There are a variety of reasons for this dramatic shift. The most obvious is earlier identification of prospects due to the proliferation of camps, combines and recruiting services. The current climate has created a more savvy prospect and a greater level of sophistication. Players and parents know what scouts are looking for and where they are looking. Go to any major combine and you'll find fathers passing out highlight DVDs and stat sheets like campaign workers on election day. Nowadays unofficial visits have become just as important as official visits. And they are far more common than in the past.
Of course the media you are presently utilizing has greatly accelerated the process as player pages, team web sites and Internet searches can yield a plethora of prospect information at the speed of light.
In turn, this translates to earlier contact and offers for upper echelon prospects that have endured the gauntlet of evaluations and microscopic scrutiny. It's much the same for solid prospects that populate the broad middle of any recruiting class. They receive and accept offers sooner. For instance: Tennessee has five commitments from prospects rated three stars or less which is close to the number it had last year at this time.
Things haven't changed as much for marginal prospects whose ships still come in the old fashion way — via strong performances on the gridiron over the course of make-or-break senior seasons.
Given this change in the recruiting process it is time for an NCAA rules change too. Clearly football needs two national signing days like college basketball currently enjoys. In fact it makes more sense for football to have two such designated dates because they issue seven times the scholarships that basketball programs do.
If college football had a signing day in August as well as one in February it would reduce the workload of college coaches during the season while allowing them to focus on football more than recruiting. Likewise, it would free prospects to enjoy their last high school season without worry about injuries, falling stock or around the clock phone calls from rival recruiters.
College football fans — Or should we say fans of college football recruiting? — would have two signing days each year instead of just one. Since national signing day is often described as being like Christmas morning what football fan would be against doubling their pleasure?