When the NCAA created an “early signing period” for football, many didn’t know what to expect.
The norm has been either early graduation and spring college enrollment for some players in December and a feverish dash to the first Wednesday of February for National Signing Day, where players made their final college decisions.
College football’s early signing period basically smashed the two together.
Players around the country signed official letters of intent Wednesday – the opening day of the early signing period – cementing their college choice.
The early signing period began Wednesday and will end Friday, December 22. Players not signing over the three-day period can continue being recruited by colleges and can sign on the traditional National Signing Day on February 7.
The University of Miami had 18 recruits sign Wednesday, nine of which from South Florida (Miami-Dade or Broward County), already solidifying most of its much-anticipated 2018 signing class.
“Storm 18” – as it was dubbed by the Hurricanes media department – already locked in consensus five-star running back Lorenzo Lingard (Orange City University HS), the nation’s No. 1 tight end prospect Brevin Jordan (Las Vegas Bishop Gorman), top receiver prospect Mark “Noodles” Pope (Miami Southridge), and No. 7 dual-threat quarterback Jarren Williams (Georgia Central Gwinnett HS).
Miami head coach Mark Richt said the early signing period was productive for his program – and other programs, too.
“Well, it did today. It looks like across America, from what I’m seeing, it seems like a lot of kids signed today,” Richt replied when asked if the early signing period could replace National Signing Day.
“I don’t know what percentage it would be, but it looked of our class, by the time Friday is over, it’ll probably be close to 80 percent of the class. I don’t know if it’s 80 percent of the kids across America are doing it or not, but it’d be interesting to see.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Lingard, Florida’s 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year, is rated as the No. 2 running back prospect in the country and represents the highest rated Hurricanes signee over the past five years. An U.S. Army All-American, Lingard rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 48 touchdowns over the past years in addition to being a state champion 110-meter hurdler.
Joining Lingard as a backfield signee was 5-foot-10, 190-pound Miami Carol City running back Camron Davis and 6-foot-2, 245-pound fullback Realus George Jr. from Georgia Pace Academy.
Bringing in Lingard and Davis creates quality depth and immense competition in the UM running backs room – with the highly touted freshmen coming in to battle with Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas.
There’ll also be competition amongst the tight ends. In addition to inking No. 1 prospect Jordan, the Canes also received a letter from the country’s No. 3 tight end – 6-foot-5, 210-pound Jacksonville Providence HS tight end Will Mallory.
Mallory, who participated in UM’s 2017 “Paradise Camp”, showed great athleticism and pass-catching ability and should battle with Jordan as they push incumbent Michael Irvin II in 2018.
With senior receiver Braxton Berrios headed out the door, Miami added three more pass catchers Wednesday in Pope – an U.S. Army All-American and the nation’s No. 11 wide receiver prospect – along with Southridge’s Daquris Wiggins (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) and Bradenton IMG Academy’s Brian Hightower (6-foot-3, 195 pounds).
There will also be a big competition to be Miami’s starting quarterback in 2018.
Once the Canes were able to get Williams to “flip” his commitment earlier this month and received his official letter Wednesday – it created a potential quarterback logjam.
Williams will be the new guy on the block; battling with Miami’s signing day crown jewel from 2017 quarterback N’Kosi Perry – who redshirted this season – and 2017’s starter Malik Rosier, who may or may not return for his redshirt senior season.
Richt kept it generic when asked about his newly signed quarterback.
“Jarren [Williams] – we got one quarterback, he’s from Central Gwinnett in the Atlanta area. He’s 6-2, 206 [pounds] – that’s about right. He’s a guy with some more growth potential. He’ll probably be a 215-pounder, would be my guess, before he’s done,” Richt said. “He moves well, he throws it well, he’s a very strong student of the game. We think he’s a mature kid. We think he will come in and compete well…he’s on target to be a midyear enrollee.”
The Canes’ defensive secondary also got a new set of reinforcements with the signings of Coral Gables safety Gilbert Frierson, South Dade cornerback D.J. Ivey, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback and UM legacy Al Blades Jr., and Palm Beach Gardens safety Gurvan Hall.
Also signing with Miami Wednesday was 6-foot-5 defensive end Gregory Rousseau, who helped lead Hialeah Champagnat to Class 2A state championship earlier this month, South Dade linebacker Patrick Joyner (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), Orlando Dr. Phillips offensive lineman John Campbell (6-foot-5, 295 pounds), Southridge offensive lineman Delone “D.J.” Scaife (6-foot-3, 315 pounds), and kicker Bubba Baxa.
“We’re still working offensively. I think we would take another receiver. I think we would take another lineman – one, maybe two even,” Richt said. “Defensively, there are some D-Linemen we’d like to get, there are some [defensive backs] we’d like to get. I’m not sure if we’re working the linebacker [position] or not, but there’s a possibility of that, too. We got our kicker, so we feel like we’re in good shape from the specialists point of view.”