Clemson’s staff, like those around the country, are learning on the fly when it comes to the college football early signing period.
In May, the Collegiate Commissioners Association approved a new early signing period in college football that gives high school seniors a 72-hour window in December to sign a national letter of intent with their school of choice. It comes about two months before national signing day, which is the first Wednesday in February.
Despite having months to prepare for it, college coaches everywhere didn’t know exactly what to expect with the early signing period or how it would impact their recruiting efforts.
“It’s definitely different,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said of the early period. “I know a lot of us were pushing for the early signing day, but now that we’re going through it, there’s no exact formula. We’re talking to other college coaches asking them how they’re doing things and kind of figuring it out as we go.”
The early signing period begins this Wednesday and runs through Friday. The dates align with the first three days of the junior college signing period. Any high school senior is eligible to sign early, regardless of whether they are enrolling early.
The addition of an early signing period marked a major change to the college football recruiting calendar. It accelerates the recruiting process for both recruits and programs, and has made this month more hectic for all involved. Coaches have been forced to make their final push for some prospects earlier than in years past, while in many cases those coaches are also having to prepare for a postseason game.
“I know we’ve had some crazy schedules as coaches…,” Scott said. “A little bit more aggressive in December while you’re trying to also have bowl practice and do those type of things because you’re going to have so many guys sign here in December.”
The coaching carousel and staff turnover has presented another layer of difficulty with the early signing period for some schools. Fortunately for Clemson, it has kept its staff intact and hasn’t had to deal with that obstacle.
“I think the biggest challenge is for programs that have a staff change,” Scott said. “That looks to be a very big challenge, and I’m not sure if everybody really took that into account whenever they were pushing for the early signing day.
One can see why some coaches have voiced their complaints about the early period. But as far as Clemson is concerned, Scott believes it will be a good thing. The early period will allow the Tigers to lock up their current commitments seven weeks before the tradition signing date, while several of their targets will have made their decisions by the end of this week.
Therefore, Clemson’s recruiting board will gain clarity heading into national signing day in February. The Tigers will know which players are off the market and will be able to revise their plan of pursuit for the remaining prospects signing in February.
By and large, Clemson will have a good idea of what its 2018 class will look like when the week is over. When the time comes to hit the recruiting trail again next month, the Tigers will be able to turn more of their attention to recruits in future classes.
“I think it will be really beneficial for us in January when it’s time to go out and we kind of know what our class looks like,” Scott said. “We may have a few guys left, but we’ll really have a chance to go focus on some of the younger guys and get a good plan for that.”
The early signing period has certainly shaken things up in the world of recruiting. This time next year, coaches will have a better understanding of what they’re dealing with.
“It’s interesting and something we’ll continue to watch,” Scott said. “I’m interested to see how many guys around the country sign on the 20th.”
“But I think we have to go through it to figure out how to best go about it next year. But so far it’s been fine for us.”