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College Football Prospects Actually Signing on Signing Day? That’s So 2017

The story is similar at Minnesota, which finished last season ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. After signing defensive backs from the South, a wide receiver from Kansas and a punter from Australia, Fleck has a single scholarship remaining, perhaps for a graduate transfer, but will not add anyone on Wednesday.

“For me, it’s been a philosophy of take the calendar, what fits best for us, how can we work the calendar to be an advantage of us in how we run our program,” said Fleck, who urges his recruits to sign in December. “For us, it’s all about getting a jump start on the next year.”

And for players and their parents, early signings can be release valves, in part because the 657 schools that participate in the letter of intent program, which covers all collegiate sports, agree to stop recruiting a student who has made a written commitment.

That is no small matter for sought-after athletes: Some, who might have earned offers when they were eighth graders, receive scores of text messages a day from coaches, who also make frequent visits to homes and schools.

“If the kid knows where he wants to go and has known for a while, then why not?” said Gabriel Sewell Sr., whose four sons have signed with Division I football programs in recent years. “The recruiting process during both signing periods can become ruthless.”

One son, Noah, finished his search in December, when he signed with Oregon.

“When he verbally committed, you could see there was a weight taken off his shoulders,” Sewell said. “Once he put pen to paper, you could tell he couldn’t wait to get onto campus.”

Despite their surging popularity, early signings can pose significant challenges for programs that play bowl games before Christmas. Narduzzi noted that, because Pitt did not play its bowl until Dec. 26, he had easily been able to visit — and shore up the loyalties of — almost all of the players who had verbally committed to his program.

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