Josh Kendall

For USC and the nation, early signing period could end February frenzy

We might have seen the last National Signing Day pass us by last week.

That’s capital-letters National Signing Day. There will still be a national signing day. In fact, there might be two.

A proposal to add a three-day signing period in December could be approved in April by the full NCAA Division I Council and then be implemented later this year. Exactly how it might affect the current first day of the national signing period, which is the first Wednesday in the month of February, is unclear, but South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp estimated that 60 percent of every incoming class might take advantage of the earlier date.

Suddenly the first Wednesday in February might not feel like such a cataclysmic day in the life of college football programs. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

A December signing period could relieve some of the pressure from the recruiting process for prospects and coaches alike. If players have made up their mind, they can end what can be a grueling process before it drags into February. Even for players who are feted throughout the recruiting process, it can become a grind, said Wando wide receiver OrTre Smith, the No. 1 ranked player in the state and a South Carolina signee.

“You can’t listen to everyone,” Smith said. “It was fun to me (because) I didn’t really care what anyone thought. It was my decision. A lot of people were like, ‘Clemson this and Clemson that.’ 

An early signing could slow the growing tide of decommitments as well. The final number of decommits (players who initially pledged to one school before backing out to reconsider or choose another school) in this year’s recruiting cycle was 773, according to’s tracker. Tennessee led the league with 13, more than twice the six the Gamecocks had.

“A young man is allowed to change his mind. I’ve got no problem with that. If they change their mind and want to come to South Carolina that’s a heck of thing isn’t it? That’s awesome,” Muschamp said. “Do it somewhere else and we all want to get mad at them, but a young man is allowed to change his mind. They are 17-, 18-year-old kids. Sometimes the information changes. Sometimes they have a change of heart. Sometimes there is an influence one place or another that may change their mind. That’s fine. That’s why you have a deep board. That’s why you continue to recruit all the time. That’s why you make adjustments and take the next best player. That’s part of it.”

An early period will change the process for fans certainly. Under the current system, the February date is a standalone event. Fans still in withdrawal from the college football season get a powerful winter hit. In December, it won’t be the same. The regular season still will be fresh on everyone’s mind and bowl games still will be on the horizon, which could make for a higher correlation between a team’s on-field success and its recruiting fortunes. It’s harder to sell hope for the future if you’re right in the middle of a down year.

“One of the major factors you always look at in recruiting is winning and having the opportunity to go win and win a championship and that’s what we plan on doing here,” Muschamp said. “I think a lot of guys when they came on their visits here recognize the positive momentum in the program and where it was headed and they wanted to be a part of that.”

Now we’ll all learn together where recruiting is heading.