AUSTIN (KXAN) — While Wednesday was a big day for college football programs to lock in recruits and give them a chance to get to campus early, it’s not the only opportunity they’ll get to build next year’s team.
This year, the early signing period for NCAA Division I and II football programs runs from Dec. 21-23. Created in 2017, it gives schools and recruits an opportunity to lock in longtime verbal commitments and helps break up the recruiting cycle ahead of what was originally National Signing Day on Feb. 1. It also aligns with the first day junior college transfer athletes can sign with programs.
Now, the first day of the early signing period is typically seen as National Signing Day. The regular signing period runs from Feb. 1-April 1 for NCAA Division I schools, and schools can add players then.
The Texas Longhorns signed 24 recruits Wednesday, and 13 of them will be enrolled and on campus next month, head coach Steve Sarkisian said. That’s another benefit of the early period for football — if an athlete can graduate high school a semester early, they can move right into learning the college game following the holiday break.
It also means that Texas didn’t have to wait until Feb. 1 to sign prized quarterback Arch Manning, seen by many as the nation’s top football recruit out of high school.
“Signing Arch Manning was big on a lot of fronts,” Sarkisian said. “He’s got all the attributes needed to be a really good quarterback, he comes from a really good program and has the desire and work ethic needed to be good at the position.”
A big part of recruiting in college athletics is how the coaching staff can develop relationships with high school players. In the case of Manning, Sarkisian said he had been talking with Manning for nearly four years, back to his days as an assistant at Alabama. Sarkisian and the staff continued the work when he was hired at Texas, and it paid off.
“I say it all the time, trust equals time plus consistency,” Sarkisian said. “I thought we were very consistent and transparent in the process, and in turn, they were with us. With Arch, when he committed to us, it was a little earlier than we were anticipating in the process, but we took it and we were excited about it. And I think that had a direct impact on the rest of the class.”
Manning is one of the recruits who will enroll early and be on campus in January, Sarkisian said. He’s one of four quarterbacks on scholarship with Quinn Ewers, Maalik Murphy and Charles Wright as the others.
In all, Texas was able to sign four players considered to be “5-star recruits” by 247Sports, anchoring the third-best recruiting class in the country so far. There’s still time for the Longhorns, and other schools, to add players to bolster next season’s roster, and that’ll come in a couple of months with the old National Signing Day.
The National Letter of Intent program is a voluntary program that 652 NCAA Division I and II colleges are part of. There’s also an early signing period for basketball programs, from Nov. 9-16, and the regular period runs from April 12-May 17. And all other sports can sign players from Nov. 9-Aug. 1.