By: Logan Newman, USA TODAY High School Sports | February 6, 2019
Some of the top teenage football players in the world announced the colleges they would attend during National Signing Day on Wednesday.
But that’s been the headline for the last month-and-a-half.
National Signing Day is still a large, important affair that changes the trajectory of the next three to five years for college football teams around the nation. But after Early Signing Day on Dec. 19 and three high school bowl games in which 13 players announced live on TV, Wednesday was just another day in the recruiting cycle.
Almost 78 percent of players had already committed coming into the day, ESPN’s Tom Luginbill said on the phone Tuesday. That’s an increase over last year, when about 72 percent had already announced leading into the day.
“In the first go-around, there were so many unknowns, I don’t think coaches really realized how big of a deal (the early signing period) was going to be,” Luginbill said. “I don’t think the players realized how much they were going to enjoy it.”
So more joined in this year. Only seven players announced live on ESPN on Wednesday, as opposed to an even dozen last year.
That’s not to say Wednesday was without excitement.
More than 500 days after Hoover (Ala.) wide receiver George Pickens committed to Auburn, he flipped to Georgia. The Bulldogs now have two five-star wide receiver recruits in him and Dominick Blaylock.
Alabama lost four-star defensive back commit Christian Williams of Daphne (Ala.) to Miami and four-star defensive end Khris Bogle of Cardinal Gibbons High School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) to Florida, but Chosen 25 Amite (La.) defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher spurned in-state LSU in favor of Alabama the Crimson Tide.
USC might be losing another top wide receiver. ALL-USA Offensive Player of the Year candidate Puka Nacua of Orem (Utah) is committed to the Trojans, but has not signed. He could follow the footsteps of five-star wide receiver Bru McCoy, who transferred to Texas almost the moment he stepped onto the USC campus. On the plus side for the Trojans, four-star receiver Kyle Ford did sign.
But the day as a whole felt like something we’ve seen before.
In fact, we have seen parts of it. Florida State missed out on a four-star quarterback they seemed to have sewn up when the athlete announced a different school in a fun way.
That was in December, when Sun Valley (Monroe, N.C.) QB Sam Howell flipped his commitment to North Carolina using Coca-Cola and a mystery box.
There was a repeat Wednesday, when Warren Easton (New Orleans) QB Lance LeGendre announced Maryland while wearing a suit with a design that seemed fitting for a player at an NBA draft. It wasn’t as tough a blow to FSU because LeGendre wasn’t committed to the program, but most experts expected him to be a Seminole.
National Signing Day remains important for high schools, which use it to show off their athletic elite in more sports than just football.
It’s good for the schools and exciting for the other students who get to celebrate their peers.
Some 2019 players are still receiving an exorbitant attention – WVU sent 10 coaches to visit five-star Huntington (W.Va.) offensive tackle Darnell Wright last week – but most spots have filled up.
But college coaches have already turned their attention to the class of 2020. Teams are starting to feel secure before the big February event.
As much as the players and attention have shifted to December, though, Luginbill thinks it could level back out a little.
“The one thing I’m kind of tracking and will be curious to see over the next year, is it’s been a pretty volatile January in terms of coaching changes,” Luginbill said. “Often times, these kids can get scared off. They think they’re signing with a team and a coach that’s been recruiting them for two years. Now all of a sudden, they sign, and now that coach isn’t there.
“Between now and next year, it will be interesting to see if the kids get a little bit worried.”