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Coaches wonder if most prospects will keep signing early

From FOX Sports - February 7, 2018

The first year with an early signing period transformed the recruiting landscape and diminished the importance of the first Wednesday of February, a day that had become a virtual holiday in some college football hotbeds.

ESPN recruiting director Tom Luginbill said over 2,000 players already had signed letters of intent by December, a figure that makes up over 70 percent of the 2,700-2,800 prospects who annually sign with a Football Bowl Subdivision program.

Were this years seniors simply intrigued by the novelty of an early signing period, or was this a sign of things to come? Thats the question coaches are asking as they adjust their recruiting approaches to the new calendar.

I really believe that eventually this thing is going to move to where you wont have the second signing day, Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. Itll just be one signing day in December, and then itll be like an open market on the back end. Well see. The NCAA and all those presidents will vote on how were going to do it, but I think its going to end up going that way.

In the first year with an early signing period, about three-quarters of the nations top 250 prospects in the 247Sports Composite opted to finalize their college decisions in December .

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley acknowledged this made the traditional February signing day anticlimactic, but it also enabled him to spend January focusing on the future rather than worrying about whether all the Sooners senior prospects would stay true to their commitments.

It was a chance to go see these 2019, 2020 and even 2021 recruits, Riley said. Its a chance to evaluate more guys. You feel like you are using your time in a much more efficient way.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron says he already has considered ways to adjust his recruiting approach based on the new calendar. He wants to make sure he still has enough scholarships available for the prospects who are waiting until February.

We will be more selective in the beginning of the recruiting period next year, Orgeron said. We will be more selective with our scholarships at that time. We will fill specific needs then.

Signing early does come with some risks. For instance, consider the 20 prospects who signed with Michigan State in December.

Michigan State is now going through a tumultuous period. Disgraced campus sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting athletes. In addition to that scandal, basketball coach Tom Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio face questions about their programs following an ESPN report last month detailing various allegations.

When that report came out, Michigan State already had most of its football recruiting class secured via the early signing period. Linebacker Chase Kline of Chardon (Ohio) says he doesnt have any regrets about signing early with Dantonio.

I trust the words he says, and I fully back everything he does, Kline said. I fully supported him, and I was not worried at all. If the situation was different, obviously Id be very worried, but a hundred percent committed, and I fully trust Coach Ds words.

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