One of the several things the NCAA’s Division I Council approved Friday was the addition of an early signing period in mid-December to the recruiting calendar.
It still has to be approved by the Board of Governors later this month and the Collegiate Commissioners Commission in June, but both votes appear to just be formalities.
Beginning this year, recruits will be able to sign with schools during a three-day window that coincides with the junior-college signing period in December.
While this rule is new and we don’t know how it will affect recruiting classes in the future, we can take a hypothetical look at how it might have affected previous classes.
For example, let’s examine Arkansas’ most recent crop of recruits…
The Razorbacks successfully flipped Baton Rouge (La.) Madison Prep three-star defensive end Troy James from Kansas on Nov. 14. He remained committed to Arkansas until less than a week from National Signing Day.
After taking a secret visit to Oklahoma, James flipped once again, this time to the Sooners. Had there been an early signing period, he could have already inked with the Razorbacks and Oklahoma wouldn’t have been able to swoop in at the last second.
Instead, Arkansas was left searching for a replacement. The Razorbacks ended up offering and signing David Porter, a three-star defensive end from Pulaski Robinson in Little Rock who was committed to Colorado State despite multiple Power Five offers.
Only time will tell which player turns out better, but on paper it seems like Arkansas benefitted from the situation. Porter was actually rated slightly higher than James (.8462 in the 247Sports Composite, compared to .8446) and grew up wanting to play for the Razorbacks.
James, on the other hand, appeared to be after the best opportunity for himself, as evidenced by him going from Kansas to Arkansas to Oklahoma (and the reference to “Arkansas University” in his de-commitment tweet). There is nothing wrong with that, but most coaches and fans would probably prefer the local kid who dreamed of representing his home state.
That is just one example of how the early signing period would have altered history. Here are a few others that HawgsDaily could come up with over the last decade…
**NOTE: It is important to remember that these are all hypothetical. We do not know if these players would have chosen to sign during the early period or wait until the traditional National Signing Day in February.**
Despite being committed to Oklahoma State since Aug. 19, Shepherd (Texas) three-star defensive end Jonathan Marshall took a secret official visit to Arkansas on the final weekend before National Signing Day. Two days later, he flipped to the Razorbacks.
Arkansas landed nine of its 10 in-state targets in 2015 and was close to being a perfect 10 for 10. North Little Rock four-star wide receiver K.J. Hill committed to the Razorbacks in August 2014 to much fanfare.
However, after an official visit to Alabama in January, Hill reopened his recruitment and ultimately chose Ohio State over the Crimson Tide on National Signing Day.
There is no guarantee that he would have signed in December, but it would have been a possibility.
Pine Bluff (Ark.) Dollarway three-star safety Josh Liddell committed to Arkansas State in July 2013, but a late offer from Arkansas in January 2014 changed his mind.
Head coach Bret Bielema’s first signing class at Arkansas could have looked different if the early signing period was a thing.
Although it is speculation, big-time programs were heavily pursuing some of the Razorbacks’ highest profile signees – Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper – before Bielema was hired and Arkansas became a factor. There is the chance that they could have been pressured into signing with one of those schools before the Razorbacks had a chance to make their pitch.
Also in this class, Arkansas successfully flipped Egg Harbor Township (N.J.) four-star dual-threat quarterback Damon Mitchell, who had been committed to Georgia Tech since July 2012.
One way the early signing period helps recruits is that it will help ensure that schools be honest with prospects about scholarships.
Some schools will offer a recruit only pull the offer at the last second because they exceeded the limit. They instead ask the recruit to grayshirt – essentially redshirt the first semester so they can be put on scholarship the following January and count toward the next class.
That is exactly what happened to Mobile (Ala.) Vigor three-star defensive tackle Darius Philon in 2012. He committed to Alabama in September 2011 and stayed loyal to the Crimson Tide all the way through National Signing Day.
However, after wearing an Alabama hat to his signing day ceremony, Philon reportedly found out that Alabama was asking him to grayshirt. With Vigor teammate JaMichael Winston already signing with Arkansas, the Razorbacks were able to swoop in and get Philon.
An early signing period could have forced Alabama to either sign Philon in December before having a chance to pull the scholarship or tell him the situation and give him about a month or so to reopen his commitment for all schools. There is no guarantee that Arkansas still would have been able to sign him.
A two-star prospect from Huntsville, Ala., Trey Flowers was vastly underrated coming out of high school. Neither Alabama nor Auburn offered him, so he committed to Georgia Tech – the biggest offer he had.
However, just before National Signing Day, Arkansas brought him in on a secret official visit and – wanting to play in the SEC – Flowers flipped to the Razorbacks.
Similar to Liddell, Russellville (Ark.) two-star kicker Zach Hocker was committed to Arkansas State before flipping after a late offer from the Razorbacks.
Despite being committed to Michigan since July 2008, Bastrop (La.) three-star defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones flipped to Arkansas shortly before National Signing Day.
Much like Bielema’s did, Bobby Petrino’s first class at Arkansas benefitted from a lack of an early signing period.
Two of his prized recruits – Greenwood four-star quarterback Tyler Wilson and Central Arkansas Christian four-star athlete Joe Adams – were committed elsewhere when Petrino took the job.
Wilson flipped from Tulsa – and then-Golden Hurricane offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn – in mid-December, around the time of the new early signing period, while Adams didn’t flip from USC until National Signing Day.