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Several coaches voice support for an early signing period in college football

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday
High School Football: National Signing Day-Lorenzo Carter
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Feb 5, 2014; Norcross, GA, USA; Norcross High School defensive end Lorenzo Carter selects a Georgia hat and announces that he will sign with the Georgia Bulldogs at Norcross High School. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

While Stanford’s David Shaw and Georgia’s Mark Richt spoke out against the proposed early signing period, other coaches have begun to voice support for the rule coming in to play in the future.

Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution spoke to a number of coaches who are in favor of an early signing period, but many of them have different philosophies on how the rule should be implemented and why the rule should be implemented.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson spoke at length about his reasoning for supporting the proposal. From a financial standpoint, Johnson thinks the early signing period would be beneficial for recruiting budgets. Coaches ordinarily go out and visit their verbally committed players to make sure things are still smooth and their committment is still strong. The ability to sign early would eliminate these extraneous visits and programs could devote the money toward visiting other prospects. On top of that, schools have a clearer understanding of their own scholarship situation.

"If you’ve got a kid who grew up wanting to go to Georgia Tech, Georgia, Alabama, or wherever, and they’ve known that their whole life, why not let them sign in November or December? Why do they have to wait until February?" Johnson said. "And then when they sign, the schools know exactly how many scholarships that they have left. They know exactly the numbers. It wouldn’t be as chaotic, and it would be a whole lot less expensive than trying to babysit them for three months."

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has a specific date in mind as to when the early signing period should take place -- the first Monday after Thanksgiving. 

"It would be just that one day. Within that rule, it would make that Sunday and Monday a dead period after Thanksgiving, after your last game. That would be a huge help for coaches that play on Saturday, and they’re out on the road recruiting that Sunday. If we had an early signing day (at Mississippi State this past year), I couldn’t give you an exact number but I would guess at least 50-percent of our class would’ve signed on that day," Mullen said.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly thinks the early signing period should be comparable to the junior college early signing day, which allows players to sign in December after their sophomore year ends.

"I think if a guy has made their decision, and they are firm about it and they are mature about it, I think they should be allowed to sign early in December … I would do it just like the junior college early signing day, which is around Dec. 12. And I think you go with it, and those guys that are committed and ready to make that decision, you get them out of the way," Kelly said.

Miami's Al Golden had an interesting perspective on the early signing period. He thinks there should be two early signing opportunities for prospects, one of which allows players to sign before their senior year of high school. 

“I feel strongly about an early signing period. I think we should have three signing days. The first signing day would be prior to Labor Day as you’re going into your senior year of high school. I would say close to 50-percent of the pool is done (with kids committed to colleges) by then. So we should go ahead and have an early signing day, and (the colleges will) know who is left in the pool (of available prospects). It would be very cost effective for all the institutions and all the athletic departments," Golden said.

Though he thinks schools should not be allowed to start recruiting a player until August of a player's senior year, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze thinks the early signing period would be good for the families of these prospects.

"(Early signing) would save us a lot of time and money — and probably the families are worn out by this process. That’s if they (the kids) know where they want to go, and I like the provision to allow them to get out of it if there’s a coaching change. I would support that," Freeze said.

Jimbo Fisher of Florida State thinks the system of official visits the NCAA employs for basketball would be equally effective for football.

“I think you need official visits as juniors like they do for basketball. I think you need a junior contact and junior recruiting," Fisher said. "And I think you need an early signing period … I’d like to see the (head) coaches back on the road (in the spring), and I’d like to have an official contact (with recruits) during the spring (of their junior year in high school) because those kids are all making critical decisions."

Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M echoed the sentiments of Johnson when it comes to devoting resources on prospects who have been verbally committed for long periods of time. 

“What happens is that the whole month of January, my nine coaches and myself are running around the country going to high schools every week because we have to do that up until signing day. It’s a waste of money, and it’s a waste of time when we know that a guy is coming here," Sumlin said.

Carvell made sure to note that each of these coaches he spoke to “either suggested or supported a special provision” for those who signed early to get a release from their national letter of intent if there was a coaching change between the time they signed early and national signing day in February.

The issue is on the agenda when the 32-person Conference Commissioners Association meets in June and it takes only a simple majority vote (17 of 32 commissioners) for the change to be approved.

I'm sure other coaches will continue to chime in with the best route to take for what looks like an inevitable change to the recruiting calendar. 

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