SEC coaches eager to see impact of early signing period

Published 9:17 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

Southeastern Conference coaches are eager to see the impact an early signing period will have on recruiting, even though a number of them were against the change.

An early signing period received formal approval last week from the Collegiate Commissioners Association. The new plan will allow high school seniors in the 2017-18 school year to sign with colleges on Dec. 20-22 as well as during the traditional signing period on the first Wednesday of February.

“I’m very interested to see how this plays out because I think we’re dealing in a world we haven’t dealt in,” Georgia’s Kirby Smart said Monday at an SEC coaches teleconference. “When you have that, there are usually things you haven’t thought of, repercussions we haven’t thought of. I’m interested to see who handles it best.”

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Smart didn’t say whether he favored or opposed the early signing period, but other coaches have let their positions be known.

“It’s something that obviously if I could have voted on it, I would have not voted for that,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “I think that it just puts a lot of different strain on your staff and what you’re doing, but it may work out to our advantage. … We have several commitments. If we stick with those commitments and they all sign in December, it could be an advantage.”

Alabama’s Nick Saban had expressed his opposition to an early signing period in the past, and he noted Monday that it could limit opportunities for prospects who take big steps forward in their development as seniors.

Florida’s Jim McElwain believes the early signing period will “call some people’s bluff both from the players’ side and the school’s side.”

McElwain said some prospects might verbally commit to a school simply to try reserving a spot in a class while continuing to look around.

McElwain also noted that many schools make flurries of offers early in the recruiting calendar.

With the earlier signing period, coaches now will know how seriously to take a prospect’s commitment and recruits will know when an offer is legitimate.

“You’ll find out in December if the guy’s committed to you,” South Carolina’s Will Muschamp said. “If he’s not signing in December, you’d better rethink your numbers at the position or continue to recruit because you’re not really sure if he’s going to sign with you in February.”

Mississippi’s Hugh Freeze said he didn’t mind the early signing period but he did oppose another policy change that allows high school juniors to take official visits from April through June. Freeze didn’t like the way the latter change accelerates the recruiting calendar and says recruits now will be making visits before the school knows them particularly well.

Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin were among the other coaches to express their concerns about allowing earlier visits.