Earlier Friday, the NCAA approved the proposal to create an early signing period for college football recruiting, which will go into affect this December, on December 20th. The date coincides with junior college signing day, and the early signing period lasts for three days. The traditional first Wednesday in February signing day will continue to exist as normal.
This early signing period, according to the NCAA, will help relieve the stress of recruiting for athletes who have already made up their mind, but there are quite a few other affects that an early signing period can have, and it varies almost school to school.
Bud Elliott does a great job here of breaking down the different ways an early signing period can affect recruiting. I highly recommend you give it a good read.
The question we’re all asking though, is how does this new signing period affect TCU? Let’s take a look at some pros and cons.
PRO: The early signing period benefits early commits and evaluations
We’ve all seen it happen. First, TCU offers a recruit. Then, the likes of Texas, Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Oklahoma all offer. Or, a player commits to TCU, only to flip to another school later on in the process.
With an early signing period, TCU could eliminate some of the flipping that happens due to the insane amounts of pressure put on recruits by other schools. You know you would have slept easier at night knowing that Omar Manning had signed on the dotted line in December, versus waiting until the first week in February.
As for the coat-tail recruiting done by other schools based on who TCU offers, the Frogs would have an added leg up, especially if they could convince those under-the-radar kids to sign early. Those schools that wait around to offer a TCU kid to see if they get someone else first may no longer be able to do so.
Instead, guys like Luper, Cumbie, Fitch, and Gonzales, recruiters who get kids fired up about TCU quickly, could bring in signatures before other schools get the chance.
CON: Recruiting in the midst of bowl prep?
As I was talking with a buddy earlier about the early signing period, he brought up an interesting con. How do coaches balance the early signing period with preparing for a bowl game?
It may well depend on the bowl game, and which coach is doing the recruiting. If TCU was in, say, the Liberty Bowl, would you be okay with a coach going on a recruiting trip 10 days prior to the game? Would you be okay with a coach missing a bowl practice to hop on a plane to California?
As TCU traditionally makes a bowl game, this is an interesting thing to consider. Perhaps the 10th assistant coach can alleviate some of that balancing act.
It’s almost a weird, inadvertent attempt at parity, as it seems like it gives a recruiting advantage to the teams that didn’t have a good season. A 5-7 Texas doesn’t have to worry about balancing bowl prep with recruiting, and they could go harder after kids TCU wants while the Frogs are trying to get ready for another game.
PRO: Early signing period provides a “decluttering” of the recruiting board
Once the early signing period is over, schools will be able to reevaluate their class, and determine who they need to focus on to close things out. If TCU signs a quarterback, some receivers, and a defensive tackle during the early period, but no defensive backs or offensive linemen, then they know where they need to put the majority of their focus in January.
CON: How many kids do you sign early?
Theoretically, the big-name prospects will hold out until February, so if TCU finds themselves in a tight race for some big names, how many do they sign in December? If you have a class with 25 kids, do you sign 15 early? 20? Or do you only sign 10, and risk losing some long-time commits while you’re off chasing higher ranked prospects?
PRO: Early signing period exposes potential flippers
If a kid has been committed to TCU since June, but doesn’t sign in December, what signal does that send to the Frog staff? The kid might be looking around, and the staff now has a chance to do the same.
On the other side of things, the staff would be able to look at other kids around the country, and maybe have clarity on how “off the board” other school’s commits really are.
CON: The early signing period comes with an extended official visit period.
Under the new structure, recruits will now be able to take official visits in April through June. This levels the playing field between schools in two geographical locations, i.e. TCU and Nebraska. A kid going to Lincoln in May, instead of November when it’s cold as balls, may have a different opinion of playing for the Cornhuskers. Meanwhile, a kid who decides to visit Fort Worth in June instead of November may burst into flames and thus, not commit to the Frogs.
PRO: TCU’s coaching stability
The early signing period significantly hinders schools in the midst of a coaching change. Think about an early signing period last season, and think about Texas. They hired Tom Herman on November 26th, and the early signing period would have been December 14th. Herman would have had to pull together a staff and hit the crootin’ trail looking for signatures in just 18 days. It would have been a significant setback to Texas’ class if the rest of the Big 12/SEC schools in the area had already taken a ton of kids completely off the board.
However, for a school like TCU, it provides a significant advantage. Players know that Patterson is going to be the head coach, and they know, for the most part, who the assistants are going to be. This is absolutely a point where Patterson’s loyalty to assistants pays off.
CON: What about Gary’s super sleepers?
Patterson is known for filling the last few spots in a class with a few guys that no one knows about. Do the Frogs still leave a few spots open for the “hidden gems” that ultimately have gotten TCU to where they are today?
Would a 2-star Andy Dalton still make it to TCU with this new structure in place? What about a 2-star LT?
Late bloomers and kids that fall through the cracks due to academics definitely take a big hit with an early signing period.