College football recruiting: 2018 Early Signing Period key announcement times, predictions

The calm of 2018 Early Signing Period eve cloaks a freneticism that steps into the daylight on Wednesday morning. The texting, calling and last-minute pitches lead to signing day surprises, press conference drama and secret pacts. This is a gift usually reserved for February, but now we have two signing periods and twice the excitement.

The early signing period begins at 7 a.m. ET Wednesday across the country and extends through Friday, Dec. 21. However, most of the activity is expected to take place Wednesday. Here's everything you need to know about Wednesday's action.

The stats

We didn't know what to expect last year when the inaugural early signing period hit, but this time around, we're not working blind. According to 247Sports data, roughly 80 percent of prospects that were verbally committed heading into the early signing period last year signed their National Letter of Intent during the three-day period. Among the entire expected number of FBS signees, 65 percent signed in the early period. Consequently, that left roughly 35 percent of the typical available inventory for college programs to choose from in January. That creates a lot of pressure to have a productive week.

Key announcement times

All times Eastern

  • 11 a.m. -- four-star running back Noah Cain: A Texas native who played his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida, Cain has Texas, Penn State and Tennessee among his list of suitors.
  • 11 a.m. -- four-star tight end Keon Zipperer, four-star offensive guard Deyavie Hammond, four-star defensive end Lloyd Summerall: Three high profile Lakeland teammates that are being chased by the big three programs in the state of Florida. This one has all kinds of flavor for the Hurricanes and Gators.
  • 12:30 p.m. -- five-star defensive end Zach Harrison: His announcement will be one of the most anticipated of the day with Ohio StatePenn State and Michigan as finalists.  
  • 1 p.m. -- four-star defensive back Tyrique Stevenson: Georgia put on an early signing clinic last year, and if Kirby Smart wants another perfect finish, it starts with Stevenson, a big defender out of South Florida. Miami has gained some momentum.
  • 1:20 p.m. -- five-star running back Trey Sanders: Alabama has long led for Sanders, but as his decision approaches, the Tide are in a nasty fight with Georgia as Texas and Florida are still in the hunt.
  • 2 p.m. -- five-star linebacker Nakobe Dean: Alabama has been trending late for Dean but some circles have Georgia as the leader. Ole Miss is also trying to pull a shocker here for an in-state prospect while LSU and Texas A&M haven't given up.
  • 2 p.m. -- five-star offensive tackle Evan Neal: Alabama is the Crystal Ball favorite, but Georgia made a strong late impression and is a threat. So too are Miami and Florida State.  
  • 4 p.m. -- four-star defensive end Drake Jackson: Don't forget about the West. Drake Jackson could start the beginning of what is expected to be a strong run for USC heading into January.

A full list of scheduled announcements can be found here at 247Sports, which will have full coverage of National Signing Day alongside CBS Sports.

Final commitment predictions

Most of the 247Sports Composite Top 100 is committed. Several will wait until All-American games or February to announce. Six have decisions approaching. Here are my predictions for those six players.

Five-star DE Zach Harrison: Ryan Day gets his first big win, and the Buckeyes beat the other Big Ten East powers for a must-have defender from their backyard. Pick: Ohio State

Five-star RB Trey Sanders: The run of big-time running back commits continues to be strengthened when Sanders pulls the trigger for the Dawgs capping off a tumultuous decision. Pick: Georgia

Five-star LB Nakobe Dean: Heading into the decision, this one feels like a toss-up between Georgia and Alabama. Georgia won a few of those last year, but not this time. Pick: Alabama

Five-star OT Evan Neal: With the high of his December official visit to Georgia worn off, Neal goes with the favorite and adds to its absolutely loaded offensive line. Pick: Alabama  

Four-star DB Tyrique Stevenson: Miami makes Georgia sweat, but the Bulldogs eek out some more good news and Stevenson joins Tyson Campbell as back-to-back elite defensive backs pulled out of South Florida. Pick: Georgia

Four-star OG William Putnam: In one of the most crucial pick-ups for a team that is looking to rebuild its offensive line this cycle, the Seminoles pull it out, but it won't be without some serious nail-biting. Clemson and Auburn remain significant threats as the decision approaches. Pick: Florida State

Four-star WR Elijah Higgins (announcing Tuesday): A West Coast power dips into Texas to get yet another red zone weapon and continues to prove it is one of the heavyweights in recruiting when it comes to their type of guys. Pick: Stanford

CBS Sports Writer

Barton Simmons has been involved in college football and recruiting since 2000, first as a player and then as a reporter and analyst. As a player, he was a two-time All-Ivy League safety at Yale before... Full Bio

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