D-I signings up during early period
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By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - The use of college football's early signing period grew in December among high school seniors.
The three-day signing period rose particularly in the FCS, where NCAA data indicates a nearly 17 percent increase of signings, from 675 during the first early period in 2017 to 811 this past Dec. 19-21. There were 1,825 early signings in the FBS, an increase of over 3 percent from the first year of the December period.
The early signing period has made the traditional signing period, which begins the first Wednesday in February and continues through April 1, somewhat anticlimactic on the FBS level, but there is plenty of signings remaining in the FCS.
How the 126 FCS programs attack the December signing period vary - national champ North Dakota State announced an FCS-high 25 recruits, while many programs announced only a small handful. But coaches and high school seniors have embraced the change in rules, with the high number of early FBS signings clearing out the landscape for FCS recruiting in January.
"Every FCS school has a different philosophy," Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe said. "Some schools have been trying to go head-to-head with the FBS and try to have a big signing class in December. I think others have waited and tried to be patient and know that there are still good players out there in January leading up to the second signing day."
"FBS-level schools used to come back and steal guys (away from FCS programs)," New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said. "That's not happening anymore."
The rules changes have put emphasis on getting out in front of recruiting. A school that goes heavy on December signings can get an earlier start on the following year's class. Beginning last April, high school juniors were allowed to take official on-campus visits, where previously they couldn't occur before the start of the senior year.
McDonnell points out that college coaches have to base some decisions on a player's junior season, which isn't necessarily a positive aspect. "You have to do a really good job evaluating," he said.
However, coaches had felt the December signing period was long overdue, especially with recruiting always a year-round endeavor.
High school players believe the longer recruiting window leads to more-informed decisions and a December signing can end the often-stressful recruiting process up to seven weeks earlier.
"I think we realize even more the importance of getting most of the recruiting of a student-athlete done as early as possible," South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said. "Those are official visits, academic visits, etc. Also, those of us that lose a guy or two realize there are still some very good athletes left to try to sign on the second date."
Updated February 5, 2019