What recruits plan to do with the new early signing period

New recruiting rules will allow recruits to sign their national letter of intent during a three-day window starting Dec. 20, which has some prospects excited and some still leery of the ramifications of signing early.

Prior to this rule, the first Wednesday in February was the earliest recruits could sign with their schools, which has traditionally made the end of December and the entire month of January a free-for-all, a mad dash to the finish line with decommitments and flips as coaches try to fill their classes.

In the 2016 class, from Dec. 20 through the month of January before signing day, 224 FBS recruits either decommitted or flipped their commitments to other schools. In the 2017 class, during the same time period, 238 prospects changed their commitment status.

This new rule could alter that number drastically depending on how many recruits sign in December, which would lock them in to schools.

I spoke to 76 recruits ranked in the top 150 of the ESPN 300 rankings, and 44 said they had plans to sign in December. With four months until that signing period begins, these opinions could change.

Among the 44 who said they plan to sign early were five-stars K.J. Henry, Terrace Marshall Jr., Brenton Cox, Justin Shorter and Xavier Thomas.

“My personal opinion about that is the recruits that actually sign early like me, in December, are the mature recruits because they don’t want all the recruiting games and they know where they’re going and want to lock that in,” Thomas, a Clemson commit, said. “But then again, there are some recruits who actually don’t know where they’re going, which is why they wouldn’t sign early. Most know where they’re going, but want all the recruiting hype and fun, so they play around with it. So for the recruits signing early, it shows they are real commits and not entertaining any other schools.”

Of the five-stars who said they are planning on enrolling early, all but Marshall are currently committed. That is a big part of the equation as to who is planning on enrolling early and why.

“I’m making sure the coaches stay intact before I put my name on paper,” uncommitted ESPN 300 prospect Tommy Bush said. “No sir, I’m signing in February.”

Bush shares the sentiment with quite a few other uncommitted prospects who have concerns about signing early.

Coaches have concerns of their own, but are going to have to learn to navigate this new rule quickly. Penn State coach James Franklin believes there should be some modifications to the rule and says he is worried that the NCAA is looking for the perfect system that isn’t there.

“The model I love from the beginning for the official visits and the early signing is you only early sign the kid that doesn’t want to go on any other visits,” Franklin said. “That’s saying, I’m going to Penn State, I was always going to Penn State, I want to sign and I don’t need official visits to do it. To me, that helps everybody out because now school X isn’t wasting their time recruiting the kid that’s always coming to Penn State.

“I think that was a really good model, but it didn’t happen. That would have been a good way to do it for early signing.”

This class is somewhat of a guinea pig with the new rule as each side is exploring how it will work. With every new rule change, there are bound to be pitfalls. Coaches and recruits still have concerns and questions, but the date is rapidly approaching.

With 57 percent of the top recruits who responded saying they plan on enrolling early, there could be a ton of action in the new signing period.