Early signing period creates more challenges for new coaches

An active coaching carousel has added more uncertainty to this week’s early signing period and its impact on this year’s recruiting cycle.

Posted: Dec 20, 2017 1:12 AM

An active coaching carousel has added more uncertainty to this week’s early signing period and its impact on this year’s recruiting cycle.

A new policy allows high school seniors to sign national letters of intent Wednesday through Friday of this week in addition to the traditional February signing date.

That left a short recruiting window for the 11 Power Five programs that changed coaches in the last month, a figure that increases to 12 including Mississippi’s decision to remove the interim tag from Matt Luke’s title . The list includes eight schools that signed top-25 classes last year according to a composite ranking of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports: Florida State , Florida , Texas A&M , Tennessee , Oregon , UCLA , Nebraska and Mississippi State .

“It’s difficult because of the relationships you have to build, which is so important in recruiting, and you have such a short time building those relationships,” Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. “So it’s a challenge, but I look forward to it.”

The newly hired coaches have plenty of ground to make up.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Nebraska was in the 40s while Tennessee and Florida State were outside the top 50 in the 247Sports Composite . Those classes lost numerous verbal commitments amid coaching changes.

Under the old recruiting calendar, coaches that took over programs in December had a couple of months to sway recruits. Now they just have a couple of weeks.

As it looks now, many of those new coaches will have to fill their class from a small pool of available prospects when the February signing date approaches.

“The transition classes from schools that have new coaches are going to be lower rated than we’ve ever seen in some cases because now they don’t have that extra month of January for a lot of these kids to change their minds,” said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals.

The early signing period also creates complications for veteran coaches preparing teams for the postseason. That’s particularly true for teams that played in bowls last weekend as most programs were hosting prospects.

“Our message there is while staffs are out there recruiting, we’re playing, which is what you want to be doing that type of year,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, whose Broncos beat Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.

Alabama’s Nick Saban expressed his frustration with the early signing period, saying, “I have not talked to a coach that’s happy with it.”

Still, there are coaches who have embraced it.

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney said he liked the early signing period and noted it allows prospects who made their college choices months ago to finalize their decisions.

“Most of our guys are committed, and I think it allows everybody the chance to kind of move on,” Swinney said.

Here are some things to watch this week during the early signing period.

HOW MANY WILL SIGN EARLY? Because this early signing period is a new thing, nobody knows for sure how many seniors will capitalize on it. Farrell believes about 70 percent of senior prospects will sign this week.

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