Last year was the first year for college football's early signing period, which meant there were a lot of questions leading up to the December event. Many college coaches had a strategy and plan heading into that early signing period but weren't sure if it would pan out or what prospects would ultimately sign early or wait until February. Now, with a year under their belts and a better understanding of what to expect, college coaches are planning for a much smoother process this time around.
"I think you just have to treat this one as if you don't have another [signing period] and go full-court and try to get as many guys as early as possible," an SEC coach said. "I think that's the difference: Last year, it was more like, what's this kid doing; and now, you're just trying to get as many as you can in the boat."
In the 2018 class, 221 of the 300 recruits in the ESPN 300 signed early, and college coaches believe that number will be similar this year, if not higher.
Many coaches have heard from prospects and their parents that they are treating the Dec. 19-21 early signing period as an opportunity to end the recruitment process and enjoy the final months of the senior year.
"From what we understand from the recruits and parents we talk to, they're excited and want to get it over with," a Big 12 coach said. "They've been coming to our campus since they were sophomores in high school; some of these kids we've had committed for more than a year. To continue to have to reach out to them daily, or every other day, I think on both ends people are like, let's get this thing signed and move on."
A few coaches echoed that sentiment and went on to say that the early signing period now gives them a better understanding of where they stand with certain prospects.
If a recruit is uncommitted and decides to wait until February to sign, the coaches know they'll have a month to focus on him after the early signing period. That gives the coaches a chance to concentrate on the recruits who are signing early, and it also gives them a clear picture of where they stand with their committed prospects.