happened in the past with National Signing Day, there is always the potential for surprises.

Some top recruits schedule to announce Below are the five top recruits whose decisions will be aired on ESPNU (times p.m. Eastern):

Offensive tackle Cade Mays will choose among between Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State (Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Defensive end Brenton Cox will choose amongbetween Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Cornerback Anthony Cook will choose amongbetween Ohio State, LSU and Texas (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Defensive end KJ Henry will choose amongbetween Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia Tech (Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. will choose among between Florida State, LSU, Texas, and Texas A&M (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Who is eligible to sign?

Any current high school senior. Some coaches assumed that only those players who wish to enroll in college early are eligible to sign, but that's inaccurate. Players who sign in December can enroll in the spring, summer or fall.

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December 20, 2017
 
 
 

 

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