Local high school football players took advantage of new NCAA early signing day

WAYCROSS, Ga.- Some local high-school student-athletes will spend their holidays knowing exactly where they will spend the next four years playing football, thanks to a gift from the NCAA.

The new national “early signing period” (Dec. 20 through Dec. 22) allows college football recruits to sign letters of intent with universities versus the normal “National Signing Day," usually on the first Wednesday of February.

Loading ...

“When you have kids, kind of like these guys, and they have the opportunity to complete their high school requirements and leave early, get them signed and gone so they can get on with the next phase of their life,” Ware County High football coach Franklin Stephens said. “If {a player} is being highly recruited, they can be bombarded. The fact is they are not being bombarded by one guy, but you go to think about it, in some cases, they are being contacted by 20 or 30 schools. There is no telling how many phone calls or texts he is getting a day.”

Ware County High had three players sign letters of intent with Division 1 colleges on Wednesday including Ernest Jones to the University of South Carolina, Jalynn Strickland to North Carolina State, and Trey Cobb to Appalachian State University.

“It is always good to play big-time football,” Jones said. “I am ready to get off to college.”

Jones says he had 49 offers and 13 to 14 schools put serious effort into recruiting him. Narrowing down 49 offers to one isn’t always easy. But he had one goal in mind. “Sign it early so I can leave early,” he said.

Jones and his teammates that signed with colleges believe the early signing day was a plus in their book, despite possible issues down the road such as a coach leaving.

“That always happens and that’s a bad part of the business," said recruiting analyst Ryan “Hacker” Green said. "You will see that even in February, NSD will come and go and an assistant will leave school A and go to school B. That is just the way it is. If a coach leaves the school, the player is still stuck at the university unless the school grants the player a transfer."

Loading ...

Green covers recruiting for the Jacksonville-based website Gridiron Now, a website dedicated to college football. Green estimates hundreds of student athletes took advantage of the new early signing day for football.

Recruiting is the life-blood of a college football program, according to Green. It makes up a billion-dollar-plus business.

“A lot of people want to see how Year 1 plays out and in a couple of weeks we will kind of assess how it all played out and moving forward I think a lot more kids will decide today,” Green said.

Green said he is curious to see how the early signing day impacts the traditional signing day in February.

“When you sign that letter of intent, you are a member of that school and it is an exciting day... It is a lot busier than anyone thought," he said.