Eight days ago, the NCAA made official a brand spanking new Early Signing Period for college football. On December 20th, prospects will have a 72-hour window of eligibility to sign scholarships. Early signing periods have been on the table for as long as I can recall following recruiting with detractors and supporters on each side. Proponents argue an early signing period will help reduce the excess theatrics that can often accompany a recruiting cycle. Others doubt the change will make any significant dent.
Yesterday, on the SEC Coaches Teleconference, Coach Orgeron chimed in on the subject:
"It's going to be different obviously because the manpower and the hours it takes for signing day. It's a war out there and now you have two of them. A lot of teams are going to be practicing for some very important bowls so you have to balance your time between signing day and practice with preparation. It's going to be a challenge but it's something that's coming forward so we have to compete to be the best at it and I'm sure we'll do a good job of it."
This is pretty blasé answer, but reading between the lines, Orgeron doesn’t seem to admire the potential of balancing bowl prep and recruiting responsibilities. While potentially challenging, it’s not something that will be exclusive to LSU. Bud Elliott has a nice breakdown here of the winners and losers of the ruling.
It’s not uncommon to see LSU dabble in a pool of prospects with various risks associated. Like any other recruiting blue blood, LSU pursues top tier talent, even, at times, at the risk of character concerns or academic performance. Each signing class there are a handful of prospects with academic issues that the coaching staff monitor for progress before opting to extend an official offer. This is especially true of local prospects. How LSU handles those types of prospects going forward will be interesting.
Late bloomers fall into this bucket, though for slightly different reasons. Prospects remain continuously under evaluation, especially as big boards thin out when coaches get a feel for where they stand with their elite targets. A player like Racey McMath last season is a prime example. Whether or not he held a committable offer remained a topic of debate until McMath announced his commitment on January 20th, just a week and a half before signing day. McMath became a real target following the loss of Jhamon Ausbon and the staff not feeling confident in their positions with Nico Collins and Devonta Smith, both of which signing elsewhere. The early signing period means any or all of these prospects could slide up their decision dates, so they chose, which could weaken or strengthen LSU’s position, depending on the moment in time.
Summary: The reality is, the fallout probably won’t be too heavy for LSU here. The super elite prospects are mostly likely to wait to get their moments on National Signing Day like K’Lavon Chaisson and Marvin Wilson last year. Others less enthused with the recruiting process will opt to sign early and get away from fending off dozens of phone calls an hour.
Another new ruling being proposed relates to redshirts now being able to participate in for games while keeping their redshirt status intact. On that Orgeron had this to say:
I love it. It'd be great. You can figure those out in those first four games. It adds to your roster. It adds to your development of your team. It adds to your rotation. This is basketball on grass nowadays. You have some offenses out there trying to run 100 plays. The game is doubled since when we played. The more guys you can play without burning a year would be great.
And then on how he’d feel with a full five years of eligibility:
That'd be fine with me. The more you can play the better. We have a lot of guys like Duke Riley and several guys that went out this year that only played a minimal amount of plays on our football team. I think that helps develop your squad. We're mostly 3 and out with a lot of players. You have to overturn your squad every year and I think it makes it tough for teams at the top of the league. I think that would help us.
Summary: I agree wholly with Orgeron here. Redshirting seems like a dated concept that most schools creatively find ways to dance around anyway. Eliminate the song and dance and make it a full five years. Like it or not, high level programs generally keep players around as long as they need them. Some find themselves out of the program for various reasons, some leave early for the NFL, but once a player exhausts his usefulness to the program, the staff typically finds a way out for him.
By enabling players an extra year of eligibility, you likely discourage transfers. Think of it this way — if you have five running backs and bring in a talented player that you think can be a starting level contributor in three years, no longer do you have to force that player to wait his turn without ever seeing the field in hopes of having that extra year of full eligibility. Now that player could see some snaps here and there as he bides his time to a larger role. And like Orgeron says, with the higher volume of plays across college football, there’s a high likelihood other players can contribute.
The final piece here is the hiring of the 10th on-field assistant. This ruling will take effect on January 9th, delaying the original idea of being immediately effective. Most top tier programs are already staffed to handle this role. LSU, for example, recently hired Greg McMahon, who seemed likely to fill the 10th spot as special teams coordinator, but for now will remain as an off the field analyst.
The ruling was pushed likely because programs with lesser budgets would be at a strategic disadvantage in trying to fill the position. Extra “official” staff members should help programs with a higher level of specialization and divvying up recruiting duties. LSU is fortunate to be one of the handful that budget concerns aren’t in question.