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How an early signing period would’ve affected Georgia football last season

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Today, we figure out what the new early signing period will mean for UGA and college football.

Track: The Impression That I Get | Artist: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones | Album: Let’s Face It

Early signing period coming to college football

National Signing Day has always had a “Christmas come late” feel for the recruitniks of the world. But a new rule passed by the Collegiate Commissioners Association will create a “Christmas come early” situation to go along with it.

As expected on Monday, the CCA approved a proposal brought forth by the NCAA Division I Council to create an early signing period. Starting this year, recruits in the Class of 2018 will be free to sign with the school of their choice from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22 of 2017. If they don’t sign with a team during that stretch, they’ll have to wait until the traditional signing day, Feb. 7. It’s a major move that is sure to have a big effect on the recruiting cycle, essentially breaking it down to two stages.

But how would this have affected Georgia in the past? From last season, the biggest thing that jumps out to me is ILB Monty Rice. Rice was committed to LSU until Jan. 2, 2017, when he flipped to Georgia and enrolled early. Had the early signing day been in place, it’s possible Rice, who committed to LSU in early December, could’ve signed with the Tigers, leaving Georgia with one less linebacker in the Class of 2017. His UGA teammates had good things to say about Rice during spring practice and he looks like he could be a major contributor in the future, so this is a case where the early signing period could have hurt Georgia had it been in place.

Another scenario in which this rule could’ve hampered UGA: the Toneil Carter situation. Carter’s scholarship was pulled (or, as Kirby Smart said, Georgia “[deferred] enrollment”) in mid-December after all four of the UGA juniors most likely to go pro — Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and David Bellamy — decided to stick around for their senior seasons. The move caught pretty much everyone by surprise and messed up the projected scholarship numbers. Carter was left as the odd man out and he de-committed from Georgia and committed to Texas on Dec. 19, a day before the beginning of the new early signing period.

Had those rules been in place, it’s likely Smart and his coaches would have imposed a deadline for all juniors to decide on the NFL so they could make sure the numbers were correct before the signing period. But it’s easy to envision a world where those four players waited until after the Liberty Bowl to decide, after Carter — who committed to UGA in July 2016 — had already signed his LOI, leaving the coaching staff scrambling to figure out how to fit in all the guys they needed. Or, you could have a situation where coaches ask players not to sign in December, only to drop them and leave them scrambling for a school in January, basically leaving them SOL because most schools’ classes are already filled up with recruits signing in December. It makes for some potentially sticky situations.

Of course, there are plenty of situations where Georgia would have benefitted from an early signing period. Although no players de-committed from Georgia between Dec. 20 and National Signing Day last cycle, meaning there was no direct effect, the early signing period could’ve created some other benefits.

Take the example of DT Devonte Wyatt. Wyatt committed to Georgia in August 2016, but the Dawgs had to keep recruiting him the rest of the cycle. Wyatt left his options open and visited South Carolina and Florida in January. He stayed true to his commitment and signed with Georgia on NSD, but think of the benefit Georgia would have gotten from locking him up in December. Knowing Wyatt was for sure coming to Athens, the coaches could have focused on other players, and perhaps made a difference in the recruitment of some player who was close to flipping to Georgia.

And it goes like this for every school. Had this rule been in effect the last couple years, we may be looking at a wildly different college football landscape than the one before us right now. There are so many unknowns right now, and as much as we speculate, we won’t know how the rule will work in practice until the 2018 recruiting cycle plays out in full.

It’s a new world, and the 2018 cycle could be one of the wildest we’ve ever seen.

My main concern

The biggest issues that cropped into my head when I heard the news were coaching changes. As things stand now, by the time NSD rolls around in February, pretty much all head coaching changes have been made. Many teams wait until after NSD to make assistant changes, which pretty much screws the kids (See: Roquan Smith), but it isn’t as big a deal as a head coach switching jobs.

Mid-December is in the thick of bowl season, and there are still coaching moves to be made during that time. I hate to see any situation where a player signs with a team, only to see the coach split immediately after, eliminating one of the biggest reasons the player signed with the school. I doubt it will happen, but I’d like to see a rule implemented that says recruits can be released from their National Letter of Intent if a head coaching change is made between the early signing period and NSD. Regardless, recruits are going to have to be very careful about signing with a team in December if the coach of said team is on the hot seat.

One more note on the early signing period

And just because I thought it was interesting, here’s former ESPN recruiting expert Jeremy Crabtree’s take on the impact the new rule will have on college coaches and teams:

Mecole Hardman to run track

If you haven’t been paying attention to UGA track, now may be the time to start.

Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald reported on Monday that rising sophomore DB/WR Mecole Hardman will begin running for UGA’s track team this Saturday at the SEC championships in Columbia, S.C. He’ll run in the 4×100 relay but won’t compete in any individual events.

Smart was supportive of the idea of his players running track or competing in other sports when asked about it last year, but he was skeptical of the possibility of many, or any, being able to do it.

“What I’m saying is if they’re able to do both in college, that means they’re a really special athlete,” Smart said, according to Weiszer. “We want a really special athlete. I’m great with that. The issue is the kids that think they can but probably can’t.”

Let the redshirts play

The aforementioned early signing period was the big college football news of Monday, but Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports noted another intriguing possible rule change in the future: allowing redshirts to play a few games a season.

“The American Football Coaches Association is forwarding a proposal to the NCAA that would allow players to participate in up to four games of a season without burning their redshirt year. If passed, theoretically, a coach could unleash his touted four-star freshman running back in the TaxSlayer Bowl.”

I made the argument that redshirted players should be allowed to play in bowl games back in December, so the possibility that it could actually happen is music to my ears. It would be good for the players and fun for the fans. A win-win in my book.

Isaiah McKenzie inks deal with Broncos

Isaiah McKenzie is officially official. The former Dawg signed his first NFL contract on Monday, cutting a reported four-year deal with the Denver Broncos worth $2.6 million, along with a $236,000 signing bonus.

A.J. Green wins 2017 Young Alumni Award

Dawgs at Commencement

I meant to post this video of UGA football players at commencement Monday, but it fell through the cracks. Enjoy Ernie Johnson’s UGA-centric rendition of “Oh The Places You’ll Go.”


Good dog

This is why you always keep your head on a swivel.