If you haven’t heard the news yet: Football is implementing a new early signing period. This 72-hour signing window will open December 20 and close December 22, 2017. During this time, football players who are current high school seniors can officially commit to their team of choice, months before the regular signing period (February 8—April 1, 2018).
For most sports, an early signing period is old news, “been there, done that.” For football, however, coaches, athletes, parents and schools are scratching their heads and wondering how it will all shake out. Memphis football coach Mike Norvell told the Tennessean, “It’s going to be interesting to watch how it all unfolds.” The idea behind early signing is to put more time back into recruits’ schedules—give them a break from the recruiting chaos, while allowing coaches to lock down their incoming recruiting classes as easily as possible.
We’ve compiled the various reactions to the new early signing period from athletes and a few coaches—and how to plan your next move! While these reactions are based on the new rule in football, they apply to most sports that have an early signing period.
Athletes who are ready to sign can secure their spot and focus on their senior year
By the time the early signing day rolls around, there are plenty of recruits who have an offer from their top school and they are psyched to make it official. For these athletes, early signing is a great way to reserve their spot, focus on finishing out their senior year strong and start buying gear for their new school.
Blackman football coach David Watson told the Tennessean, “I think [early signing] is a good thing for guys that will be early enrollees and five-star guys that know where they want to go.” Wake Forest Head Football Coach Dave Clawson shared a more cautious view with Sports Illustrated: “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. “The early signing date will become the signing date.” And for some athletes, this sounds like an attractive prospect. In fact, of the football recruits surveyed by ESPN, 57% indicated that they planned on enrolling early and taking advantage of the early signing period.
Will Mallory, a tight end who committed to Miami in April, told USA Today, “Once I heard that I could (sign) I knew I was going to. If you know where you’re going to go, you shouldn’t have to wait.” Similarly, 4-star cornerback Kenyatta Watson told Michigan, “I think [early signing] a good thing, giving recruits a chance to start their academics early and get to know the program.”
Some athletes will opt out of early signing, holding out for more information and opportunities
However, for many other athletes, early signing is cause for some sleepless nights. Athletes who have a good offer on the table might opt out of early signing for a few key reasons:
- They are waiting to see if their top school will offer them a spot on the team.
- They want to finish out their last season because they think they have improved significantly and might be able to move up a level.
- Other athletes want to make sure that the coach will be sticking with the team, and don’t want to take the risk of signing early, only to be disappointed if the coaches moves on to another program.
Navigating the early signing period can be a little tricky and can take some serious self-reflection for athletes who just aren’t quite sure if they’re ready. Coach Clawson agrees that decisions as big as signing with your future college shouldn’t be rushed. He told Sports Illustrated, “Most smart people, when they have a big decision, they take as much time as they can. They can collect as much information as possible. You are talking about 15-year-olds making the biggest decision of their life and giving them less time to do it.”
The problem is, if a school expects an athlete to sign during the early signing period and the recruit opts out, they will wonder if that athlete is really committed to the program. The recruiting process is a very complicated jigsaw puzzle for coaches, and they don’t want to be left scrambling for recruits at the last minute. Josh Moore, a wide receiver who committed to Nebraska, explained to USA Today what could happen if a recruit doesn’t sign with a program early, “If [a coach] is 50-50 about you, he’ll just move onto the next one. That just depends on how bad they want you, how bad they need you, stuff like that.”
Your next move: To sign or not to sign
If you have an offer from your top school and you’re ready to sign, congratulations! Before you put your autograph on the dotted line, double check that the scholarship offer you’re agreeing to matches up with the one you and the coach discussed. And, check in with yourself one last time. Are you prepared to spend the next four years at that school? Are the academics and athletics right for you? If so, celebrate this accomplishment and enjoy your senior year of high school.
If you’re not ready to fully commit to a school yet, it’s perfectly OK to pass on signing with a school during the early signing period—just be prepared to tell the coach why. Mallory explained to USA Today, “If you’re not ready for it, don’t commit to something you’re not 100% about. If you know exactly where you want to go and have no doubts in mind, sign then. But it’s a big decision so take your time.”